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Testing for Answers

April 5, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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My journey towards diagnosis continued last week when I went for a PET/CAT scan. I was familiar with the CAT scan but I have not had a PET scan. The scans were to be done at an ontology center and I was very nervous about it. Tests are more difficult because of my disability. All my previous tests had been done at hospitals where I knew the routine. This would be a different experience.

I arrived at the oncology center early and was sent to the lab waiting room. When the lab tech looked at my veins, he decided not to draw my blood, fearing he would ruin them. That gave me pause because techs that draw blood well get me the first time. I wondered if they thought they only had one shot at starting an IV. I have seen the ‘I'm scared of your veins’ look before.

My driver friend was hungry and decided to run to McDonald's for a quick breakfast while I waited. As soon as he left, I was escorted to the radiology waiting room and then to a patient room. I was surprised by the dismal wall color and stark décor featuring a single, framed print. A geri chair sat at an odd angle but there was no bed for me to lie on after the dye injection.

They did finger sticks to check my blood sugar and creatinine. Then a radiology tech began to search for a vein. She tried those on the back of my hand and blew every one. Another tech joined her and they searched for other veins. Soon a third tech followed to try. But they were unable to start an IV and I had puncture marks everywhere.

I suggested they try starting an IV in my foot but they wondered about injecting dye there. They tried my foot and the IV went in. They brought in what looked like a very small lead cylinder. I laughed because my naked foot was right beside this radioactive dye container. The tech smiled and said, "You realize we use this every day." I did realize it, but it was a Saturday Night Live moment anyway.

I wanted the PET scan with contrast dye to get the best result. But I expressed concern about it going into my foot and was reassured. I prepared to sit alone for an hour by telling my driver and sister that they would see me after the scans.

I drank my first cup of dye mixture. Then they injected dye in my foot which sent a burning sensation through my body. While I tried to rest, the doctor decided not to put more dye in my foot. He was concerned about the possibility of a blood clot. I wondered if the PET scan would show enough without it and was told it would.

Sitting alone, covered with a warmed blanket, I realized my pretest sedative was kicking in. I wished for music—even the elevator type. It was quiet except for the techs asking patients to hold their breath. I asked how they would know if I wanted something and was told a camera was monitoring me. It was perched in the corner I could not see.

After I drank the second cup of dye, my bladder was feeling full. After a chat with the techs, they decided to assist me with a bed pan on the table before the scan. I brought a tote with things I might need, including a bedpan. After the bedpan was used, it was radioactive and had to be thrown away.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...