Saturday, January 23, 2016

How to dress for your CT scan

They're going to tell you, "Don't eat or drink anything for four hours before your scan. Anything. Except water, keep drinking water." They won't think about how water is a thing, even if in your amusement you ask them to repeat the instructions.

When you check in, when you see a nurse, when you see the CT scan tech, every last one of them will tell you the injected contrast dye will make you feel as though you'll pee your pants. If you press them for further detail (after assuring each person no, you are not allergic to the iodine, as far as you know), they'll say it's an all over body flush feeling, and yes, perhaps a strong urge to urinate. You will not pee your pants. If pressed even further, they'll say "some women" feel this way, which leads to the logical question, well how do men feel then? Apparently rather than an urge to urinate, their butt feels weird. Except the CT scan guy says "bottom" and that's irrationally funny for no good reason.

Depending on the setup, they'll put the IV port in your arm before you change into the gown, or after. They'll tape it down, so you don't have a loose coil to catch on a doorknob or something. It isn't painful to move your arm, but it isn't terribly comfortable either. 

You may be able to leave your belongings in an examination room. Or they may have  you divest yourself of clothes in a separate area, the mirror no more friendly than that of a department store, and leave your things in a locker like a bus station, key on a coiled cable for your wrist. No pockets in hospital gowns. The gown will not fit you any better than that coveted department store item. You can't wear your bra if it has any metal in it at all. You can't keep your jeans on because of the zipper and rivets. When you mention your IUD, they'll tell you sort of snidely that it isn't an MRI, and you'll reply that they were so concerned with all the metal, you figured it was in the interest of full disclosure. Next time you'll wear yoga pants and a sport bra. Fuck those gowns.

Keep your shoes. Maybe you should've brought  flip flops or fold a flats or something, but how were you to know? They should have patient guidelines for this kind of thing, a dress code of regular clothes you own that you can wear into a scan. Or gowns that are more bearable. Then you see a dude who was apparently given hospital pajama bottoms for this, and you resent the hell out of him, ill fitting though they are. You really need new sneakers, though. You haven't worn them for awhile, and didn't notice the holes until you were under the unforgiving hospital fluorescents.

Just in case, you'll want to go to the bathroom one last time. Who knows how long you'll be waiting? Who knows how long the scans take? You don't know. But after all that water, and with all the warnings....

You'll wait in that ill fitting gown, sitting on the edge of a made bed, or in an otherwise empty waiting room, wondering what exactly is happening next, when. People more visibly sick than you are taking visitors, making calls, getting invited to the nurse's wedding. Alarms go off, indistinguishable things are said over the intercom, doors open and close. Is that high pitched noise the CT Scan or the MRI? Nuclear warning signs are on certain doors.

They won't tell you what to do with your phone. If you leave it in the locker they'll say you could've had it and set it on the counter. There's kind of an idea that phones should be turned off in the hospital, but maybe it's an old idea? If you bring your phone, they won't even think twice about it, just show you where to set it when you walk in, before you lie down on the table. The hospital is the first place you've seen people still using beepers in a very long time.

It's helpful to concentrate on your hunger rather than your worry. Do you have something right after this? Can you get something to eat? When they scheduled your appointments, whoever "they" ultimately were, they didn't seem to take that into consideration, that human beings need to consume food. If you're lucky, your appointments will more or less be in the same building. Or the CT scan will be your only appointment.

When the scan is done, they'll pull the IV (or not, if you're going somewhere else right away to get your blood drawn for labs) and send you to get dressed again. Getting re-dressed with an IV still in your arm is interesting. If you're lucky, you don't have to wait a week to find out what the insides of your body are doing.

Knowing is always better than not knowing.