For reasons we can skate over, except to say that my doctor thought I might have cancer of something or other, yesterday I surrendered my empty body to the Endoscopy Department at St Thomas’ Hospital.  My body was empty because, as per my instructions, I hadn’t eaten anything for nearly 48 hours and I had downed some disgusting medicine that turned poo into pee. 

The first notice you see upon entering St Thomas’ Hospital asks you, amongst other things, to declare whether you’ve had diarrhoea during the last couple of days.  I decided this didn’t apply to me because my diarrhoea had been officially requested and was, perhaps, even welcome.  The latter was confirmed much later when a charming nurse thanked me for having such a clean bowel – something I have never been thanked for before.  I can’t remember my reply.  A modest, ‘Oh, it was nothing’ would have been neat but hardly true.

Two things always happen to me on hospital visits. First, the name Honey causes nurses to dissolve into giggles.  I tell them that over the years I’ve got used to it – the name and the giggling.  On a previous hospital visit I had to be weighed and the nurse asked me, ‘What was your name?’  I thought it ominous that her request should be couched in the past tense.  I should have replied, ‘Was?  I’m not dead yet!’ but didn’t think of it fast enough so I told her my name and the giggles commenced.   The second thing that always happens is that my veins are admired.  Apparently they are magnificent, easy to find and utterly compliant. 

Preliminaries over and gowned in one of those things open at the back, I was led into an anti-room where I was warned about the dangers of the procedures they were about to inflict on me – terrible things like perforated this and that.  I dismissed it all as scaremongering and signed the consent forms – two of them, one for down and one for up.

The down bit (a gastroscopy) was quick and I didn’t know much about it.  Mouth clamped open, a squirt of something down the back of my throat that tasted like a banana and vodka cocktail, a slightly odd sensation of something wiggling around inside my stomach and that was it.  No exclamations such as, ‘Hey, look at this’ or, ‘Wow, never seen one that size before’; just a silence that was difficult to interpret.

The up bit (a colonoscopy) was less quick and much more interesting because I could watch the camera’s journey on a large screen.  It was remarkably like the Walt Disney animation where poor Pinocchio is swallowed by the whale.  Fascinating to watch the camera glide along pink tunnels and round bends that had been with me for nearly 80 years but that I’d never seen before.   Again, no immediate feedback – except the nurse thanking me for having such a clean bowel.  

Then to a recovery room for a nice sleep followed by a cup of tea and some biscuits.  Finally the verdict; everything normal.  

An anti-climax.  I felt a fraud.        



  1. Peter glad all OK. The thought of the gastroscopy fills me with fear – they’d have to sedate me heavily as my gag reflex would prevent anything from entering! I think it runs in the family as my father had to have a similar procedure this year and ended up having to be sedated, so admire you for being so brave!!

    Wishing you and your family a merry Christmas – are you still at the same address?

  2. Peter, I so enjoy reading whatever you write – even if, it turns out, the topic is your bowels. :-)

    I had an endoscopy once, which I guess is the same, or similar to a Gastroscopy and I agree with Sarah. It was right up there with the lumbar puncture (different occasion) in terms of horror!

    So glad it was a good result. Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas. :-)

  3. Hi Peter – glad to know you are ‘in the pink’ as my Grandfather used to say when he knew we were all ‘well’. Enjoyed the read if only because of my own recent experience with a colonoscopy after which my doctor went on two weeks leave so I had to wait for the result which was also ‘fine’. But the two weeks waiting was a little less enjoyable. More recently I had my ‘annual medical’ to be told I had an ECG equivalent to a 35 year-old (I am now 72!) but that I had high blood pressure. “Any stress?” asked my doctor. In this place it is only the myopic and the disabled who do not suffer from ‘stress’. My brother (in Oz) has recently had a ‘medical experience’. The result has, I now realise, been conspicuous by it’s absence. I shall do some urgent following up and refer him to your blog.

  4. Peter,
    Your sense of humor runs in the veins of a good-hearted, strongheaded person. May science one day also poke into the pulse of ideas and thoughts!

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