WARNING: This post has a lot of medical TMI including v*mit and butt stuff. If that freaks you out, maybe skip this one. Also, if you don’t want to read the narrative, I’ve put some FAQs at the bottom of the post.
As I’ve described before on the blog, I have a lot of stupid digestive issues going on. After falling sick again in July, not wanting to eat for like a week, and going in to have my guts pressed on to make sure nothing was exploding, I finally got referred to a GI. After my GI consult (over video, thanks COVID!), the doctor said that, while statistically it seemed unlikely that I would have something like Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis, I had enough symptoms to make a colonoscopy worthwhile.
“There’s a 95% chance that it’s just IBS, but if you’re going to worry about it, I would recommend a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy,” she said.
To which I laughed. As if I wouldn’t worry about it, I thought. That’s cute.
I just had the procedure last week, and in the days leading up to it, I did copious amounts of google-ing to see what it would be like. I thought it was only fair to add my experience to help elucidate others who are going through this procedure.
ALSO PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOT A DOCTOR. This is just my experience. This is not medical advice. I am not qualified to give medical advice. This is just how things happened for me.
Low Fiber Diet
Three days before the procedure, I was told to go on a low-fiber diet. My procedure was on a Wednesday, so I was scheduled to start the diet on the Sunday before. Being the overachiever that I am, I started on the Saturday before.
Honestly, the low-fiber diet wasn’t so bad. I try to eat very healthy foods with a lot of whole grains usually, so this was kind of a nice excuse to eat a bunch of bullshit I usually wouldn’t consume, like five times the amount of cheese and peanut butter as usual and baked goods with white flour.
The following foods and meals made the staples of my low-fiber diet:
- Puffed white rice cereal (featuring your three favorite elves) with almond milk and ripe banana slices
- Saltine crackers with creamy peanut butter
- Cheese quesadillas made with white flour tortillas
- White rice
- Peeled and boiled carrots
- Plain greek yogurt
- Peeled and boiled potatoes
For the complete rules of the low fiber diet, you can view this handout from Kaiser. Naturally, I got a pretty severe burn on the back of my hand when cooking one of the cheese quesadillas, because my life is a joke.
The last thing I ate before the procedure was a half bowl of mashed potatoes at around 6:00 pm on Monday.
I was also required to get a COVID test, which was my first test. When I got sick in July, my doctor did not set me up for a test because I was considered low-risk. So did I have COVID in July? We’ll never know! Which is really reassuring for me, especially as I read more and more articles about people who had mild symptoms but suddenly have heart problems. Yay, something else to be anxious about! But at least I don’t have it now… or I didn’t before going to the outpatient clinic, anyway.
All Liquid Day & Pre-Procedure
The day before the procedure was an all liquid day. I subsisted mainly on peppermint tea, white grape juice, vegetable broth, and black coffee. A complete list of the clear liquids I was allowed to consume is available on this handout. I had to drink eight ounces of clear liquids every hour I was up.
I was very grateful for the opportunity to work from home; I don’t think I would have done well if I had to go into the office on an all liquid diet. It wasn’t hard sticking to only liquids, but I did have a difficult time concentrating on work. I quit working at 4:00 pm and let people know I was out for the next two days and wouldn’t even look at my email until Friday.
At 5:00 pm, I started taking the laxative. My procedure was at 10:00 am the next day; I was instructed to drink a half gallon of the Gavilyte (my prescribed laxative) the evening before and a half gallon in the wee hours of the morning the day of the procedure. I was also told to keep drinking clear liquids when I was also drinking the laxative, so I wouldn’t be dehydrated.
People online said that the prep was the worst part of the whole experience–and they were right. Having to chug down a gallon of what tasted essentially like gatorade and sea water was not the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. However, I followed several of the tips I found on Reddit, and it made the whole thing more bearable; namely, keeping the solution ice cold, chugging instead of sipping, and immediately following each mouthful with a chaser of juice or ginger ale.
The laxative started ‘working’ about 30 minutes after I started. At this point, I stayed pretty close to the bathroom. I only lasted about five minutes between “visits” though. I chugged 8 oz every 15 minutes, so finished half a gallon by 6:45 pm. I would say the urgent visits finished around 8:00 pm, although I still had to go a couple times before bed.
Then I got up at 4:30 am and started all over again for my 10:00 am procedure. I had a check-in time of 9:00 am and was told to stop drinking anything by 7:00 am at the absolute latest. I could have started the prep at 5:00 am, but I was worried about not finishing it in time, so I started 30 minutes early (which I was advised I could–always ask your doc, folks!). It was enough time to empty everything out for the most part before I had to leave for the hospital, but I still needed to use the ladies’ room before checking in.
I checked in at 9:00 am for my 10:00 am procedure. I was also offered a complimentary flu shot if I wanted it, since I was there anyway (Thanks, hospital! Get vaccinated, y’all!). After check-in, I was led to the outpatient procedure room, which is basically just a giant corral with curtain-separated ‘stalls.’ I changed into my fancy hospital outfit (gown untied at the back, nude-colored slipper socks) and waited for the nurses.
One nurse came in to take my vitals. I had my blood pressure and pulse taken, and my heart was hooked up to the electrodes (EKG?) for a minute or so. I also was hooked up to an IV with a saline solution. The nurse asked me to verify my identity, compared it to the bracelet, and asked me what procedures I was in for. She then began explaining how the procedure would work and some potential (but unlikely) negative side effects. While she was explaining these, another nurse came in and gave me my flu shot.
Then, they wheeled me over to the procedure room. My GI was already there waiting for me. The nurse gently removed my glasses and mask, I got some oxygen in my nose and started getting my knock-out drugs, and then the last thing I remember was having a plastic piece put in my mouth to keep it open for the upper endoscopy.
The next moment in my timeline was when I was already in the outpatient waiting area. I was still in bed in my clothes, but I had my mask back on.
“Did I do this, or did you do this?” I groggily asked the nurse.
“I did,” she said, while she was fiddling with something on the computer.
“Oh, thank you,” I said.
“You said ‘thank you’ at the time, too,” she replied. “Don’t worry, you were very polite the whole time.”
So I guess my mom raised me right.
Once I was awake enough, she brought me my clothes and instructed me to get dressed the best I could while still in the bed. Once dressed, she brought over a wheel chair with collapsible arm rails and told me to lower myself in and then swing my legs around. Then she popped the arm back up on the side I entered. She wheeled me over into a different waiting area, where I just sort of hung out until another medical person came to find me when my fiance drove up.
“Black Suzuki?” he asked me, smiling.
“Woooo!” I think I replied. I was still on a lot of drugs, hence needing a ride home.
He wheeled me out of the hospital and down to the loading zone in front of the emergency room, where my fiance was waiting. Hall & Oates was playing on the medical person’s radio, so we both sang Your Kiss is on My List until we got to my fiance’s car, where he helped me in, and we said ‘bye.’
After we got home (around 11:30am-ish?), I immediately took my pants off and took a nap.
I got up around 2:00 pm, had a half serving of puffed rice cereal and almond milk, and went back to sleep. Around 4:00 pm I woke back up with a stomach ache that I assumed was from being hungry, so I had half a piece of bread with vegan butter.
I curled up on the couch, and about 45 minutes later felt the bottom drop out of my stomach.
This is bad, I thought.
I high-tailed it to the bathroom, where I had what I can only refer to as very forceful vomit. I had about three rounds, and I was grateful that I hadn’t had that much to eat, as it was mostly just an ungodly amount of liquid. Frankly, after having so much come out of my butt that morning, I was just confused that I could still have that much liquid inside of me.
The good news is it made my stomach ache go away.
So at that point I wiped myself off, brushed my teeth, and texted my very lovely friend who has had numerous colonoscopies due to her health conditions, and she said vomiting was ‘par for the course.’ As long as it didn’t happen multiple times, it was fine.
After getting her reassurance, I just went back to bed for the rest of the evening. When I woke up the next morning, I felt OK, although I stuck with very small amounts of the low-fiber diet foods for the rest of the day. By Friday, I was back to normal.
Some Fun FAQs
When did you start taking the Gavilyte?
I started taking the laxative at 5:00 pm the night before the procedure. The instructions from my doctor said to start at 6:00 pm, but I was told I could start earlier if I was worried about finishing. I was mostly worried about pooping the bed, so I started at 5:00 pm.
Does it taste as terrible as everyone says it does?
I didn’t think so. Mine came with a lemon flavor packet, and I went against everyone’s advice and used it. It tasted like I had mixed half a bottle of lemon lime gatorade with sea water. It was unpleasant but not unbearable.
How long did it take you to start shitting?
I had my first watery bowel movement within 25 minutes of starting the laxative.
How long did it take you to stop shitting?
I slowed down considerably and had pretty much stopped an hour and a half after the laxative.
Did you poop your bed?
Nope! I started drinking the laxative an hour before they recommended, though, because I was worried about it. Can confirm, did not poop bed, but did have to use the bathroom a bunch in the middle of the night to pee because I had consumed so many liquids.
Did you throw up at all?
I threw up once a few hours after the procedure was over. I texted my friend who has had several colonoscopies (like 20+), and she said it was par for the course. My aftercare instructions said repeated vomiting was a problem. It didn’t happen again, so I decided not to worry about it, although I really eased my way back into eating. I had the warning signs–that weird feeling like your stomach is falling out and you’re falling through a black hole–so I made it to the bathroom, but it was quite forceful.
When did you start eating again?
I had a half serving of puffed rice cereal with almond milk about three hours after the procedure ended, and a small slice of bread with vegan butter about two hours after that. About an hour after eating the bread, I vomited. I didn’t eat anything for the rest of that day. I started eating again the next morning, but stuck to the low fiber diet and ate a half serving of the puffed rice cereal, some applesauce, and a little bit of plain pasta with a tiny bit of butter. On Friday, I still ate light, but started eating more normal things again, like vegetables! I’m writing this first draft on a Saturday, and I feel normal and intend to eat as per usual today and moving forward.
Were you awake during the procedure?
Technically yes, but they drugged me up so much I don’t remember anything. One of my nurses said I was very polite; my doctor said I made a lot of drinking jokes.
I just wanted to type all this out because, as a highly anxious person, I spent hours and hours scouring the internet for information about what to expect and how to make the experience as painless as possible. If you’ve stumbled across this post because you’re also anxious about your first colonoscopy, then don’t worry–it’s really not that bad!