On Friday I spent the morning at the hospital having a CT Scan on my abdomen. It’s something I’ve both looked forward to (having it done with) and dreaded (wee bit of claustrophobia).
I’ve been having some pain in my right side and months of blood work, x-rays and ultrasounds have failed to find the source of said pain. It’s probably something minor and I’m not really concerned about it being something serious. My doctor is certainly not concerned about it and it took time to convince her to proceed with more testing.
After a fitful night’s sleep, I arrived at the hospital even earlier than the prescribed ½ hour prior to my test. After filling out plenty of forms and confirming my name, age and date of last period, (etc) it’s time to go to the back and get ready for the scan. The nurse sits me down in an area called the “consent area” and has me watch a video all about the test and the risks associated with the CT scan and contrast agent. According to the video, the CT Scan has about the same risk as driving to Calgary and back, working on a farm for three days or something along those lines.
The contrast agent is both injected and ingested prior to the exam and it helps with a clearer and more easily ready image of the scanned area. Luckily, a skilled nurse inserted my intravenous without any issues and further explains how the scan works. A student watches and waits for his turn to have a go with the needle.
Then it’s off to the waiting area for diagnostic imaging, which is very busy and it’s immediately clear that there are plenty of people there worse off than me. There’s the older gentleman laying on a bed with plenty of lines coming out of him, and black urine coming from the catheter. I can smell the stale cigarette smoke from across the room.
There’s a guy who was mugged a few weeks ago and had his skull smashed by a baseball hat. He is suffering from brain damage and has great difficulty speaking but despite this, he maintains a sense of humour and a positive attitude. He has an impressive scar on the left side of his ear from a wound that took 55 staples to close.
Sitting next to me, waiting for the same test I’m having, is a guy about my age who had a severe bout of diverticulitis back in September. He spent two weeks in the hospital and almost lost part of his colon. He can’t ever eat any fruit or vegetable with seeds and is actually on a low fibre diet (hard to believe!). He happily reported that he can still eat meat. And bacon, he’s still good to go with bacon. He’s had several CT scans in the past month and is not excited about having another as CT Scans are no fun for those who suffer from claustrophobia. He had the student nurse inserting his intravenous needle, which didn’t go well, so he has cotton balls taped to both arms.
I finished drinking my contrast, 32 disgusting ounces of it, and shortly after they brought me into the room for the scan. I lay on a narrow table with my pants around my knees. The tech prepares the IV and warns me that I will have a metallic taste in my mouth, followed by a warm feeling on my arm and the feeling that I’ve peed myself. Whhhatttt? Like sitting on my heated car seat, I ask. Yeah, but 100 times worse she says. And she’s right, within seconds of the start of the IV, my arm feels warm, my mouth tastes like metal and my groin feels like IV wet myself. Very disconcerting!
And so it was. I’m laying on this narrow bed, feeling like I’ve peed myself, with my arms overhead as the scan is performed. As far as tests go, it’s not horrible. The machine is not tight as I imagined it might be. It’s not all that noisy and the scan itself doesn’t take long. The techs can see me and talk to me from inside the scanner. I must look nervous because they keep asking if I’m ok. The IV is removed and I’m free to go with instructions to drink plenty of water over the next few days because the contrast is very harsh on the kidneys.
As far as tests go, I think my fear of the process was much worse. Talking to and seeing some of the other patients at the hospital makes me more appreciate of the relative good health I enjoy. But I can do better for myself and my health. I can eat better, sleep more, exercise more and watch less tv. A diet with more raw food, and less saturated fat and sugar, seems like a great plan to me. Because even though the CT Scan wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I’m not keen on going back to the hospital ever again!