My capsule endoscopy & me

Five years of sitting in a doctors waiting rooms wondering which tests they’ll do next. Five years of receiving letters through the post revealing that another examination has failed to identify the problem. Five years of cameras, scans, procedures and investigations – and a hell of a lot of questions unanswered along the way. But today marks the day of my most recent examination, which has raised one common question for my friends and family – what the bloody hell is a Capsule Endoscopy?

To cut a long story short, a Capsule Endoscopy is a way of recording images of the digestive tract to see if there are any abnormalities or problems. The procedure involves swallowing a capsule containing a camera, which will then travel through the body taking pictures of the inside of the gastrointestinal tract.

My first Capsule Endoscopy in 2013.

This will be my second Capsule Endoscopy (Pillcam), as I had my first in 2013, which didn’t highlight any issues. It takes around 8-10 hours to complete, so I need something to fill that time. And what better way to make time fly faster than to blog about my experience? We start our story on Sunday 9th of October, 2016 where the preparation begins…

Sunday 9th October

09:00: I’ve just had my last piece of food for around 36 hours, but it wouldn’t have been complete without a cup of tea made by my mum – she really does make a the best cuppas! I’m home from university for the weekend as there aren’t many hospitals with the facilities to do this particular procedure. I need to give myself a few minutes to let my food settle and then it will be time to start preparation for tomorrow.

11:00: The word ‘preparation’ makes it sound like I’m just going for a bit of a lie down to rest up for the long day ahead, but what I’m actually doing is drinking two litres of Klean & Prep. The substance is a laxative which ensures your body is… Let’s say empty and clear ready for the procedure – and that’s the nice way of saying what it does! Not only does it result in you feeling a bit unsteady for the rest of the day, but it also tastes absolutely awful. Luckily, you’re allowed to add some lime cordial to it to make it go down a bit easier, but I still have to pinch my nose with every gulp.

17:00: I’ve finished my two litres of K&P (thank God!) and am now sitting at the dinner table watching my family eat a glorious Sunday dinner as I, incredibly hungry, stir a spoon half-heartedly around my mug full of Oxo cube dissolved in boiling water – yum. You’re only allowed clear fluids 24 hours before the Pillcam, so unfortunately no chicken dinners for me!

22:00: The K&P seems to have had the desired effect (again, that’s the pleasant way of saying it!) so now I’m off to bed with my bag packed and alarm set for 6:45am.

Monday 10th October

07:15: It’s an early start today but I’m on my way to the hospital – my dad will be dropping me off today before heading back to work himself. I managed to bribe my mum into staying with me for the whole day last time I had the Pillcam, but I didn’t think it was fair to put her through the boredom again. Besides, I should know the drill by now. I’m feeling okay, despite small amounts of pain, and except for the fact that I’m extremely hungry – going a long time without a meal is very difficult for someone who loves food as much as I do! Forget diets and forget slimming down, when this is over I’m going to eat the biggest, juiciest burger I can get my hands on!

08:30: I’ve just arrived at the hospital and have had my observations done – all are fine and healthy. The nurse looking after me is chatty and smiles a lot – he asks me about university and he tells me that some of his friends are studying there too. Another nurse will be coming with the Pillcam soon. I’m getting a little nervous now.

09:10: After a few failed attempts, I’ve managed to swallow the Pillcam. The nurse joked that you’ll be able to see it coming in and out of my mouth on the video – I’m sure that will be entertaining for the consultants watching it back! It’s a lot bigger than your average tablet so it doesn’t exactly just slide down your throat, and sometimes your body fights back which makes it even more difficult. Now I have to go for a walk for 30 minutes to make sure the pill doesn’t get stuck and to make sure it drops into my small bowel as it should. People must think I’m lost wandering around the hospital like this. Still, the nifty gadget attached to my right side must give it away!

My fancy equipment!

09:45: Walking around for 30 minutes should be an easy task for someone as fit and healthy as myself, but when your body has no food to power it, it can make you tired very easily. The good news, however, is that the pill has dropped into my small bowel meaning I can now sit down – phew! 1 hour down, 9 to go!

11:15: As a ‘milk and two sugars’ kind of girl, I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to see a black coffee put before me. Two hours after taking the pill, I’m allowed liquids – no milk, though. The staff are all really friendly and kind, so they brought me two cups instead of one!


13:10: One word – FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! A nurse asks me: “What sandwiches do you like?” My reply? “I will literally eat anything right now”. Five minutes later, along comes an egg mayo sandwich and – it gets better – jelly and ice cream for dessert! It’s only been 28 hours since I last ate something but it feels much longer. There’s still a long way to go but I instantly feel much better after having something to eat.

16:00: I haven’t really been doing much this afternoon – there’s a lot of sitting around involved when you have a Capsule Endoscopy. My stomach is hurting quite a lot so I’m just using this time to get some rest, and to try and get some uni work done! I’m hoping the fact that I’m in pain right now will mean something (anything!) will show up on the test. The nurse has just spoken to me and has said I should be able to go home in the next few hours. Let’s hope she’s right!

17:10: Three chapters into my book, a few flicks through my magazine, a bit of uni work done and this blog post written – it sure has been a loooong 8 hours! But the nurse has just been to see me and has said that the Pillcam has indeed dropped into my Colon, as it should do, and because of this I am now free to go home! It should be around 4 weeks until I get my follow up appointment to find out the results, but for now it’s back to the painkillers, back to the waiting game, and back to the long and winding journey of my health story which, I hope, will soon be reaching its long-awaited conclusion.

Capsule Endoscopy, over and out!

Featured image: David Yeo T. B./ Flickr.

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