18 December 2007

CAT got your tummy?

Today I got a CT scan. Computed Axial Tomography is a diagnostic tool mainly used to filter out hypochondriacs and Munchausen patients by creating so much frustration and discomfort that individuals who aren't really sick will give up and go home.

The process starts with an appointment that needs to be rescheduled at least once. The only time I've ever heard of a CT scan not being rescheduled was when an emergency condition was involved. So, you get your time and date from your doctor, and then, after you've had enough time to plan around it, you receive a phone call stating that the test needs to be done the following week, instead. And the second appointment time is much earlier in the morning.

Also, you can't eat anything after midnight the night before. If you work the schedule I've been on, that means that you're lucky to get supper before the cutoff.

So, I signed up bright and early (and hugry) and used my mouse-in-a-maze skills to locate radiology. The only reason I knew that it would be in radiology was that I once read a pamphlet. Once I was signed in, I was required to provide my ID, insurance information, birth certificate, automobile registration, credit rating, DD-214, library card and an essay on why I thought that I would make a significant contribution as a patient.

This required a trip to my car, but instead of simply retracing my steps, I navigated from where I was to the closest exit. I left behind a trail of bread crumbs... fortunately, this old lady who looked like she wasn't going to last much longer, and therefore didn't really need the bread, wasn't able to fight me off as I took it from her tray.

Outside, I noticed that the radiology waiting room was about 10 feet from my car. The bread crumbs saved me a lot of time on my return trip.

Anyway, I went in, and they sent me to the lab, where a nurse drew some blood. Then I returned to radiology, where I finished my paperwork, and signed in an ink that looked suspiciously like the blood that had just been drawn.

Probably my imagination.

I waited about 30 minutes, and a nurse found me and handed me my least-ever favorite thing to put in my mouth. No, EWE!!! I'm talking about Brown Banana Barium Beverage, which I like to call "Nasty Banana Crap". This is the most gosh-awful thing you've ever tasted. If you've ever tasted it. It tastes like if you took bananas, lot them turn brown, and then left them out in the sun for two days, then put them in a blender with some fine sand.

I had to drink a full glass of this most foul brew, even though I was still traumatized from the last time I had to drink some. I think the reason for not eating after midnight is so that you can get this stuff down without puking up your breakfast.

Anyway, I finished it, and (no kidding) had to wait an hour and a half for the stuff to work its way through my system. It was so nasty I wanted to cry. I hadn't wanted to cry that much since my last date.

But I digress.

Eventually, I was called, and led to the scary area. Scary because on one side of the hallway is radiation therapy, which is dangerous to all living flesh, and on the other side is the MRI, which is dangerous to electronics. My iPod was cringing in horror. I was asked to change into a gown and take a seat. In the hallway. The cold hallway, with people walking up and down it. And me wearing nothing but a stylish hospital gown.

During my wait, I had a nice conversation with an elderly gentleman who seemed to be missing part of his jaw, which made the conversation a bit of a challenge. That, and the fact that he was obsessing over his missing shoes, although he was wearing nothing but a gown and was lying on a bed.

Eventually, I was called in and asked to take yet another seat. Not two minutes passed before I was ushered out of the room because an emergency head trauma. I'm alright with this... My problem has been going on for months, and I'm not dead yet. Emergencies and traumas come first. The woman being quickly wheeled into the room looked confused and rather unhappy. I guess that's why they wanted to check for head trauma.

When my turn came, I lay down on a bed that I swear was used in an episode of Star Trek TNG. The radiologist started playing with stuff that looked like more movie props, and then started searching for an available vein. Apparently, my only good vein had already been used to take blood for signing the paperwork. So he searched and searched, and finally I said, "You should get a heroine addict. They can always find a vein." He left, and I felt confident that he would find someone, since this hospital is in a bad neighborhood. Minutes later, he returned with a nurse.

I didn't know that you could be a known heroine addict and still be a nurse.

She poked me in the back of my hand, a sensation akin to having said hand set on fire. After she finished, she said, "I really hate getting stuck in my hand. I just wasn't gonna say anything until I had finished with you." She ran out while the radiologist held me down. Then, the fun part started.

He connected one of the movie props to the tube sticking out of my poor, suffering hand, and then started describing what was going to happen. "When this starts to work, you'll feel like you're peeing your pants, but that's normal." No sooner had I wondered, what's normal about feeling like you're peeing your pants, than I found out. A sensation of intense warmth spread out from my groin. It did, indeed, feel like I was wetting my pants. That made me laugh.

I think the reason they add this stuff to the contrasting dye is so that they'll know when it's time to start the scan, because as soon as I laughed they turned on the machine. It moved me in and out several times (insert off-color joke here) while an automated voice directed me when and how to breath. By this point, the warm sensation was making my whole body feel like I had a jar of salsa under my skin. Not the good kind, but the kind that's all hot and no flavor.

I like salsa. MMMMmmmmm.....

Anyway... I was finished. They gave me numerous warnings about having loose stool (I've had diarrhea for three months already) and that I needed to drink plenty of fluids (does Pepsi count?) and sent me packing.

That was my morning. It took four hours, and I have nothing to show for it except a bruised hand and I can't get rid of the smell of brown bananas. Not that I hope I'm sick or anything, but if I went through all that and the tests don't show something, I'm going to be thoroughly ticked.

Happy, but ticked.

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