Paul Prather

Paul Prather: Meeting my mortality for real

Paul Prather
Paul Prather

Note to self: In the future, don't jinx a 50-year run of good fortune by publicly calling attention to it.

A few of you might have noticed I was AWOL for my last scheduled column, which should have run Dec. 22.

Talk about a weird coincidence.

In the column before that, published on Dec. 8, I had written about the aggravations and travails I've been having with my health.

I said I was starting to feel my mortality. I suffer from several irritating conditions, from diabetes to bursitis.

But I also pointed out that I'd never had a truly serious illness or spent even a night in a hospital (not counting the time when, at age 7, I had my tonsils removed).

Hardly had that column appeared than, you might say, the bottom fell out.

I was scheduled for a colonoscopy the next week, a routine, low-risk test that's nearly ubiquitous to near-geezers such as yours truly.

I'd been borderline anemic, and my primary care physician wanted to see if I was losing any blood internally. He sent me to another doctor for the test, which went seemingly without a hitch.

The doctor who performed the colonoscopy discovered four tiny polyps and repaired them. (Biopsies eventually came back benign, thank goodness.)

That test was on a Thursday.

Unbeknownst to the doctor or me, those repaired polyps apparently didn't seal off correctly.

On Saturday, I started losing blood from my colon. Quite a lot of blood.

I phoned the physician's exchange, and was told that I probably ought to go an emergency room to be checked out.

Before my wife, Liz, and I could leave the house, I felt an intense need to use the bathroom. There, I sprang a gusher of bright red blood, and I do mean a gusher.

I don't know exactly how much it was, but it looked like an axe murderer had caught me squarely in the seat of the britches.

I yelled, or tried to yell, for Liz. She told me later it was a barely audible croak. Fortunately, she happened to be in the next room and heard me.

My actual last thought before I blacked out?

"I'm going to die on the commode, just like Elvis!"

Liz caught me before I hit the floor, propped me up and frantically dialed 911 on her cell phone. For 15 minutes or so, I wavered in and out of consciousness.

I came back to myself strapped to a gurney in an ambulance, attended by an excellent EMT named Jed, who inserted an IV in my arm and talked to me non-stop about all manner of trivia, apparently in an effort to keep me alert.

After a brief visit to the Mount Sterling hospital, I was taken by a second ambulance to Lexington's Central Baptist.

It was quite exciting, I assure you. I'd never ridden in an ambulance before, and here I got two trips in a single night. It's not an excitement I hope to repeat.

(A bit of emergency trivia: The roughest rides I've ever endured were those two jaunts in ambulances. Ambulances have no suspension at all.)

I stayed in Central Baptist a couple of days. Their care was first-rate.

The bleeding stopped, the crisis passed and I'm long since back home.

At this writing, I remain pale, wobbly and lethargic, but two physicians have said that's normal for somebody my age who's been through such an experience.

Liz says that's normal for me anytime, especially the lethargy.

I did some research on the odds of suffering complications from a colonoscopy. They're infinitesimal.

So at least I have the pleasure of feeling mighty special about myself, and can lord it over all my pals who've had colonoscopies without drama. I'd prefer to beat enormous odds by hitting the Power Ball, but I'll take what I can get.

Another upside is that my Dec. 8 column turned out to be even truer than I knew—almost prophetic.

At that point, I was only beginning to recognize my mortality.

Now, I feel as if I've met it up close. I can promise you, it's real.