Seized Up

By Lloyd Graff

A Cat’s Scan

A funny thing happened on the way to my colonoscopy.

I followed the directions the hospital sent me perfectly. Tuesday, the day before the test, I drank a lot of water and then imbibed 64 fluid ounces of Gatorade mixed with a large bottle of colon cleaner called Miralax, something I had used before. Then I continued to drink more water before going to sleep, just to be sure my system was clean as a whistle.

I nodded off quite easily at 10:30pm but the rest of the night is a blur. My wife, Risa, says that I woke her up foaming at the mouth in the midst of a grand mal seizure. I was uncommunicative but breathing steadily. She quickly recognized that I was having a seizure and called 911. The ambulance arrived in 10 minutes. I awoke, but I was not lucid. The emergency medical people were strongly urging me to get into the ambulance, but I could not understand why I needed to go. Risa tried to explain to me that I had a seizure a few minutes earlier, but I was skeptical.

Then the EMTs started asking me simple questions and I was struggling to remember dumb things like who the President was. This is when I got worried that I might have had a stroke, but they told Risa that my state was common coming out of a seizure. I also was left with a pronounced lisp that lasted for several days because I had chomped down furiously on my tongue.

At that point I acquiesced to their urging that I needed to go to the closest hospital, which was five minutes away. I don’t remember much after that except that my sons Ari and Noah arrived at the hospital the next morning. A kidney specialist in a tailored blue suit and perfect Windsor knot in his tie came into the room and explained very succinctly that the seizure had most likely been caused by drinking too much fluid too quickly, causing me to urinate an enormous quantity of sodium out of my body. The sodium loss was exacerbated by a diuretic that my doctor had prescribed because of some swelling in my feet, a leftover symptom of heart surgery eight years ago.

I ended up spending three days in the hospital taking a CAT scan and a brain MRI and what felt like 100 blood tests. My mental acuity came back within a few hours, but I was stuck in the ultra-cautious medical system for patients who were covered by Medicare and had private coverage to back it up.

The seizure, which should not have happened, has left me with a few hangovers. My back, which had been bothering me anyway, really started to bug me. The extreme tightening of my back muscles, and then laying in an uncomfortable hospital bed for several days left my rhomboid and intercostal muscles highly sensitized and unhappy.

Emotionally, I felt a real downer a week after the seizure. I was extremely angry at my doctors for causing an unnecessary health crisis. A sore back was my unexpected gift of a colonoscopy prep gone bad.

When I was in the hospital my general doctor wanted to reschedule the colonoscopy and make more appointments. I said no. I felt totally over-doctored and I was pissed off.

The doctor who was supposed to do the colonoscopy told me that there was an alternative non-invasive lab test that was 92% as effective as the scope. Now he tells me.

After 13 surgeries and procedures since 2003 I am weary. I am grateful for modern medicine and caring doctors. I am so damn tired of hospitals.

Question: Are we over-doctored in the United States?

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18 thoughts on “Seized Up

  1. AvatarFrank Gibbons

    Hi Lloyd: Glad all well after this experience. Your not being able to remember who is President is a very common thing these Days. Most are trying to forget who is President.

  2. AvatarSeth Emerson

    Frank – That will probably continue for the next 8 years – no matter who wins.

    Lloyd – Did the doctor tell you name of the 92% procedure? I have had some issues with “the prep” in the past – Though not as bad as yours, not even close! At least my next one isn’t until 2020. (Passed it last year with flying (?) colors!) Are all your procedures and visits at one facility or under the control of one authority (besides you)?

  3. AvatarJack Moyers

    Sorry to hear of your episode.
    As for your question, (do you think we are over-doctored?):
    I refer to it as the “business of medicine”. Do you notice how there are doctor groups these days? Isn’t it ironic that each PCP or Specialist can find a problem that you need to go to the next specialist for? Of course, usually within their “group”.

  4. Avatarmike

    Lloyd –

    sorry to read of your recent woes . . . there is a quote goes something like “the wise for cure on exercise depend” . . . . Socrates?

    my Gram lived to be 99 – died right up the road from you out there in Lombard. Drank two glasses of water . . . a year. Loved egg nog. never knew or cared about cholesteral. drank like a fish – probably alcoholic. overweight and under exercised – must have been in her genes?

    doctors over prescribe and over test – to protect themselves and the hypochondriacs they mostly deal with . . . i wonder if people had to dig in their pocket and pay for service as received how many medical groups and hospitals there would NOT be?

    your story is funny in a way . . . i wonder what “test or procedure” will be in vogue in the near future? like the IRS if you dig long enough they are sure to find something wrong . . . real or perceived. i guess our paranoia can be beat back by batteries of test and ‘good to go” results . . . but to what end?

    there is a time for everything – it is in the Bible. Doctors are not God.

  5. AvatarDoug

    Lloyd, glad you are feeling better. The alternative is called “Virtual Colonoscopy” where they mimic the procedure using a CT scanner. I don’t know if you have to prepare for it in the same way as the real deal.
    While you’re story reminds us of the risk of over doctoring, just wait until we have the one-payer government run system. At your age, the primary medical care you will see is aspirin and antacids.

  6. AvatarMindy M.

    So glad you are doing OK after your ordeal. Are we over-doctored? Maybe. My aunt (79) just had a very scary incident and they implied she would not make it. Looking at her right after, I thought the same. 3 weeks later, she is almost back to her previous condition. We weren’t ready for her to go, and she wasn’t ready to leave. I guess that’s a GOOD example of how our excessive medicine can do wonders.

    My GP is an extraordinary doctor. He refuses to order tests that he doesn’t feel are necessary, he figures out creative ways to get me the dosage of Thyroid meds I need without making me pay for 2 prescriptions (since they don’t make the exact dose I need in one pill), and he tells me if I’m feeling well, he only needs to see me once every TWO years. He is ANTI medicine, which is rare and refreshing.

    Thanks for making me stop and think about that. Oh, and to the folks talking about POTUS and future POTUS… thanks for the laughs… we’re going to need to keep our senses of humor about us!

  7. AvatarBen Malson


    Ditto. Glad that you are feeling better. Procedures are a necessary evil and today in our health care world certain tests seem to be over utilized as a learning tool for future health concerns. But in your case it’s probably a safe bet that your “Uranus” being checked for polyps will remain a greater distance away from your doctor.

    Planetary note: Uranus to Earth: 2.57 billion km / 1.6 billion miles
    Stay safe.

  8. AvatarJerry Johnson


    Glad you are now OK Brother.

    Electrolite imbalances (particularly low potassium) are common, very often overlooked, and very dangerous. Can lead to a heart attack.

    If your previous colonoscopy tests every 5 years were negative, at your age you don’t need to get colonoscopies any more. Just annually, simply have your Dr. test for blood in your stool. He will provide the “kit”. No evidence of blood, everything is cool.

    Stay well and safe.

  9. AvatarVictor

    Lloyd, I’m sorry you had to go through that. I hope you make a complete and quick recovery.

    A Johns Hopkins report earlier this month states that medical mistakes account for about 10% of deaths in the U.S. and is the third leading cause of death.

    Since heart disease (~25%) and cancer (~24%) are #1 and #2, this means that if you don’t have heart disease and cancer, your highest probability of survival is to avoid medical care entirely. This is very good news because heart disease and cancer are mostly “lifestyle” diseases, meaning improvements in our behavior/habits yields improvements in our heart and cancer health – so we have a lot of control over heart disease and cancer.

    So, to answer Lloyd’s question – Yes, we are probably over-doctored. Anecdotally, when I observe health problems of those in my life, more than half are side-effects or improper dosages of medication.

    Here is a Washington Post article that reports the research and also has a handy graph summarizing the results:

  10. Avatarrick

    Thank the good Lord you are OK and are continue to recover!

    You answered your own question, you have insurance – so you get EVERY test to pad the bill to offset those who are violating the Federal IRS mandate to purchase Obamacare.

    You are luck to have Risa as an advocate in your condition.

    read here: Researchers: Medical errors now third leading cause of death in United States

    Not everyone has a gun, but almost everyone has at least one doctor…

    Stay safe!

  11. AvatarJerry

    Go for the virtual colonoscopy. I had one. The prep is the same but the procedure is non-invasive. So it’s safer. Problem is if they find polyps, you will need a followup conventional colonoscopy. I was “clean” – no polyps and old enough now so I won’t need a future colonoscopy of either kind. Good luck.

  12. AvatarWes

    Lloyd, I am glad you are OK. If you had been awake you may have seen the symptoms coming on. I had this happen to me after an operation. Fortunately I was in the hospital and awake. Unfortunately the young doctors there did not know what was going on, and we going to order tests. Fortunately an old salt ( no pun) walked in and said I needed potassium right away. He probably saved my life or at least saved me from experiencing what you went through. You are a tough bird.


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