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Document: Rectal Anesthesia

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Rectal Anesthesia


When I was maybe 10 or so my brothers and I, one younger, one older, all had our tonsils out at the same time. The night before we were to go in for this minor operation I remember being summoned to the bathroom by our nurse and told I was going to have an enema. Enemas were nothing new to me; we all had them from time to time, and so did all my friends. Usually there was a reason - I was sick or constipated - but not this time .

So I asked why I had to have an enema.

“Because you're going to have your tonsils out,” was the answer. “Would you rather have your enema at the hospital?” She made it sound as if a hospital enema would be much worse than hers, so I obediently undressed and lay down on the bathroom floor on my side with my legs curled up and waited for my enema It was a big, soapy enema, and it made me quite uncomfortable, but I endured the discomfort, and was rewarded with being able to sit on the toilet and get rid of it all. Then I was sent to bed. In the morning the ambulance came and took us to the hospital. That was fun!

At the hospital I was in one room and my younger brother in the adjoining room. I don't know where my older brother was. I remember being there with my mother, and opening the little suitcase I had brought, with my pajamas in it. I got undressed and was starting to put them on when the nurse came in and said. “Oh, no, no pajamas. You have to put on this.” And she handed me one of those little hospital gowns that fasten, sort of, in back, but always leave you feeling drafty back there and exposed. I was helped into this thing, and then I got into bed.

I had been lying there on my back for a while when an another nurse came in carrying a tray on which I saw a big bulb syringe and lots and lost of rubber tubing, plus some other things. Then a doctor came in too. Apparently I was going to get another enema. The doctor said, “We're going to put you to sleep now. You won’t feel a thing.” And I saw the nurse lubricating the little tube, and I knew where it was going to go. I looked at my mother questioningly.

“It’s just like a tiny, tiny, enema, “ she said, hoping to reassure me, but it had the opposite effect. I was going to get a hospital enema after all, by two nurses and a doctor, all of them strangers. It wasn’t fair!. But what could I do?

One nurse lifted my legs so the gown fell down off them, leaving my legs bare the gown out of the way. She held my legs up high and I felt my bottom being bare. Then I felt the little tube into me. It was soft, like hard like an enema nozzle. It felt sort of good, and very slippery, and it was going up me much higher than a nozzle would. Then I felt the warm fluid going into me, and it felt nice too. Much nicer than soapy water, which stung and gave you cramps. The nurse let my legs down again and I just lay there with that nice little tube inside me and the slippery warm stuff going into me. I don’t know when it happened, but it must have been at the point where I felt the anesthetic start to work. I guess I began to feel light-headed and funny.

Maybe I thought I was going to be “put to sleep” like a dog, or maybe it was just fear of the unknown, or of losing control. I cried, “Take it out!” But of course they didn’t. I struggled and fought, trying to hold onto my consciousness, my being, my self, which was slipping away. I fought and fought, but I was no match for them. I was losing the battle. I started feeling lighter and lighter, until I was rising from the bed, still on my back, still with the tube in my bottom. Up I went drifting right out the closed window and up, up into the morning sky. The next thing I knew I was lying in bed with a very, sore throat, being given some ice cream.

Both my brothers had been given ether. Only I had the rectal anesthetic, which was experimental in those days (the 30’s). I’ve never heard of anyone else ever having it .Maybe if I had been a more cooperative patient it would have caught on. I do think if I had been prepared for it I might have found it a very pleasant way to be “put to sleep”, because my brothers both said it was very scary having a mask put over your mouth and held down while you were told to breathe until you lost consciousness.

But because I didn’t have the fainted idea of what was happening to me I fought and fought, and so my little hospital enema because a very traumatic experience, one I remember vividly to this day.