Get Your Exhaust Checked aka “A Colonoscopy”

If you’re over 45 you need a colonoscopy. I hope this humorous take on mine might help coax you along….
Written by
Richard Brown
Published on
1 May 2024

Losing a Friend

I was at my hangar, eating some leftovers for lunch, when my cell phone rang. It was one of our vendors who is also a friend calling. He had stopped by the store the day before and they had told him I wasn’t in that day.

“I hope you were out flying somewhere yesterday,” he said.

I replied, “I wish, but I was out getting a colonoscopy to make sure I keep flying for many years to come.”

This won’t be a regular article from me and might seem like it doesn’t fit in a flight blog, but I hope you will stick with me for this Public Service Announcement. I’ll include a short story of flying, and by the end I hope that if you haven’t been to have this preventative measure taken that you will get it done. And maybe I can make you laugh a little bit along the way.

A little over two years ago we were on a flight from California to our place in Pagosa Springs, CO to do some skiing at Wolf Creek. I like to land with 10 gallons in one tank and with a 52-gallon capacity in our M20D the four-hour (no wind) flight time is right on the edge of my range. Headwinds seem to be more often the norm and this flight was no exception, so we planned for a fuel stop in Lake Havasu (KHII).

My wife has flown hundreds of hours with me and knows that once we’re approaching the airport it’s a sterile cockpit. No talking or distractions unless it is to point out a plane that looks like it might be a conflict. The combination of leaving Fullerton (KFUL) early in the morning and it being a weekday resulted in no other traffic at KHII.

I entered an extended left base for runway 32 and we were just a few minutes from landing when out of the corner of my eye I saw my wife looking at her phone.

“Oh no….” she said with sorrow in her voice, “he’s gone.”

“Don’t tell me something like that when we’re about to land,” I responded and then focused even more intently on the task at hand. I knew exactly who she was talking about and what she meant, but the distraction was easily identified and we landed uneventfully.

I had last seen him at a church Christmas party, and we were catching up. He had talked about some of the back pains that he had been having and attributed it to some softball injuries along with work. Soon after that he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with colon cancer, but it was too late. The cancer had spread throughout his body and just over four weeks after his diagnosis he passed away.

It was very sad and likely never should have happened. He should be enjoying his retirement right now. Research has shown that getting a colonoscopy is associated with as much as a 69% decrease in new cases of colorectal cancer and an 88% decrease in the risk of death from it. My friend, despite being 64 years old and his father having passed away from colon cancer had never been in for a screening.

Hesitancy and Postponing the Procedure

A few months later I went in for a physical and with my 50th birthday on the horizon I was expecting to be told I needed a colonoscopy. When I mentioned it to my doctor, I was surprised to learn that they have now lowered the age from 50 down to 45 years old. I left his office with orders for bloodwork and a colonoscopy. I have been blessed with good health and would love to report that I’m a good patient, but I don’t like going to the doctor. Sadly, I must report that a year later I hadn’t completed either of the procedures. Still, constantly on my mind was the thought of what if there was something going on inside me. Something that if not caught early enough would cut my life short.

Finally, my desire to extend my life overcame my dislike of doctors. I had to reach out to my doctor for new orders as the others had expired and I completed my bloodwork and contacted the Gastroenterologist. When I had a video call with the doctor he asked, “So why do you want to meet with a Gastroenterologist.”

“I’m old,” I said. “I was supposed to have a colonoscopy when I was 50, and now I’m 51.”

The procedure was scheduled, and my wife stopped by the pharmacy to pick up the prescription which is appropriately named “Super-Prep.” I can only imagine “Super-Poop” had already been trademarked and they went with “Prep” instead.

My reluctance to have the procedure was driven by two factors. First, I have never been under anesthesia besides my gums for dental work and one finger when they cut a cactus spine out of it. Blood and needles don’t bother me. I watch when they stick me to give blood and was fascinated to watch them operate on my finger, but the thought of being given medication that puts me to sleep is scary to me.

The second factor is the prep the night before the procedure. I have read and heard horror stories and had no desire to experience it. Then again, I would like to live a long time, and as I said earlier, that desire won out the day.

The Prep

“Do you have a bidet?” I was asked by a friend. My negative response was followed by him saying, “You’re going to wish you did.”

“Don’t be more than a step away from the toilet,” another friend said, “unless you are going to wear a depends,” he finished with a laugh.

With all of this rattling around in my head I drove home from work with my stomach stuck to my spine. I should mention that before you get to the evening “prep” you have been on a liquid diet all day. I drank a bunch of Sprite and ate a bunch of Jello, but I was hungry. My wife fixed me some chicken broth, the thought of more Jello was not appealing, and I sipped some of that before changing into more “convenient clothing.”

I was wearing sweatpants (not tied) and a T-shirt. The last thing I wanted was to be wearing jeans and have to worry about a belt, button, and zipper when everything decided to break loose. I had been warned that the time it takes for your bowels to go from 0-60 is a fraction of a second.

The prep process involves drinking what must be an industrial strength laxative mixed with 16oz of water, followed by another 32oz of water in the next hour. This is completed twice, the night before and the morning of the procedure. The idea is to completely clean out your large intestine, and I mean completely…

It comes with a convenient cup marked off at 16oz which I poured the first bottle of Super Prep into and filled with water from the fridge. I mixed it well, and then hoping it wouldn’t taste too terrible, I put it to my lips and started drinking it down.  I wasn’t sure I would want to drink 48oz of water in under an hour, but after tasting the Super Prep it wasn’t going to be a problem. The taste isn’t terrible, but I think they make it just bad enough that you want to drink more water to get the flavor out of your mouth.

I quickly filled the cup again with another 16oz and chugged it down. This had the benefit of getting rid of the flavor in my mouth but presented a different challenge. I now had 32oz of water in my belly and it was stretched to its painful limits. The only thought in my mind was that my stomach wouldn’t hurt for too long, surely it was going to quickly “move on through.”

I sat down at the kitchen table, just a few steps from the restroom and became more focused on the feelings in my gut than probably ever before. How long does this take I thought. Am I going to have much warning? I know what it feels like when my stomach starts rumbling and Montezuma’s Revenge strikes, but would this be like that or different?

I didn’t have to wonder for very long. Fifteen minutes from the time I chugged the Super Prep down I felt, or maybe I heard my stomach gurgle. It wasn’t a rumble, or a cramp, it sounded and felt like a mud pot bubbling up. Go ahead and Google “bubbling mud pot” and it gives you a good idea of the gymnastics my stomach was getting ready to unleash.

And It Begins....

Without delay I went the 3-4 steps into the bathroom just in time. I started to wonder if I should have had handles attached to the toilet seat to hold onto, so I didn’t lift off. Thankfully I had filled the 16oz cup and left it on the sink because I still had to down it and there was no way I would have the time to get to the kitchen and fill it up before I had to be back on the porcelain throne.

I drank the final 16oz of water and I think ran up the water bill with the number of times the toilet was flushed. An hour later, as quickly as everything started, it stopped. I stayed in place, afraid that it was a false flag, but that was all. Whatever had been in my insides was not there anymore.

I sat down on the couch and my wife suggested I should drink something so I wouldn’t get dehydrated. I asked her what the point of that would be, it would just go right through me. I went to bed early and slept well until my alarm went off at 2:50am. I got out of bed and stepped on the scales to see what my “empty hull weight” really is. I am confident that there was no “useable fuel” or anything else left inside me.

My appointment was at 7am, which meant I had to down the second round of Super-Prep with 16oz of water at 3am followed by another 32oz of water before 4am. Again, I drank it as fast as I could followed immediately by an additional 16oz of water to get the taste out of my mouth. I expected things to “start happening” again in 15 minutes, but not so. I can now say it takes almost exactly an hour for water to go from my mouth, down to my stomach, through the approximately 20’ of small intestine and 5’ of large intestine and out the exhaust pipe.

The Procedure

Thankfully everything was done well before we had to leave, allaying my fears of being trapped in a car without a restroom. I checked in and soon they took me back to a bed. The place is a machine, with a hallway and these little cubby’s off the sides, just big enough for a hospital bed and a chair with a curtain separating it from the hall.

After going through a battery of questions the nurse handed me a hospital gown and said, “Put this on, opening to the back and don’t tie it. Your clothes will go in this bag.”

I did as instructed and sat back on the bed.  She came back in to put in an IV and stick sensor pads on me while hooking them up to a monitor, then she returned to the foot of the bed and started making notes of my vitals on the chart. After a minute she looked up and asked, “Are you an athlete?”

That was not a question I was expecting, and it caught me off guard. “Umm… I guess I’m athletic? I work out five times a week.”

No, it wasn’t because I was a fine example of athletic prowess laying there in nothing but a hospital gown…

“Your heart rate is very low,” she said.

I glanced back at the monitor and saw it was ticking along at 50 beats per minute. “Oh, my resting heart rate is usually around 46-47,” I replied.

“It’s ok, that’s good, it’s just lower than what we usually see,” was her response.

She told me that the worst (the prep) was over, the rest of this is easy. I told her that maybe I had built it up to be so bad in my mind that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe I was just lucky, she said it is easier on some people than others.

They wheeled me back to the room where the procedure would be completed, the doctor came in and talked to me for a few minutes, then said, “We’re going to give you something that will make you a little groggy.”

Recovery - What Little I Remember

The rest of the morning consists of bits and pieces of memories with whole chunks missing. The “something” was 75 micrograms of Fentanyl and 5 milligrams of Midazolam via IV. The next thing I remember was standing next to the bed with my clothes in front of me and the nurse telling me to get dressed and then have a seat in the chair. I have no recollection of the process of getting dressed or sitting down. That is missing from my mind, but I do remember sitting in the chair and the doctor coming out to go over the results.

I was handed a packet of papers with post procedure instructions, pictures of my insides, and he told me they found one 5mm polyp that was removed. They would call a few days later to say it came back as benign.

I remember them bringing a wheelchair and getting in it, as well as watching my wife pull up to the curb to pick me up, but the process of getting wheeled down the hall, the elevator ride down, and getting pushed out to the curb is gone, as if it never happened and I just went magically from a chair on the second floor to the curb in the blink of an eye.

I chatted with my wife on the way home, and I remember her asking if I thought I was able to drive. Silly me, I said, “I think so, it feels like when we leave on a long drive at 4am and I’m getting tired just before the sun comes up.” Well… it was nothing like that. Looking back, I remember leaving the parking garage, and walking into our house along with what we talked about on the way home but everything on the drive in between is missing. I have no idea even what on-ramp we took to get on the freeway.

I have always had a good memory, and this was a very weird experience to be unable to recall whole portions of the day.

When all was said and done, none of it was as bad as I imagined. I was given a clean bill of health and told to have my next colonoscopy in five years. Now that I know what to expect, I won’t be worried about it and will be sure to schedule it on time.

As I said earlier, this may seem like an odd article for a flight blog. But after I had my procedure I learned of a couple friends, one who is north of 55 and the other one has passed 60, who have never had a colonoscopy. I thought of them, and my good friend who is no longer with us and decided that maybe I should advocate for those who are in the same position to go get checked out.

I think the average age of us Mooniacs is past the recommended age of 45 for our first colonoscopy, and I hope we will all be flying our Mooney’s for many years to come. So, if you haven’t been, see your doctor and get it scheduled. It just might save your life.

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Get Your Exhaust Checked aka “A Colonoscopy”

If you're over 45 you need a colonoscopy. I hope this humorous take on mine might help coax you along....
Richard Brown

1 May 2024

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 And get free stickers!