I had a colonoscopy this morning, after 36 hours of fasting (aside from a succession of tall, cool glasses of propylene glycol chugged last night in order to clear my digestive track). Not relishing the thought of a weak, dehydrated trip through morning rush hour to reach the downtown Manhattan hospital, I scored a deal on a last-minute travel app called "Hotel Tonight" for the Wyndham Garden Hotel Chelsea on 24th Street (clean, neat, friendly) at just $115.
I was permitted clear fluids and sherbert, and the hotel placed me down the block from Eataly so I could enjoy an enormous lemon sorbeto (chowhounding's all about working resourcefully within restriction!). Naturally, I discovered a number of tempting restaurants while walking around the neighborhood. My pockets filled with takeout menus, though my stomach remained empty. Also, I'd been having a fried chicken craving for weeks, and Hill Country Chicken was helpfully right on the corner. Yikes!
But I held tight, passing the evening discovering exactly what the propylene glycol's for, and, in the morning, headed downtown for my procedure.
Having heard that outside America it's not normal to anesthetize colonoscopy patients, I was considering opting out to avoid side-effects. Versed is a popular anesthetic, and can cause depression, memory loss, and, worse still, my understanding is that it doesn't so much relieve pain as make you forget it afterwards.
I asked my friend Pierre about this, and his response was "Who cares, if you don't remember?" This makes no sense to me. Would it be ethical for a daycare to mistreat your children if they could somehow magically be made to forget? If forgetting's as good as never experiencing, why not spend one's life seeking pain, seeing as how it'll all be forgotten the moment one dies, anyway? I think anesthesiologists haven't thought it through very carefully. Or, perhaps they have, and this is (ala the crooked day care scenario) a cynical means of ensuring happy customers.
For one thing, conscious forgetting isn't sufficient. I've meditated for years in an effort to ungnarl my unconscious contractions. The shiny place at the center of our attention is a very small part. "Back there" lurk gobs of locked-in trauma, and I'm certainly not looking to lard on lots more! If you feel the same, you may want to avoid cursed Versed like the plague!
Fortunately, the anesthesiologist had another drug in mind: Propofol. Yes, the Michael Jackson drug - and I totally understand what Michael saw in it. While I might be partially conscious during the procedure, and the Propofol would, indeed, make me forget, I was assured I'd experience no pain at any point on this stuff.
So I went in, and as he set up my IV, the anesthesiologist asked whether I'm the Jim Leff from Chowhound (this never happens). I grinned and hastily noted that, in spite of what he was surely thinking, I'd actually followed the prep instructions quite diligently. And he began recounting his previous night's delicious-sounding dinner in Flushing Chinatown.
It was surreal. But then the doctor, who'd been occupied with paperwork, wheeled around and asked me what I think of famed food critic Corby Kummer. I (thank god) said that I like his writing. He replied, "Correct answer. He's my brother". And then, with precise comic timing, the anesthesiologist hit his syringe and I went out like a light.
What if I'd answered differently? What if my probe-wielding gastroenterologist's brother was, like, the CEO of Panera? I guess this is why no one ever says anything negative anymore in this "it's all good, bro" society. I think I'm seeing the light.
My nurse - Filipino, and, like everyone else at the colonoscopy, bursting with hot restaurant tips - explained that sedation's uncommon outside America because it's so expensive. She strongly urged me to go ahead with it, and the Propofol, as I said, was lovely. I find opiates like Percocet unpleasant - a cheap, harsh imitation of the natural opiates available via meditation. But Propofol's smooth, like really good hashish only without the paranoia.
You'll find on the Internet a few dozen accounts from people who've happily chosen colonoscopy without sedation. Most of them admit to a naturally high pain tolerance. Don't do it.
Luke's Lobster Rolls, I'm happy to report, is expanding. The rolls at their downtown branch are just as great as the ones at their East Village flagship. I highly recommend lobster rolls to break a 36 hour fast, by the way. Even more so when that fast is capped by insane levels of food shmoozing.
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