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Meltdown at the Riverside

Today was an interesting day. I had a meltdown at the Riverside Hospital this morning and I got a brand new brother at Mexicali Rosa’s this evening.

Remember when the Mysterious Hematologist finally concluded that my immature red blood cells were being caused by Cold Agglutinin Disease (aka Cold Antibody Hemolytic Anemaia)? I assumed that would be the end of all the testing, but I was wrong. Today I went for a CT Scan so he could see if there was some underlying cause for the Cold Agglutinin Disease.

A couple of years ago he sent me for a CT scan of my head. It was a nice test. Just lie down and relax, and a few minutes later it was over. Later he told me the inside of my head looked normal.

“Which is good,” he said, unnecessarily.

“You’d be surprised how often they they don’t,” he added ominously.

So I blithely went into today’s scan expecting much the same thing.

It seems not all CT scans are created equal. This one involved sitting in a waiting room in a blue hospital gown, drinking lots of “clear, tasteless liquid.” Hmmm. Sounds like water, but if it was water they’d just say water, right?

After I’d drunk all that stuff that wasn’t water – which took an hour and a half – they hooked up an IV. There was no IV last time. They told me they’d be injecting a contrast material right before the scan, which might make me feel a bit warm. That sounded good, since I was freezing my ass off in my little blue gown in that extremely air-conditioned waiting room.

Finally they took me into the scan room and I lay down on the flatbed. Then they moved the flatbed into the scanner and left me all alone for about 10 minutes. I kept wondering if I was already being scanned or if I was on pause. I didn’t dare move. I started thinking about iron lungs and cancer and radiation, which led to equally pleasant thoughts of nuclear holocausts, cockroaches and rats.

I thought about Gail who had surgery on Sept. 11, 2001, only minutes after hearing about the twin towers. What if something like that had just happened, and all the hospital staff were glued to CNN at this very moment, and they forgot to turn the scanner off and I was at this very moment receiving a fatal dose of radiation? What if the world was ending and everybody knew it but me?

I kept my eyes closed. I know my eyelids cannot protect me from fatal doses of radiation, but this was my last line of defence.

Finally she came back, all cheery and chipper and apologetic for having left me alone for so long. And then suddenly my arm was on fire. ON FIRE! She was injecting the contrast dye and it was burning my arm from the inside out. This was not “a bit warm” as she had previously suggested it might be. This felt like they’d injected Cayenne Liniment Oil directly into my veins.

I started to panic, thinking I was having one of those very rare reactions to the contrast dye. I was obviously going to be part of the .00005 % of patients who die on the flatbed.

Then the burning in my arm started to subside, but suddenly my genitals were on fire. ON FIRE! Nobody ever mentioned anything about this possibility. I thought I was going to spontaneously combust.

And then, before I could say anything to alert her to the fact that I was having a rare and fatal reaction to the dye, she was gone again and the flatbed was moving and the scanner was scanning me and a disembodied male voice was ordering me around, saying things like “Don’t breathe,” and “Don’t move,” and “Don’t swallow,” and a female voice on the intercom was saying “Lift your arms,” and “Put your arms down.”

The burning subsided but I was still freaked out. I was trying to not breathe and not swallow and lift my arms and not move and not panic about the allergic reaction I was sure I was having.

“It’s just a CT scan,” I told myself, “It’s like a photograph. It doesn’t hurt. Don’t panic.”

But I couldn’t help it. And then tears started trickling into my ears and I didn’t dare move my arms to brush them away. And I was shaking and my teeth were chattering.

She came back in and seemed oblivous to my obvious distress.

“We have to do your neck again,” she said perkily, and fed me back into the machine.

And then, mercifully, it was over. Time to get dressed and get the needle removed and be on my way and drink my first coffee of the day and have a muffin.

I really hope there’s nothing wrong with me, because if I can get myself that worked up over a CT scan, just imagine what I could do with treatment. (I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with me. He’s just “ruling things out.” The nurse today let it slip that one of the things he’s ruling out is sickle cell anemia. If I have it, that’ll bring me up to three different kinds of anemia. I’ll be in the Guinness Book of World Records as the Anemia Queen.)

That was the not-so-good part of my day. The day got much better and by the end of it I had a new brother. But it’s late and I’m tired, so I’ll write about my new brother tomorrow.

9 comments to Meltdown at the Riverside

  • jay aka janet

    oh my god

    all this yesterday?

    have any parts of your anatomy fallen off, since?

    yikes. I hope your doctor doesn’t get it in mind to “rule out” anything else….

    hope you’re feeling better

  • Yup, all yesterday. However I suspect I was having an over-reaction, rather than a reaction. 😉

  • Gillian

    Thanks for scaring any of the rest of us who get booked for CT scans.
    Good luck for the results!

  • boo

    poor thing, nerves can get the better of you sometimes HUGS

    sending you an energy pack from singapore

  • Gillian, I’m sorry! I’m sure the rest of you will be much braver than me if you have to get scanned. I’m just a victim of my own imagination when it comes to medical stuff.

    Thanks Boo! I could definitely use an energy pack from Singapore. :)

  • Yeek, that’s a jeepers. Glad you’re all dejangled now.

  • You know, at the risk of sounding like a hypochondriac, I now believe once again that I did have a reaction to the contrast dye. The next day I broke out in a rash over my chin, chest, arms and sides.

  • I think the prep they gave you was terrible. “A little bit warm” my ass. And they should have monitored you more closely. Not noticing the tears was a screw-up. Even a little sympathetic “there-there” would have gone a long way to making you feel better mentally. If there is a next time, ask for someone to talk to you the entire time so you can hear a voice. They did that while I was getting laser eye surgery (probably from experience) and it was helpful to keep my concentration. Anybody can get freaked out if the imagination wanders.

  • Linda Anne

    I also think you had a reaction to the dye. I had a scan of my bladder many years ago to determine any possible damage from passing kidney stones and had a terrible reaction to the dye. It was not an immediate reaction, but about one hour after I left the hospital I started to feel ill. I ended up with a three day headache and threw up for three days straight. I could not eat or even move without nausea and head pain. When I went for my update, they told me that these reactions happened to only a very few individuals (lucky me).