health: walkin’ a bit funny today
To say that yesterday was an unpleasant day would be the utmost in gentility. It fucking sucked, no bones about it. Well, aside from my hip bone… but more about that later. Starting with the usual fun of not eating anything before surgery, as I was getting a PET/CT scan, I also had to eat a very specific diet so as not to interfere with the scans. Thank goodness it called for protein, because there was no way I was missing Cochon 555 the night before. So after a very sleepless evening and a very foodless morning, I met Stephanie and headed over to Washington Hospital Center for what I figured would be the least fun day this year. I wasn’t far wrong.
WHC could really use better training of their administrative staff. It isn’t that they’re incompetent, but they could use a better understanding that their customers aren’t just customers, they’re patients. Every time I’ve been pre-registered or checked in, the person seems to go out of their way to NOT make me feel at ease. From the woman who told a colleague I was brown instead of Gray referring to my skin color rather than my last name, then uncomfortably/forcefully grabbing my arm to show him my patient armband to prove that she was “just kidding” and not “crazy”–to the woman who, upon looking at my paperwork, proceeded to stare at me awkwardly for a few minutes before finally saying “we were separated at birth…” Turned out she has the exact same birth date as I do, but simply remarking on that amazing coincidence was clearly beyond her capacity.
I was glad again to have a friend with me, because it gets a little confusing where you’re supposed to go and often what the doctors and nurses say is a little confusing as well, so having a second brain to process things helped a lot. First up was my PET/CT scan in Nuclear Medicine* for which a nurse stuck a tube in my arm, took blood and gave me a few cups of liquid to drink that was similar to Barium, but wasn’t Barium because of previous patients complaints of diarrhea–fun! Then another nurse injected me full of radioactive sugars so I’d light up properly under the scans. I was informed that I’d be radioactive for a good portion of the day, not to spend too much time around any children or babies and not to make any babies.
After I chilled out for about 30 minutes to let the stuff work its way through my system, they took me and stuck me in the double doughnuts. I love that Philips puts a big ol’ name/label on the front of the machine. Because that’s exactly what I’m going to want to remember later: the manufacturer of the big claustrophobic machine they stuck me in! This was not a fun experience as you don’t have anyone really telling you what to expect or what’s going on and most importantly, how much longer you have to be in the machine. Near the very end, as it was taking scans of my head and neck it spoke to me in a harsh computer voice with the following phrases: Take a deep breath and hold it, Breathe, Don’t Move, and RELAX. That last one was very helpful, really. While I was undergoing the scans, I heard the fire alarm go off and my main thought was “Please don’t let me have to start all of this over again,” while apparently Stephanie was giggling at the thought of my being evacuated barefoot and in a hospital Snuggie.
As I’d been able to schedule the appointments back-to-back, there was little fanfare in going from one place to another, more like “You can put your clothes back on now.” and that was it. We went up a floor to my next appointment: the bone marrow biopsy. This is what I really wasn’t looking forward to, but at least the nurses were a lot nicer. And after you’ve had enough visits, you pretty much know the drill, clothes off, gown on, in bed and wait. Unlike my previous biopsies where I was put on an IV drip and wheeled into an operating room, this one was done right in the same spot I was checked in. Talk about undignified! I already had to be face-down, ass-up while they did this, and now I wasn’t even going to get to have it done in a shiny operating room with devices and lights and machines that go *PING*!
My doctor and nurse practitioner arrived and they excused Stephanie out. I asked for some drugs to relax me, and even though the nurse pumped something into me, I don’t think it did anything because I kept trying to close my eyes and zone out, but got nowhere. The doctor even remarked, “You’re not the least bit relaxed? I’d be passed out by now!” Perhaps the gravity of the situation kept me from doing so. So there I am, face down and the doctor’s still asking for equipment and he says, “Can you get me a spinal needle?” to which I said, “Those are not the two words I was needing to hear right now, doc!” But that’s just what they needed to reach my hip bone and get in there. Even though I wasn’t relaxed, they did numb the area, so it was more like being at the dentist. There was dull pain and pressure, but not intense. At least not until he was close to finishing up at which point, I was clawing at the bedsheets and trying my best not to move or swear (too loudly).
It didn’t take too long to complete, but I had to apply pressure on it for another 30 minutes, basically by lying in bed and waiting a while. Stephanie came back and we chatted, I had myself a good cry, and after a bit longer they let me go home. I wasn’t completely steady on my feet, but with her help and my umbrella as a cane, I did ok. Since the “happy drugs” never really did anything, I wasn’t woozy, but the local anesthetic started to wear off as we got nearer to my place. I found myself realizing that I was about to sound like a very classic gay adult film trope, “It hurts to sit down…”**
[flv:bg_sit.flv 500 376]
Jokes aside, the procedure was just more upsetting than painful, due to what it’s all about. I’m still coming to terms with it, I think. And last night, it really DID hurt to sit down, or stand up, walk, remove or put on pants, and this was the most surprising one: put on underwear. You never realize just how complex a motion of your body is in doing the most mundane thing before one part is no longer able to participate.
But as Pinky the Curbside Cupcake van is on its way down near me today, I managed to get some jeans on and am eagerly awaiting their arrival. I’m going on the theory that cupcakes make you feel better. These are medicinal cupcakes, damnit!
Thanks everyone for the well wishes. I’m still doing ok for now and I’ll know more on Friday in terms of what’s in store for me.
* Which, out of all of this, is still the coolest thing to say. “Yeah, I have an appointment in Nuclear Medicine this morning.”
** This is the first time I’ve put a clip of an adult movie in my blog, and naturally it’s probably the safest for work video clip I’ve ever posted. If anyone looking over your shoulder–physically or digitally–recognizes the movie, that likely says a lot more about them than you ever wanted or needed to know.
Sending you a virtual hug! Glad Stephanie was there for you.
The brown/gray incident is just insane!!!
I had to do one of the CT scans a few years ago and can totally relate to how horribly scary those things are.
Fingers crossed for good results.
You exemplify grace under pressure. I love it when they say things like “relax”, especially when you’re naked and in some undignified situation.
Hang in there and enjoy your cupcakes. xoxo
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Man. “brown”? Really?! This just exemplies why having Obama in the white house doesn’t automatically mean all is solved in this country’s race relations.
This hospital sounds like it needs some major lessons in “customer relations”. No warnings ahead of time with the scan? I live in cold & heartless new england and they always handhold me through MRIs and the like as if I were a hysteric.
Your writing is beautifully vivid and witty, btw. I love “hospital snuggie” 🙂
First of all, I have that video.
Second of all, I’m glad you made it through. Hospitals can be so dignity-sapping. It was good you brought a friend with you.
Third of all, I’m thinking positive thoughts for you.
Fourth of all, er, hi! 🙂
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You poor thing. 🙁 I’ve been reading your blog I don’t know how many years now, and I feel like I know you, and I got a little sad for you when you got to the end of the biopsy. I’m very glad you have good friends with you.
Fingers and toes crossed for a good outcome…
Oh dear. Your day two days ago was just a bit worse than mine was yesterday. Will blog anon, but just too far into it to be rational. Best wishes and prayers from here.
i too like the image of a hospital snuggie… Hang in there. Glad you handled the biopsy .. those are seriously painful!! Just saw your blog for the first time in a long whdile… sorry to hear about the big C.. isn’tg it nice to know you are a medical rarity. Your forehead will be shown to doctors everywhere…Sending hugs and positive thoughts your way.