Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Real "You"-Tube: Colonoscopy

We interrupt this look back to last fall’s Oregon trip (between parts 2 and 3) for a colonoscopy.  Yep, time to reminisce fondly on that dreaded mid-life procedure, which while quite necessary and intelligent to undergo; is generally not quite viewed upon with enthusiasm.

My turn came in late February 2012 as I had successfully turned the half-century mark in September of the previous year.  I called and asked my long-time primary doctor if he felt it was time.  He did.  I made the appointment the next day.  My original scheduled time in late January was postponed one-month when I decided that dealing with a bulging disk in my neck which affected my right arm and fingers, and a bad cold (of which the continual coughing inflamed my disk issue) were two more things that I didn’t need to deal with connected with the procedure; so I rescheduled it.  As the day drew nearer, and the paperwork from the beautiful North Shore Surgical Center arrived with complete instructions; I felt ready.  A few days ahead of the test, I purchased the four Dulcolax laxative tablets and picked up the NuLytely powder in a plastic gallon jug from the clinic.  That was “free” however I’m certain my insurance picked up that tab at great cost.  I chose from one of four offered flavors to mix with the powder to make the taste well, less disagreeable.  Pineapple was my pick and I would stand by it today as a strong recommendation.  For some reason, the more lemon-limey the flavor, the harder it is to drink icky stuff for me.   It’s like putting the virtual lipstick on swine…it would still taste like a hog with fruit-breath - if you get where I’m coming from.  Plus, a pineapple is the universal sign of hospitality and warm welcome isn't it?
At 11:00 AM the day before the colonoscopy, I took the 4 tablets.  I had not eaten anything since a small bowl of cereal at 6:30 AM.  I got through the rest of my work day fasting and feeling hungry, sleepy and cold.  In the afternoon when home, I began drinking the prep liquid.  The liquid was mostly sodium-based, so its viscosity was thicker than pure water.  It reminded me of drinking pineapple-flavored Atlantic Ocean, but was not altogether disgusting.  The directions said to drink at least one-half of the gallon in a brief time and wait for the fun to start.  Within 30 minutes, the stuff began it’s magic bowel evacuation process much like a high-speed train roaring through an abandoned station at midnight.  All I needed to complete the mood was the urgent warning horn as accompaniment.  Watching television was a good distraction to offset the frequent swallowing and emitting that took place until I was too pooped to stay awake any longer.  I was fortunate to not need to get up once during the night (and no, I wasn’t wearing a diaper), so I received a good rest for whatever came next.

Barbara and I drove to the nicely wooded, suburban surgical center around 10:15 and arrived in plenty of time to feel relaxed for the 11:00 procedure.  Intake went smoothly and I only needed to sign five different patient consent forms to make it official.  Many questions were asked of me as I sat waiting in a small 8’ X 8’ room in a comfy leather reclining chair.  Soft classical piano music was playing on the single overhead intercom speaker and the window blinds were open to a snowless landscape pointed towards a quiet, affluent, residential neighborhood.  Two men were operating a wood chipper as they fed in recently trimmed boulevard tree limbs.  The noise of the powerful machine was distant and a reminder of the outside world keeping its own schedule.  I changed into the traditional strait-jacketed hospital gown and attempted to tie a bow behind my neck with the cords attached to the garment.  They might as well have been live Garter snakes for the success I was having with the damn things.  I also was gifted with a cotton hospital robe, so I gave up all thoughts of modesty and just put that on.  There were a pair of green fuzzy slippers festooned with anti-skid rubber stripes (no doubt standard equipment after some unfortunate slip and fall lawsuit) and an enormously poofy, light blue, gauzy hair restraint which I also adorned myself with.  I settled back into my recliner to wait for the IV nurse while reading a November 2011 Popular Science magazine.  Hey, I used to love Popular Science and even had a subscription at one point in my life.

It wasn’t too long before a nurse with a cart wheeled in to insert a needle into my left arm around the bend of my elbow.  Once that was done, I sat back and read about the new spy camera the size and exact coloring of a hummingbird that can fly in a stationary position for 11 minutes on a single charge while sending back intel to law enforcement.  Being a birdwatcher; I was completely intrigued with all sorts of possibilities.  Pete the “nurse” came in to greet me and make sure I didn’t have any questions; assuring me he’d be with me the whole time in the procedure room.  I waited about another 15 minutes; enough time to see that Google had offered a 20 million dollar prize for the next individual or team to successfully land a craft on the moon, and I was called to pad down the shiny (treacherously slippery) hall.  Pete took my IV bag and led me to a brightly lit room to a waiting bed.  A woman dressed in appropriate hospital-wear was bustling around some equipment while another presented me with a blessedly warmed cotton blanket.  Pete told me to lie on my left side on the bed and I scooted to comply.  I was very thankful that I was not told to lie the other way as my pinched nerve bundle would have been complaining non-stop.  Pete told me that he was now giving me a cocktail to relax me as he injected something into my IV line.  I didn’t pass out completely because I remember bits and pieces of a TV monitor that was aimed in my direction, showing me the details of the internal expedition.  I would see the nose of the probe on the screen surrounded by glistening colon, water jetting and movement back and forth; then I would skip forward and see some other section of intestine.  I sensed nothing from my backside and was happy for that.  Before I knew it I was gently awakened being told that I could continue to lie in some other room (which I had apparently been moved to) for a bit or be wheeled to the final recovery room where Barbara could sit with me as I came fully awake.  I sleepily responded that I could get up and walk to that final room.

I sat in a similar leather recliner sipping cranberry juice cocktail when Barbara came in and joined me; her knitting in hand.  She asked me how I was and I told her that I felt fine: rested actually.  We waited while my head cleared and the doctor who did the scope came in to explain what they had found.  Apparently two polyps were removed in the course of the test and they had been (routinely) sent to for testing to see if they were cancerous.  Barbara told me later that the doctor had remarked that he’s seen removed a lot of polyps in his practice that were cancerous, and that mine didn’t appear that way.  I say it this way because I didn’t exactly remember what was said.  I guess that’s why they prefer a lucid person to accompany the patient post-op.  He did say that If I had children that (because polyps had been found in my colon) that they should consider being tested 10 years earlier than the usual age 50.  After a few more minutes of sitting, drinking and eating some of the trail-mix that Barbara had packed, I dressed in the nearby bathroom and threw my hospital gowns into the hamper.  I kept the green fuzzy (non-skid) slipper-socks…who wouldn’t?  As I left the facility I commented to the receptionist that I had had an “enjoyable” time at their center – they laughed.

PS: In all seriousness, I truly did have an easy time of the entire process.  There was nothing scary or upsetting about the whole thing for a 50-year old man to worry about.  I do feel for the kids who have had to endure this at an early age in the diagnosis of so many (IB) Irritable Bowel diseases that seem to be a plague on our youth of today.  Who knows why this is happening at such an alarming rate?  Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis are being rampantly diagnosed in children by GI professionals.  It’s wonderful that we have these amazing comprehensive test procedures to rely upon, but equally sad regarding what is discovered and what it means to the life of a young person.  However in terms of the test itself and what it can portend; it is much better to know than not to know when it comes to the Big C – so don’t put it off if you have been…schedule it today! Remember - The pineapple flavor for the NuLytely has my two thumbs up for the purge cycle of this process.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Great Northwest Birding Adventure of 2011 (part two)

Western Gull - Pet?
The Ester Lee Motel is a classic gem standing proudly on the rocky bluff next to route 101, in the bucolic and friendly Oceanside community of Lincoln City, OR.   Lisa (my sister) and her significant other “Shaun” had graciously rented a surprise cottage for the evening.  Cottage number 229 was completely wonderful, and cozy!  The view (“Ahh, what you can see from the Ester Lee!”) was magnificent and the cabin-like accommodations splendid.  Once the overnight gear was stowed in the building, we jumped back in the car and drove a little ways south into the serene village.  We parked in the public lot at the end of SW 51st street just down from MO’S where we would all later dine on delicious MO’s creations such as their famous “Slumgullion” chowder in a “cannonball (bread) bowl”.

California Sea Lions
Before we sat down to dine, we walked the rugged public beach area as an intermittent, light, but cool rain fell.  Fortunately this combination of setting sun and falling water droplets created a beautiful rainbow to the east.  The narrow water channel we walked alongside provided a curious view of the bank opposite us, as a multitude of California sea lions lay piled up near the water’s edge.  They were safely out of harm’s way and seemed happily ensconced in the moist sand.  Male California sea lions are dark grayish or chocolate brown, while females are lighter brown. Newborn pups are dark chocolate brown to black and weigh about 13 pounds. Male California sea lions are much larger than females, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, and measuring up to 8.2 feet long. Females weigh up to 250 pounds and reach lengths of up to 6.6 feet.

Crack that whip!
Odd looking strands of rope-like structures with bulbous ends were strewn here and there on our side of the channel.  Shaun noted that these were pieces of tidal-deposited “Bull Kelp” as they resembled a giant length of bull whip.  Nereocytis luetkeana kelp – (AKA: edible kelp, bull kelp, bullwhip kelp, ribbon kelp, giant kelp, and bladder wrack) is the Greek word for Mermaid’s Bladder and can grow in lengths up to 74 meters.  The specimens that had washed up here were considerably shorter and could in fact be wielded like a whip.  Like all novice whip-wielders may admit, trying it for the first time, ain’t necessarily all its “cracked” up to be.  I say this, because I was not the only one to give it a mighty flip; only to be struck somewhere on my own body hard enough to cause real physical pain.  Polly the toy poodle, wearing a doggy-sized camouflage coat; rambled back and forth along the beach in frantic zig-zag fashion, sniffing and snuffling.  The sun began to set as the six of us took pictures and turns looking through our binoculars at the bird-life this section of coastal  landscape had to offer.

Pelagic Cormorants
The next morning Barbara, Anna, Polly and I walked down the paved road from 229 to the beach below the Ester Lee.  Polly couldn't behave herself and kept on barking to the point where a nearby private residence opened its door to emit a cranky foul-mouthed Lincoln City resident who was displeased with the early morning nuisance.  Poor Anna took the brunt of this guy's unhinged ire as she had been chasing the damn dog all over in order to get it to shut up.  Barbara and I walked the beach, looking at the rocks and wood that littered the tidal zone.  There were no beautiful shells of any kind to be found here...just rocks and mussels.  After a shower and a leisurely conversation in the cottage's living room, we packed up the vehicle and checked out.  We visited the towns of Gleneden Beach, Lincoln Beach, Depoe Bay, Otter Rock, Beverly Beach, Agate Beach and as far south as Newport, OR.  A high bridge took us to the southern end of the city to our chosen destination.  The birding was tremendous along the long man-made length of sand-filled concrete bulwark that was at the end of SW 26th Street.  The twin jetties basically formed a safe and calmer sea inlet to the city proper.  It was along this wall that I would score my first Pelagic and Brant's cormorant, male Harlequin duck, Black oyster-catcher and Surf Scoters! Brown pelicans and Double-crested cormorants hung out together on the rock outcroppings, as orange starfish clung to the submerged rocks just at the surf line.

Coast Guard training at DePoe Bay
Heading back north on the way back to Silverton, we stopped again at Depoe Bay as it had stopped raining for 5 minutes...Ok...well maybe it was look again at the scenery from outside the car.  The town (officially formed in 1927) was named after a local resident, Charlie DePoe, a Joshua Indian who settled in that area in 1894. It was in this general area that I also recorded another life-bird...the Heerman's gull.  A rocky projection in the distance; made up of volcanic spew, was the current fishing grounds to dozens of Brown pelicans, Western gulls and other smaller shorebirds.  The Heerman's were huddled on the nearer sand beach in a small knot, facing the waves.  The Heerman's Gull is the size of a Ring-billed Gull, but stockier. It is unique in that its plumage is mostly dark. The Heerman's Gull has a dark gray back and wings with a lighter gray body. The head is white with a black-tipped red bill and a dark eye. The tail is black with a white terminal band. The wing has a white trailing edge and black tips. Some individuals have a white patch at the wrist. The feet are black.  A Pacific species, the Heerman's Gull nests in western Mexico, and spends the non-breeding season in marine areas. A variety of coastal habitats, including rocky shores, bays, small offshore islands, kelp beds, sandy beaches, and estuaries, are all potential roosting sites. They seldom spend time at garbage dumps or on fresh water. It was rainy and a strong cool wind was blowing so we couldn't spend much time observing them, however the sight was unforgettable for a birder.
Heerman's Gulls

The next day (November 8th, 2011) Barbara and I were on our own as our hosts needed to go to work and school, so armed with handy suggestions of where to find birds; off we went to find adventure.  Our first stop of the day was the "bird go round" near Keizer, OR. which was technically a sewage water treatment plant for the City of Salem...but we didn't hear that bit of detail from Lisa.  We drove to the area she had indicated on a hand-drawn map and discovered a small wetlands area that was created by the sanitation district as a "natural" area of ecological renewal - wetlands restoration.  After walking the gravel paths that wound their way around four ponds, seeing a decent amount of waterbird-life; we spied two structures through the chain-link fencing that partitioned off the natural area.  Yes indeed these appeared to be round, and sure enough there were birds flying and some that had landed on the structural members that were slowly rotating, stirring up the good citizens of Salem's wastewater into something recyclable.  It dawned on me what my creative sister had been referring to when she suggested we bird here.  The cool of the surrounding air meeting with the warmth of the poo-water created a curious fog that arose from the slowly revolving gull carousel.  All that was missing was some calliope music and the glorious oily-scent of Pronto Pups.  We recorded many Golden-crowned kinglets, Starlings, Coots, Mallards, Green-winged teal, Black-capped chickadee and one Kestrel.
Watch for more!

The next stop on our solo-tour was Silver Falls State my next installment.