Running On Empty

Keep ’em laughing, I always say, especially when you’re half-naked on a gurney surrounded by stern-looking nurses. So when one of them asked if I had completely flushed out my system the night before and hadn’t eaten that morning, I cleverly responded: “Nothing but that Burrito Breakfast Special down at the Taco Bell. Otherwise, I’d be REAL hungry right now! Hahahahha!”

(Editor’s Note: Please, not again. Not another tedious recounting of your latest medical procedure. For years we’ve had to suffer through every paper cut, every fearful encounter with a stinging insect, every heart “incident.” Can you just give it a rest!?)

Nor did I leave the doctors out of the pre-colonoscopy fun, gently chiding them at their choice of medical specialty with comments such as, “So, you guys all studied for years and years so you, like, could do this every day for the rest of your professional lives, right? Right?”

Doctors (whispering amongst themselves): “Get out the old hose. The one that’s a little jaggedy on the end.”

Like I always say, laughter is the best sedative!

(Editor’s Note: Look, as we speak there are hundreds of thousands of immigrants protesting for their rights, and all you want to talk about is your colon!?)

That’s an excellent point about a very important issue. Despite our nation’s history of welcoming the outsider, many Americans feel that our country is filling up with foreigners beyond our capacity to contain them all.

Much like the bloated feeling I got the night before my colonoscopy.

Admittedly, I did not think about the issues dividing our nation as I sat in the bathroom forcing down two gallons of ill-flavored laxative. The liquid was prescribed to purge my body of all substances, illegal or otherwise, but to be honest, for most of the evening the political metaphors were lost on me.

(Editor’s Note: Oh SPARE US! There’s a WAR on, for heaven’s sake! And it’s a quagmire. After four years there just doesn’t seem to be a way out. Iraq is still not a country that can stand on its own.)

Nor could I, now that you mention it. Oh, I tried to cut and run, but I kept returning, ultimately trapped, unable to leave for any reason. Although I wouldn’t call it a “quagmire.” (I’m not sure where the editors are going with that, unless they’re referring to the president when he said, “We’re not leaving until the job is finished.” THAT I can relate to. I mean, you just can’t set a timetable on this sort of thing.)

But you’ll be happy to know that the day after the procedure the doctors reported that I was—in medical parlance—“as clean as a whistle.” And to prove it they showed me pictures of my actual insides, which I couldn’t wait to put up on our refrigerator when I got home. (However, despite my exemplary results and the excellent resolution of the full-color photos, some staff members suggested I not display the pictures on this page. They were concerned about something called “projectile vomiting” and the fact that some squeamish readers might not be ready to celebrate what a really healthy intestine looks like.)

Actually, a photo of the procedure is much better than what I woke up to in the recovery room after my tonsillectomy. I was 3 years old, and I groggily turned my head to see, on the bedside table next to me, a clear jar containing my actual tonsils floating in some kind of liquid. They looked like space alien embryos. Trying to get out. Apparently, letting you keep your surgically removed organs was what they did back in 1953. Fortunately, this practice is now banned under the Geneva Conventions.

BEFORE I LEFT the doctor’s office, they insisted that I also look at pictures of a bad colon. Apparently, medical professionals do not think highly of people who live the high-risk lifestyle associated with fatty foods, alcohol, and other things that are delicious and fun. Because when you live like that, what you get is polyps. And polyps can cause cancer. Which is bad enough to think about, but then the doctors insisted on showing me how these gross little bumps attach themselves to your intestinal wall and, depending on the angle of the light, look like either Zacarias Moussaoui or former Minnesota Gov. Jesse “The Polyp” Ventura. (Think about these guys the next time you’re considering a Whopper.)

BY THE WAY, a friend of mine pointed out that Bill Clinton may have had sex with an intern in the White House, but George W. Bush is giving a colonoscopy to the entire country.

Or words to that effect.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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