Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CT Scan

I’ve already written about my cystoscopy, last year. They never found anything, but my urologist is still on a witch hunt through my insides, trying to find something wrong with me. He sends me for an ultrasound every six months, but he’s not getting enough information, so he decided last week to send me for a CT scan. (This is the one where you lie on a table, and they pass you through a big donut-looking thing. If you click the previous link to the Wikipedia article, you’ll see a picture.)

There was surprisingly little preparation I had to do, before the CT scan. I wasn’t supposed to eat for about six hours ahead of time, but I was allowed to drink “clear liquids”—which, interestingly enough, included coffee, as long as I drank it black. (If I were to put cream or milk in it, that wouldn’t be allowed.)

I showed up at the hospital, filled out the form, and signed a form that indicated I agreed to the risk that was incurred by injecting radioactive dye into my system. I then had a short wait in the waiting room, before they brought me to the change room. I changed into the hospital gown—I’ll refrain from making the usual comments about hospital gowns, but in this case I was allowed to keep on most of my clothes under the robe; I just had to remove my pants. Another short wait—I’d brought a book, but I didn’t know what was ahead of me, so I might not have been paying that much attention—and then they brought me to the room.

She had me lay down on the table, on my back, and explained to me what was going to happen, while she put the needle in my arm that would be used for injecting the dye. (I was looking away when she was putting the needle in, because I always do, but I distinctly heard her say the word “whoops” while she was doing it. Later on, when I looked at my arm, I saw two distinct needle marks, so she obviously missed the first time.)

But she seemed to be repeating herself, because she mentioned some things that were going to happen a couple of times. And she told me that when they injected the dye, I was going to feel warm all over—especially my arm, where the needle was located—I was going to get a weird taste in my mouth, and it was going to feel like I was peeing. Which is fine, that all makes sens— wait a second! Did she say that it would feel like I was peeing?!? It suddenly occurred to me; the whole reason I’m here in the first place is that I have bladder problems—what if I did pee? But she laughed and assured me, “Nobody ever has!”

She had me put my arms above my head, and then she ran the bed through the donut. When I had passed through the other side, she hooked up the drip with the dye to the thing she’d put into my arm. (When you read that, are you shuddering as hard as I was when I wrote it? Anyway…) She went into the other room, and they did a pass without any dye in my system. There was a pre-recorded voice that came from the machine, “take a deep breath and hold it,” and then, “breathe normally.” It sounded very natural, for some reason, not pre-recorded, except that the second message, to breathe normally, was a bit cut off.

I have no idea why I included that little detail. It’s not important.

After the first pass, they told me they were going to inject the dye, and I felt it entering my system. I felt myself warming up all over, and a bit of the taste in my mouth, but it really wasn’t bad at all. Another pass through the donut, and then they disconnected the dye drip from the needle in my arm, and had me lie still for six minutes.

Then came the strangest part of the whole experience: After I’d lain there for six minutes, she came back in, and had me roll over. But she had me completely roll over; not roll over onto my stomach, but roll over onto my stomach and then keep rolling over, until I was back where I started. It’s like they were afraid that the dye might have settled at the bottom of my body, and wanted to mix it up again—which is, I must say, a fairly disturbing thought.

She had me put my arms above my head again, and rolled my bed through the donut, where she re-attached me to the dye drip. So it turns out that she hadn’t been repeating herself, earlier; they were doing some things multiple times. Another pass through the donut, and then they inserted more dye.

This time it was different, though. The first time they’d injected dye, it had been a mild warmth; this time, I felt my body getting hot. I really got the taste in my mouth, and I saw what she’d meant about feeling like I was peeing. (It didn’t feel exactly like that, but it was a feeling that was reminiscent.) Not only was it stronger this time, but they just kept shoving it in. Long after I’d thought it would stop, I could still feel it pumping into my system.

Finally, I went through one more pass of the donut. At that point, it was over. She pulled the needle out of my arm, and explained that there wasn’t really anything I had to do; just drink lots of liquids, to help clear the dye out of my system as quickly as possible.

In retrospect, I hope that I did drink a lot of liquids; I don’t like the idea of having radioactive dye sloshing through my system any longer than it has to be.