Saturday, July 2, 2011
The Never Ending Week Continues...
When we left off last post, it was Tuesday night, June 28th, and my parents had just gotten to my room in the Urgent Care department at Sloan-Kettering in New York City. I had come in because of excruciating lower back pains and I was just awaiting my CT scan to check for possible ureter issues. And now, my story continues...
Just then, medical transport came to take me away to my CT scan. My parents stayed in my room and Jimmi escorted me upstairs. As I waited on a bed in the hall, a nurse appeared, "Suzanne? I just need to check your IV quickly before we start your test. She took a syringe of saline out of her pocket and lifted my arm to get to the IV connection. As she did so, her eye caught the diamonds sparkling on my left hand. "Oh, my God! Your ring is gorgeous!" she exclaimed. Then she looked at Jimmi with approval and he said with total seriousness, "Wasn't me!" The poor nurse's jaw dropped and her face froze with embarrassment. I smacked Jimmi playfully on the arm and he laughed. "He's kidding," I giggled. "Oh, ok. You scared me!" She was relieved, "So, when are you getting married?" My smile turned to sadness as I said, "September 3rd. And I start chemo and radiation on July 18th." I saw the nurse's face cringe with sympathy. "Oh no," she frowned. "Any chance you can change the date of the wedding?" I knew she meant well, but I wished people would stop asking me that. "Yes, probably, but I don't want to. I've been planning for a year." She gave a reassuring smile, "You'll be ok. Don't worry."
A few minutes later, the radiology tech wheeled me into the CT scan room. The first thing I noticed, which was different than any of the other equipment in the scan rooms I'd seen before, was a metal hanger with two giant syringes hanging upside down on either end. Each syringe was filled with clear fluid and each had a thin, curly tube attached to the end of it. It looked like something you'd see in a mad scientist's library.
The nurse from the hallway came back into the room to explain the test to me. "I know you've had CT scans before, but this one is a little bit different. We'll take a few pictures, then we'll give you an injection of contrast dye followed by and injection of saline to flush it through. This helps us really see the urinary tract to make sure everything is in place. After the injections, you'll need to wait about ten minutes on the table before we take the next set of pictures. The whole thing will last about 25 minutes, but it might be a lot of waiting."
Sounds easy enough.
The hard, cold metal slab I was lying on started to move me into the scanner. I closed my eyes and heard the familiar, recorded voice, "Breathe in. Hold your breath. (10 second pause) Breathe." I followed instructions three times and then the nurse came back in. "We're gonna give you the injections now." She hooked up the first of the giant syringe tubes to my IV and I watched as the black plunger was automatically pushed and the fluid entered my bloodstream. I immediately felt warm all over. All of a sudden, it was hard to breathe. Oh, my God! My I'm having a reaction to the dye! My throat is closing up! My heart started racing and my eyes got wide, but before I could call for help, the feeling went away.
Holy crap, that was scary.
"Ok, we're injecting the saline now." I turned and watched as the other syringe squeezed its contents into my body and I suddenly had an urgent need to go to the bathroom. Damn urinary tract infection! "Ok, now you just have to wait ten minutes. You can move your arms and your head and your feet, but don't move your butt. We need you in the exact same position for the next set of pictures."
Have you ever had to pee so badly that it physically hurt? Now try to add being forced to lie still on your back on a hard piece of metal, a urinary tract infection and severe lower back pain to the mix. Needless to say, it wasn't my most comfortable ten minutes. But, finally I made it through and the test was completed. I was wheeled back out to meet Jimmi, and then back to my cubicle in the ER where my parents were waiting and I could finally get up and go to the bathroom.
As I was washing my hands, I looked into the mirror in the bathroom and immediately noticed a red blotch on my chest. "What's that?" I said out loud. I pulled down my hospital gown to check it out. It was bright red and about the size of a Saltine cracker. Wonder where that came from? Maybe I really was having a reaction to the dye.
I went back to my bed and showed my mom. Immediately, my head started pounding and I had to call a nurse to give me something to take it away. Weird. That headache came out of nowhere. Since my back was acting up again, on top of everything else, I skipped the Tylenol and went right for a Vicodin. In ten minutes I'd be in another world and at least the edge would be taken off the pain. I turned on my side and my mom started rubbing the spot on my back that was giving me trouble. "Does it feel better when I rub it?" she asked. "Yes, which is strange since it's internal." My mom gave a look that told me she wasn't convinced. "I don't know," she said. "Maybe you hurt yourself and you didn't realize it." Then she looked at my dad and said, "It seems a little like your sacawilliac, doesn't it?" What did she say? Was I stoned from the medicine already? I started to laugh, "You mean sciatica?" She looked at me and asked, "Oh, is that what it's called?" My mom and I stared to giggle uncontrollably until I could speak again, "I think you were confusing Sacagawea and Celiac to make sacawilliac!"
Finally, Dr. Long came back to my room. This time, she was dressed in street clothes and carrying a purse. "Are you leaving for the night?" I asked. "Yes, but I wanted to come and give you your results first, like I promised." I love people who keep their word. "So, the scan looked totally normal. No leaks and everything is connected where it should be. The only thing we saw was a small pocket of fluid by the left ureter which might be putting some pressure on the tube. That could be causing the pain." Oh no! What is it? Is it serious? "What kind of fluid?" I slurred in my Vicodin haze. "Well, it could be post-surgical fluid or maybe lymphatic fluid from when we removed the lymph nodes and everything started to drain. It's very small and there's nothing we would really do about it at this point. It should just go away on its own. I'm going to release you. Please call us if anything changes, if the pain gets worse, if you start vomiting or if you have a fever. But this is really the best case scenario with the symptoms you have."
We thanked her and she went home. I waited for the nurse to remove my IV, then my parents, Jimmi and I also left the hospital. I was still in a lot of pain, more than I should have been only 45 minutes after taking Vicodin, but what else could I do? The doctor had just looked inside my body and found nothing concerning. I guess I'd just need to relax and wait it out until the hurting stopped.
Too bad it wasn't that easy...