Bush Got a Better Colonoscopy Than Me

DENVER - OK, so this discussion may be a little graphic for some, so bear with me, I do have a point to make. President George W. Bush had a colonoscopy done on Saturday morning, as you may already know since he had to give the vice president the reigns of power for a couple of hours. President Bush has had other colonoscopies to remove polyps in his colon which could have become cancerous if left alone. So far, so good. Perfect medical strategy and just as I would want for any American.

What you may not have considered is that each and every time Mr. Bush has had a colonoscopy, he has done so under a government health plan -- his care as the governor of Texas and his care now as our President -- is paid for by you and me, the American taxpayers. And forevermore, if he needs another colonoscopy or God forbid one of those polyps is ever found to be cancerous, we will pay to make sure he is treated. This is just and humane. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now, the fact that he had a team of doctors and was comfortably attended to at Camp David for his procedure is a bit more than most Americans would ever experience, and I'm betting the cost was too. No denial for payment from Blue Cross or Humana for this procedure or any part thereof, I'm betting. No, you and I happily paid for this so the President didn't need to worry himself before, during or after his colonoscopy.

My last colonoscopy was not the same. My experience was a little less dignified and a lot more expensive. And like the President, I've had a few of these since I've had polyps removed (and unlike Mr. Bush, because I am a cancer survivor and the polyps were shown to be pre-cancerous).

First of all, the prep for this procedure isn't a pretty process. The patient, whether it is a president or a pauper, most clean out his or her colon before the exam by drinking a gallon (and I am not kidding) of a substance called Go-Lytely (and I am still not kidding).

The results, as you might imagine, are explosive. For hours, the patient cannot move far from restroom facilities. There are moves underway to make the prep easier and less inconvenient, but I'm told this process remains the "Gold Standard."
When I arrived at my local hospital for my last colonoscopy, I was ill. My head hurt so badly that I had to lean against a wall as the admissions team looked over my insurance information and had me sign financial guarantees of payment. I felt faint and wanted to throw up. I could feel my heart pounding -- not quite in unison with my head, and I begged the clerk to hurry so I could get some help.

It turned out that the prep process had severely dehydrated me to the point that I could not sit still because of the pain, and the medical staff that finally saw me 25 minutes after I begged for help at the front desk had difficulty even starting an IV drip because my veins were so narrowed by the dehydration. They said that unless they could get the IV started they would not be able to do my colonoscopy. I would have cried, but now the nausea from the pain in my head was overwhelming and crying would have jarred all of that into reality.

Finally, the IV was set and I was given anti-nausea drugs, IV-fluids and a pain killer to attack the headache. And this was all before the colonoscopy could begin. I squirmed during the procedure and could feel some of the twists and turns of the tubing in my colon as the doctors chatted and I moaned a little. I'm betting Mr. Bush was made a bit more comfortable than I was.

When the procedure was done, I was in a recovery area with three other patients. I was tired and upset -- more polyps removed just three years after the last -- and I just wanted to be alone to grieve the process and the inhumanity.
But then Larry came in - my wonderful and brave husband -- who gives me more support than I often deserve. We found my shoes, and we went home to our home where 100 degree temperatures and the lack of air-conditioning made this June afternoon a difficult one for napping following the colonoscopy.

This was my experience as a fully insured American receiving my most recent colonoscopy. Quite a contrast from President Bush's government-funded procedure I paid for Saturday.

And yet earlier last week he held what he termed a "round table" on health care during which he said he would not support government-run health care for this nation. Really?

At the very least, Mr. President, I'd like to sit at that round table with you when this discussion continues. I have earned that through my payment for your health care and through my hard work and suffering.

I would ask you to consider that the process you went through for your colonoscopy was the top-of-the-line in terms of care. I do not begrudge you that. But why would you want any of your citizens to experience what is already a difficult experience with less dignity and less humanity than you did?

You call yourself a Christian, and I am too. I'm a Christian asking her President to start talking about justice and about concepts Christ would support -- even at the end of a colonoscopy tube.

Donna Smith, who appears in Michael Moore's new movie SiCKO, is currently living and working in Aurora, Colorado, with her husband Larry, who also appears in SiCKO. Ms. Smith was not able to get the treatment she needed in the U.S. for her health issues, even though she was insured, and she traveled to Cuba with Michael Moore where she received the care she needed for free.

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