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Maria Sestito

Maria Sestito is the public safety reporter for the Napa Valley Register.

Student insurance is saving my life. The few thousands it costs every semester have equipped me with free prescriptions, low copays, short and long-term therapy options, a dietician, potential allergist and a colonoscopy that I was told should be 100 percent covered.

That’s right, I’m 100 percent covered and it feels so good – like Linus carrying around his blanket, I feel a sense of security and freedom I didn’t have before.

I was overdue for my second colonoscopy last year. As an IBS patient with a history of precancerous polyps, I had gotten a referral from my Clinic OLE team, went to meet with a gastroenterologist, scheduled my procedure and picked up my prep from the pharmacy. The cost of the prep wasn’t bad – about $18, I think. This time I requested the smaller bottles of SUPREP instead of the 4-liter jug of the other stuff.

But then, just a few days before my procedure, I was billed about $250 for the office visit and was informed that I hadn’t met my deductible yet, so my colonoscopy was going to cost about $1,500.

I couldn’t afford that, so I cancelled my appointment. (I would later be charged that same deductible during an unexpected hospital visit last summer, which I still haven’t paid for. Yay, healthcare.)

This time when I called the insurance company ahead of my procedure and the woman on the other end of the line said that it was covered, I asked her to clarify what that means.

“You’re covered,” she repeated.

I was feeling good but there was still nearly three days of prepping. It was spring break and my doctor, knowing I have problems with constipation, wanted to make sure I was really cleared out, so he gave me “extended prep.” That meant taking Miralax and Dulcolax ahead of time and being on the clear liquid diet for 36 hours instead of 24.

Ouch. That’s a long time without food.

His instructions were especially agonizing because I’ve been on the low-FODMAP diet since Jan. 2, which doesn’t allow me to have garlic or onion (which I’m now pretty sure I have allergies to), broccoli, gluten, apples, honey, artificial sweeteners, corn syrup, and milk among other things. This meant that I’d have to make my own broth ahead of time – prepackaged ones contain onion powder at minimum.

The bright side was that I now have a very helpful boyfriend who, in addition of taking off from work to take me to my Walnut Creek appointment, ordered me 10 boxes of mango flavored Jell-O from Amazon. Pro tip: The instructions say you can’t have red or purple dyes – they say nothing about orange and, in my opinion, mango tastes a lot better than the lemon and lime flavors.

My other pro tip: don’t listen to me. Since my first colonoscopy about six years ago, I’ve told people that “it’s not that bad.” The prep is the worst part and, really, it’s manageable.

That was not the case for me this time around. Maybe it was the SUPREP or maybe it was because I’m extra sensitive since starting the low-FODMAP diet, but I could not do it. The first bottle went down OK. It tasted like cherry soda and that didn’t seem too bad. Then, hours later, in addition to bowel movements, I was puking stomach acid into my bathroom sink. Luckily enough of the prep had gone through my system beforehand because, by the time I had to drink my second bottle at 5 a.m., it was not going down. Its cherry scent alone had me gagging in the bathroom. Afraid of being dehydrated and not cleared out enough, I upped my water intake as much as possible.

It wasn’t enough. Two hours before I was due at my appointment, my system wasn’t ready. Things were not clear. Was I going to get there, get knocked out and then be told that I have to fast another day?! That happens, but it wasn’t going to happen to me. No, my doctor instructed me to go to the store and pick-up a “Fleet Enema.”

I’ll save you the details, BUT I have a really, really good boyfriend now. Like next-level.

Oh, and I’m polyp free.

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