Monday, October 18, 2010

I got a colonoscopy because I was short on material

Dave Barry once said that every good comedy writer should get a colonoscopy. Well, who am I to disagree? I've really been short on material lately, so in an effort to beef up my blog I thought I'd go for a comedy classic and get a colonoscopy myself, then compose a rectal anecdote just like the pros do.

Okay, so that's not EXACTLY why I opted for a colonoscopy. I'll save you the, um, seedy underbelly of the full conversation with my doctor, but suffice it to say that she told me "well, you've got to get one in ten years anyways", and suggested I do it now just to rule anything out. And by "anything", that of course meant cancerous polyps, alien life forms growing in my upper GI, or a blockage caused by that box of Crayolas my friend bet me I couldn't eat in 4th grade.

Since we're talking about a colonoscopy here, I figure it would be best if I started with the end of the story. Everything's fine. I'm clean and clear, and now about eight pounds lighter as a result of the purging process. More on that in a moment.

But first, back to Dave Barry. A while ago he wrote perhaps the most important piece of medical journalism EVER, the chronicle of his own colonoscopy experience. It's required reading for anyone who plans to join the club. And I will also say that the article is phenomenal in its volume of sheer comedy as well as it's ACCURACY. I mean, it's frighteningly accurate. Every detail. So rather than plagiarize on his genius, I can only add my own twists and turns.

Now would be a good time to go read his article. I will be here when you get back.

The day before the test, as Dave also explained, I was not allowed to eat any solid food. It was chicken broth and Gatorade for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was also allowed popsicles, Jello, and hard candy, as long as they weren't red or purple. Which made me wonder - was I avoiding red or purple foods due to some sort of staining on the inside of my colon, confusing the doctor when he was inspecting my insides into thinking I had stigmata? Unfortunately I forgot to ask.

Like Dave, my beverage of choice the evening before was MoviPrep. While his description of this vile substance was 100% accurate, I will add a few details. First, the stuff tastes like someone took a half dozen week-old used margarita glasses, wiped the slimy salt off the rims with a dirty finger, and mixed it with the residue found on the floor of a Gatorade factory. And yet, if you search the web you will find that "86% of people who took MoviPrep rated the taste "acceptable" or "satisfactory." I find that number dubious.

There's a chapter in one of the Harry Potter books where Dumbledore and Harry travel to a cave in an effort to track down a horcrux. Once in the cave, they must row across a dark lake to an island. On the island is a pedestal. Resting in that pedestal is a horcrux, submerged beneath a mysterious fluid. Dumbledore announces to Harry that he is going to drink all the fluid and, no matter what happens, no matter how much he screams in agony, no matter how much he begs Harry to let him stop, how much he pleads to Harry to just let him die, Harry must make sure Dumbledore finishes all the liquid.

That liquid was MoviPrep. It's just that bad. The directions say that over a course of an hour, you must drink the first liter, in four parts. The first part sets the stage, making you realize just how horrible the stuff is, and causing you to wonder how on earth the second liter will go down. But then, you think, the directions say that you won't have to drink the second liter until two hours later. Surely, that gives you some recovery time, right? Um, no. You will be spending the next two hours sitting on the toilet while every last ounce of gunk from the inside of your colon gets power washed out of you. And, as Dave says, just when you think you've recovered from the first dose, it's time for the second.

By the time I was halfway through the second liter, more was coming back up than was going down. My advice is to drink it over the kitchen sink. Oh, and of course while you're attempting to drown yourself from the top down, the bottom half of you is reminding you that you need to be close to the bathroom at all times. I never did make it through the full second liter. My insides simply told me "no freaking way" and that was that. Plus, I realized I was doing this so the doctor had a clear, unobstructed path through my intestines, and I figured if he had to maneuver around those Primanti's french fries I had last month then so be it. This is Pittsburgh after all, so I'm sure he'll know to look for them.

While I will spare you the details of my time in the bathroom, I can at least say that during the purging phase I was able to watch not one but two full Netflix movies as they streamed on my iPhone. Yeah, about 4 hours. It's amazing that I can even walk today.

The next morning, my lovely wife (whom I can only love more for putting up with my poop jokes, and noises, all night) escorted me to the hospital. I signed in, and the nurse prepped me for the procedure. I was told to remove everything but my socks and shoes, put on the classic hospital gown, and wrap a beige blanket around my waist. I guess they figured I would be SO embarrassed by my outfit that talking with a complete stranger about what he was going to insert into my rectum would be no big deal. And they were right.

I was then wheeled into the procedure room. Immediately I thought of Dave Barry's article again, warning us to ask for the non-ABBA colonoscopy. Amusingly there WAS a radio playing in the corner of the room. And the song? "Na na na na..Hey Hey Hey...Goodbye..."


The nurse then asked me to turn on my side while she connected something to my IV. I turned to see I was facing a 37" flat screen TV with the output from the special camera that someone else in the room was preparing. I then said, "Oh, cool, do I get to watch?" She responded by telling me as long as I was awake I could watch whatever I wanted. The very next instant, I was sitting up next to my wife and getting dressed. I missed the whole damned thing.

The nurse had told me that I would have a bit of amnesia as a result of the anesthesia. She was right. Not only did I miss the procedure, but most of the conversations I had from the point I woke up to about a half hour after my wife got me home are a complete mystery. Supposedly I was awake and alert, but I do not remember the drive home, eating my lunch, or any of the conversations I had with the nurse before I left. It was actually a little freaky.

So here I am, a clean bill of health, my tummy now filled with colon clogging BBQ'ed beef, ice cream, and donuts. I figure I survived this long on a good old fashioned American diet, and ten years from now I can empty it all out again. Hopefully by then they will come up with a liquid that at least 87% of people who take it will find acceptable or satisfactory.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A refrigeration odyssey

We had the pleasure of test driving a new refrigerator for the past month. Now, as I sit here waiting for its replacement to be delivered, I thought I would share the story as well as some uneducated opinions on fridge design.

Our tale starts with car shopping. Or, rather, a determination that we would hold out with our beaten-up, wet-dog-smelling ten-year-old Honda Odyssey for another year instead of buying a replacement. That left the budget wide open to take care of a few other major purchases. I had recently realized that our old secondary fridge, in the basement, was leaking air around the sides, causing a mold farm that Louis Pasteur would have been proud of. It was time for the beast to be retired to the scrap heap, and at long last we'd be able to replace our wimpy little kitchen fridge with a shiny new model, relegating the current one to basement duty.

Our first (and only) stop was the Sears Scratch 'n Dent warehouse. We found a shiny black French Door style Samsung with all the bells and whistles for about $900 less than the retail cost, and immediately snagged it.

Unfortunately, once it was delivered, we discovered a few problems that weren't exhibited at the warehouse when it was on display. For one, the giant gash across the front was definitely NOT there when we picked it out. Plus, the leaky water hose, while handy for washing the floor or keeping the dog hydrated, was not what we were hoping for. And the sound the motor made at 11:00 the first night, similar to that of a small plane landing in our kitchen? Yeah, this guy was headed back to the store.

After a little bit of online research and shopping around (yeah, I know, something we should have done to begin with), we decided to spend a little extra money and spring for a new model, rather than another scratch 'n dent. Sears made us an offer we couldn't refuse to exchange the Defecto Fridge for a better model at a discount. So here I sit, waiting for a shiny platinum side-by-side model to show up at the front door.

Okay, so the observant reader in you may have noticed we've switched from black to platinum, and French Door style to side-by-side. See, this was a great opportunity for us. For the month that we had Defecto Fridge in our kitchen and despite my wife not getting the endless collection of my "My God, It's Full Of Stars" jokes, we realized that having a giant black behemoth in our already too-dark kitchen made it all that much more cave-like. So now we go to platinum which, by the way, is the new trend over stainless steel because it's doesn't show fingerprints. We also realized that this whole trend of French Door fridges is complete and utter whitewash by the refrigeration industry. Sure, it seems neat at first to not have to bend down to get the milk. It also seems like a sweet deal having a giant platter-sized drawer for all those Martha Stewart style deli trays you will constantly be pulling out for those classy guests you're always having over. In reality, here's the downside to having a French Door style fridge:

-You can't store anything taller than a relish jar anywhere but on the door, without removing a shelf. And the doors will hold approximately 1.5 gallons of milk, one bottle of ketchup, a container of apple juice, and a bottle of Hershey's chocolate syrup. No more.

-That giant platter-sized drawer will stay empty for much of its life as you hope some day to have friends to invite over for deli.

-The fridge has an alarm that warns you if you accidentally leave the door open. Which is handy because they don't close by themselves. But what's not so great is the fact the alarm isn't loud enough to hear unless you're standing right next to it.

-The freezer on the bottom is big, but annoyingly clunky to open. There's an upper drawer in it, but as soon as you put anything taller than a gallon of ice cream in the bottom that upper drawer will be blocked.

For all those benefits, a French Door fridge appears to cost about $600 to $1000 more than a side-by-side. Save your money and,once you find friends that you want to entertain, take them out to dinner.

On a final note, I should comment that while Samsung apparently makes an excellent quality refrigerator, their technical translation department needs some help. Some fun examples from the instruction manual:

"After taking out the Ice Bucket and cleaned, please make sure to install after removing the frost and moist."

"Please contact your service agent's."

"To get best performance of product, Temperature of frozen food during defrosting can shorten its storage life