11:45AM – I still had almost three hours until my scan was scheduled to begin. I brought out my phone to play a game of Candy Crush, only to discover that one-handed smart phone operation is kind of a pain in the ass. I put it away. I decide instead to lean my head back, rest, and focus on my breathing because I’m starting to feel that familiar knot in my chest, right behind the base of my sternum.
Over the next couple of hours Brenda pops in every so often to flush the arterial line and check in on me.
About an hour before it was time for my scan, Brenda came in to put my IV in. The first line blows, so she has to stick me again. The second time she hits it, it’s solid, and we’re done.
She attaches some electrodes for the heart monitor, and then she puts a skull-cap on me with a small propeller looking thingy on the top – used for making sure my head is properly aligned in the machine. The technician keeps an eye on it throughout the scan through a camera inside the scanner – as long as all four balls stay in the frame, the alignment is good.
She secures the cap by wrapping coban wrap around my head, from the top of my head and under my chin. I now feel like Jacob Marley, the ghost of Christmas past.
It’s time – all I have to do is lie still for the next two hours and keep my balls in line. I got this.
Brenda wants me to go to the bathroom before the scan starts – and I try to talk her out of making me go. I didn’t really think that I could, and knew two hours wouldn’t be a problem.
I had two IV bags, tubes in each arm, wires draping down from everywhere, and one functional hand…and you want me to go pee?? I can tell she has been down this road before with less than desirable endings, and she asks me – “Could you just try to go, for me?” Damn it.
I know she’s right, so off I go to the bathroom, dancing with the IV pole, trying not to snag anything or rip a tube out.
Getting my pants up and down with only one hand required some creative wiggling – I don’t think I’ve moved like that since I was in my twenties…but eventually the deed was done – and Brenda was right. I had it in me after all.
I lay on the table, a wedge is put under my knees for comfort and I am once again swathed in warm blankets. My head is strapped and wedged into position, leads are hooked up, and I briefly meet the PET tech who will be administering the radiotracer and conducting the scan. I’m slid into position and the initial calibration begins and ends without a fuss.
I vaguely remember someone saying “Ok, we’re going to start injecting the radiotracer now.”
The room is quiet, dim, and cool, the only noise is the soft hum of the machine. Every so often I wake to Brenda telling me that she is going to draw a blood sample or flush my line, and feel her hand gently tapping on my forearm.
As soon as it begins, it’s over. Two hours slide by and I’m pulled out of the tunnel and back into reality.
Brenda removes my IV, then moves on to the business of removing the arterial line, which burned like hell. I’m not sure which was worse…going in or coming out. She holds a very firm pressure on the site for a full fifteen or twenty minutes, to the point of it being quite uncomfortable.
Brenda uses the time effectively, going over what I should and shouldn’t do…
“…keep the dressing on for the next two days, don’t get it wet, don’t submerge the area under water for a week. If it starts bleeding, go to the Emergency Room, and…” – she pauses and looks at me sternly – …”do NOT drive yourself. It’s an artery. An artery.”
She repeats herself a few times, and I get the message.
“…no physical exercise. No lifting. Only Tylenol for discomfort…”
– as she’s telling me this, I’m wondering how I’m going to finagle my bags on the planes in a couple of hours. Not only does my flight leave soon, but there’s also a connecting flight with only forty minutes in between. I’m tired, I’m woozy, and I’m starting to stress.
“…try to keep it elevated above your heart as much as possible. If you let your arm hang down too much, it will start to throb and swell…”
I’m trying to be positive, but in reality I know I’m screwed. 2 planes, 8 hours, 2,200 miles.
I try to keep it together and not think about it, because I literally don’t have time for a meltdown right now. I have to function.
She carefully lifts the gauze to make sure there’s no bleeding, leaning back away from my wrist just in case it spurts – but all is well, no blood. She applies a pressure dressing to the area – a stack of gauze about two inches high covered with a clear dressing and wrapped in coban. Clunky but effective, and my wrist aches but there’s no real pain.
Soon I’m completely free of all the tubing and leads, ready to go…it’s a good thing, too, because as I walk into the waiting area and look out the window there sits Renee in her pink and white cab, ready to whisk me off to the airport.
My last – and probably the coolest – parting gift was this: my Security Personnel and Law Enforcement Notification slip. It’s purpose? To get me out of trouble if I happen to trip any radiation sensors.
Brenda looks surprised to see the cab already there, but it is definitely time for me to go – I have a flight that’s due to leave in just over an hour. She gives me another turkey sandwich kit to take with me along with some extra gauze and other supplies, and off I go.