Early start for me and a decision to make, do I risk not being able to park at the hospital or drive to the park and ride and get the bus in? I opt for the park and ride. I manage that okay, except I can’t figure out the machine. It converts the ticket, collected at the entrance to the car park, into a paid for ticket that allows you onto the bus. It’s simple but my brain stalls these days when presented with something new and I panic.
The hospital is easy to navigate and I’m shown into a tiny unimposing waiting room that is too hot and stuffy. An elderly guy in his pyjamas is sitting bolt upright in a wheelchair and parked in the middle of the room – no dignity. He looks like exhibit A in a study of decaying flesh.
From a full waiting room on my arrival, it empties to three in as many minutes – two elderly dudes and me. The guy to my left is trying his best to create an image, a pork pie hat atop his grey designer length hair. His gold rimmed glasses perched on the end of his aquiline nose that hadn’t been designed with a bridge. Great moustache and beard, not too tidily styled, a plaited wristband on one wrist and an old gold watch on the other. Below the waist is something of a contradiction – activity trousers with zip off legs to create shorts and trainers that are too clean. The other guy is the duty driver for a friend who’s receiving treatment – obviously something simple because he’s back in a few minutes.
I’ve got to lie down for thirty minutes – not out of choice, I’m not that tired. I clawed five hours sleep last night, not quite the seven to eight hours advised by the psychiatrist but I’m still struggling with building up a ‘healthy sleep pattern’. Here, I must lie flat for thirty minutes before they inject an isotope – yep, we’re talking nuclear medicine here. I spent a few years in the now obsolete Royal Observer Corp learning how to avoid nuclear radiation in all its forms and here I am volunteering to be injected with the stuff.
After I become radioactive I have to be scanned to see if my brain drain is fact or some bizarre, attention-seeking fantasy that I’ve concocted to amuse myself.
I’m escorted by a scurrying nurse into a room with machines, now being used as the place to relax and that’s exactly what I’m told to do.
“I’m going to put a cannula into your arm now and then I’m going to turn the lights off and I want you to lie still and relax and when I come back in thirty minutes, I won’t talk to you or turn the lights up, I’ll simply inject the isotope into your arm. Then the nurse will come in and take you to the toilet before you have your scan.”
TAKE ME TO THE TOILET!! I have to be desperate before I’ll use a public toilet and a public toilet IN A HOSPITAL is way off my ‘Places To Avoid At All Costs’ scale.
I have to stress THIS was not my idea. I was supposed to have an interview with the psychiatrist and psychologist together, they were going to tell me if there was a problem, or not, based on the previous tests I’d already had. Then I get a phone call from the psychologist to say they wanted me to have this SPECT scan done before the get together. Definitely NOT my idea.
This toilet based shock is, I’m sure, responsible for my veins disappearing and the poor woman has difficulty getting a needle into my arm.
“Your vein keeps moving away.” She complains, like I’m being purposely obstructive.
Job eventually done, she covers me with a blanket, turns off the light and leaves.
Now, if she had said nothing about relaxing, I’d be asleep in minutes, guaranteed. But issued with the instruction to relax makes it difficult to comply and I’m now full of angst as to what the consequences will be if I can’t. Diaphragmatic breathing is my saviour in all these panic inducing situations, so I concentrate on breathing in through my nose, the rise of my stomach and the exhalation of breath through my mouth. Half an hour comes and goes. Forty minutes later the nurse creeps in and injects a nuclear isotope into my vein. A whole hour and then two arrive together. The needle bearing nurse along with a male nurse enter the room and escort me to the toilet that is in full view of the waiting room – well, the toilet door is. This is obviously not optional so I urinate, wash my hands and use a paper towel between my hand and the door handle. The thought briefly occurs to me.
“Why, when I have a nuclear isotope in my veins am I still concerned about bacterial infection?”
The actual scan is the most relaxing part of the whole procedure. The scanner simply slides around my brain in a slow, silent movement. No lights, no noise, no drama. Twenty minutes and I’m done. Coffee is a medical necessity before I drive home.
My pee was the most ghastly shade of orange this evening. Do you think that’s normal?