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Celia Capace - The Pain Of It All

Due to my Crohn’s disease I’ve had numerous colonoscopies.  Colonoscopies don’t faze me. It is the night before the procedure that is the torturous part.  One might as well move their bedding into the bathroom as the toilet will become an essential partner all night long.  Yet, the one colonoscopy that sticks in my mind most is when the procedure became the torturous part.

I needed surgery for partial removal of the small bowel due to it being inflamed.  My gastronomic specialist, who was also a surgeon, was worried my emaciated body would not recover post-surgery and was desperate for me to put on weight before he dared to operate.  I was on heavy painkillers and my main worry was my growing addiction. I was taking more painkillers than prescribed combined with strong alcohol to combat the constant pain. Though I had often discussed this dilemma with my specialist he always responded that his main focus was for me to gain weight prior to my much-needed surgery and the addiction problem could be tackled after.  We were soon to realise how bad my addiction had become.

On the day of the colonoscopy I was sedated and all was normal, at first.   During the procedure I became aware of my surroundings. One is conscious but unaware when undergoing a colonoscopy.  We may even hold a conversation but don’t have any recollection of what was said or even know what is happening due to the sedative administered.

I became aware mid-procedure wondering who was making all the noise I could distantly hear.  A lot of groaning and swearing. Then the pain hit and I realised it was me making the noises.  The pain was so excruciating I honestly thought I’d been in some freakish accident where I’d been impaled by a telephone pole.  I had my legs akimbo and I could see my specialist busy between my legs with a nurse standing by him. Another nurse had her back to me further away.  I realise I’d not been impaled but the inserted probing camera sure felt like it. I thought I was going to die from the pain. The conversation went as follows. 

“Get it out of me!”

“Not much longer”, my specialist responds calmly, still engrossed in the procedure.

“Get it out of me! It’s hurting too much. Fucking get it out of me now!”

“Not much longer.  I’m nearly done”, he calmly replied.

“Why the fuck do you keep saying ‘not much longer’, for fuck sake! I can’t take the pain anymore.  I want the camera probe out of me now!”

Nurse and doctor are both staring a little alarmed at me now.  “Celia, where are you?”, the doctor asked.

“What the fuck kind of question is that?  I’m in fucking Siberia. Where am I??? I’m in the Heidelberg House unit of a hospital having a colonoscopy and why have I still got that fucking camera in me!?  Why haven’t you got it out of me? Get it the fuck out of me NOW!”

By now all three are staring at me with their mouths open.  I honestly thought it was because I was swearing so much, not realising becoming ‘aware’ during colonoscopy was a very rare occurrence indeed.  That was all I recalled once I came to after the procedure had been completed.

When I see my specialist at my next appointment I enquire what the hell happened.  He’s surprised I remember. “You really were aware then? You scared everyone. I kept administering more sedation till I was worried I was going to kill you.  It took 3 times your body weight to calm you down”.

“Now do you believe me how bad my addiction is?”, I questioned.

“Oh, I believe you.  Now we have two hurdles to overcome.  Weight gain and your addiction”.

Needless to say it was a difficult road but I eventually gained enough weight for surgery and overcame my addiction.  It was a time in my life I don’t recollect fondly. I’ve had an addiction problem before but getting off prescription painkillers was worse than weaning myself off any other drug I’ve taken, which is pretty much every drug that exists.  But that’s a different story for another time.