Worst Test Ever
Ok, so there’s actually two tests/treatments I’ve experienced over the last 10 years and ironically, I’ve managed to have two of each. So, I might as well be on a roll and get them over and done with and write about them now. If you don’t do horror (I don’t) and you are squeamish you are excused and can skip them. But if you want reminding, you only have to read about it.
I actually had the procedures and was WIDE AWAKE for them.
Firstly, soon after diagnosis back in 2007, I saw my first Neuro-Surgeon who asked if I was claustrophobic. I am not, but I could later appreciate why he asked.
A test was scheduled to look more closely at the arteries in my brain. This procedure is called a Cerebral Angiogram.
My first recommendation if someone tells you, you have to have one, is the night before, get a snatch wax! No, really.
If your anti-razors or have a beautician who will be displeased by a razor on certain parts of your body. Go get waxed!
Now this procedure, you are bare ass naked! (Just warning you) with only a gown on that for this occasion you put on open at the front. I found I was nervous so kept wanting to pee. When they wheel your bed into the room it feels like an operating room.
And the first thing that occurs to you is how crowed that room is. One or two people will talk directly to you. Don’t expect to remember anyone’s names.
Medical personal quickly take on nicknames in your head, such as ‘Hot Doctor’, ‘Old Doctor’, ‘Nice Nurse’ or ‘Chic, chic, chic, chic, guy, guy, guy!’ Why are there so many guys?
And a nurse comes over and produces a pink daisy razor. I looked at her and told her she wouldn’t need that. She lifted my gown & she told me they love girls like me! And her eyes darted around the room to all the other girls sharing a knowing look. I wonder if they bet on whether or not they have to shave the patient. A carefully folded face washer was strategically placed over my groin & I recall looking down thinking it hadn’t been very big to start with before it was folded.
I recall looking down to see what they do, until the needle came out. It was a local anesthetic and those needles really sting. Next came the scalpel and they made an incision at the top of my thigh (pretty much along the line where your underwear sits) for about an inch. I confess I looked down at this point because the ‘older’ doctor came over and started touching the skin around the incision. The question lingered in the air, “More anesthetic?” Oh my God he’s going to jab me again…….little did I realize that would not be the worst part…..
Next, a wire was fed into the artery at the incision and while I didn’t feel anything there was a very weird sensation. Head back I was told to breathe deeply, I understand this is when the wire passed up through my heart. It then continued up into my head. Large plastic shower cap type things were placed over some square plastic plates that were moved close to several sides of my head and face. Very close this is when the claustrophobic query came to mind.
The room seemed to clear and the young doctor started describing the next step. Words like “stay calm, warm, don’t move, and a weird taste in my mouth “and the understanding that they would do it as quickly as possible. FYI; How quickly they would perform the tests was not up to them at all but my ability to not move, freak out or anything else.
From behind a window off to one side a voice came to remind me to hold still. Next, No words! No words, can accurately describe the next part but I’ll try! Every known swear word comes to mind but I think I managed to only Yelp an “Ow!” (don’t know how) A burst of warm iodine, or contrast was released up into one artery then another into my brain. Each renewed the metallic taste in my mouth I could not get rid of. I’m certain it was not boiling but it felt like it, because it wouldn’t dissipate. The last burst out iodine (must have saved the best till last) was down the side of my jaw. It was even more unpleasant because the heat travels over your jaw and under your skin. You realise how there is not much else there but skin and bone. And you could not make it go away.
And each release of the iodine showed up on the monitor that was above me suspended from the ceiling. Squiggly lines snaking across the image of my skull. I had the perfect line to give the doctor except they were all in the other room behind the safety-glass……..it went something like this “Someone should tell the guy in the next room he’s completely messed up!” When clearly it was me that had the seriously messed up arteries.
Then, of course the monitor machine started beeping oddly and everyone that had returned to the room started moving more quickly. I was told my blood pressure had dropped and to breathe calmly. I don’t know, what else I was to do, I was also told I had to keep my head down and not to lift it.
The wire was removed and they moved me over to another trolley and into a small room. A guy pressed on the wound and started to count. He asked me a polite question and I’m sure he didn’t expect such a chatty response, but I must talk more with a guy putting pressure on an open artery near my groin. Must have been nervous and embarrassed. I’m sure he lost count and when he released the wound it continued to bleed. I had asked if they put a stitch in it? No? What about a bandaid? They told me it would ‘just close up’. Huh?
I as wheeled out to the room with lots of other people (recovery?) had, had other procedures. I just wanted to know when I could get up and pee? Hours, the answer was hours. Felt like a lifetime! To return my blood pressure to normal a drink and a sandwich were produced and I was expected to eat and drink without lifting my head. To be clear, I did. And then I threw up. And I had to lift in order to do this. This was also my first experience of the bedpan. So, I will just say, bedpans, not invented for ladies peeing while lying down. I’ll spare you the details and just say, sheets were changed. I eventually got my bandaid after the wound was inspected a further 20 times. And of course, a group of young ‘student’ doctors came around also by which time I had an all-out migraine. Lots of stupid questions I did not need while trying not to lift my head or throw up asking what my symptoms were so I could explain how I knew it was a migraine. If you have not had the displeasure, you want to be left alone and in the quiet and dark. I had some tingling down my left arm. I’m sure they gave me something after this and left me alone because I couldn’t stop vomiting.
I was kept on the ward overnight. Where even more young doctors visited to quiz me. Super! One guy I gave him so much cheek when he told me he once misplaced his car I told him he didn’t deserve his car and he should handover his keys. My hand was out and he didn’t know how to respond. I did not leave the hospital with a car, just saying.
The second time I had an Angio, because you know there was. Considering how unpleasant it was, it went a little better.
When I had my meeting with my radiologist I told him, “Just promise me I will never have to have another Angio, because it really did seem the worst thing ever. He looked uncomfortable and I’m certain my mum grumbled I couldn’t ask that. Like hell I couldn’t, I’d been the one who had had one not her. “Just lie to me, it’s fine!” And he did.
Eventually, when it was time to have that next Angiogram to confirm my treatment had done its job and I didn’t require any more he broke the news, “we need to have a conversation about that test you don’t like”. And there is no point fighting it, you have another Angiogram. The second time was better. I was at a different hospital and knowing what to expect makes it much better. Secondly, and this is my next bit of advice, when they come over to you and offer you drugs? Take it! I was given a ‘mild sedative’ and as I had had an allergic reaction to the iodine I was given something for that too. But this time, I came up with the description that it felt like I was being punched in the head but from the inside! And I’ve never been punched in the head at all, and I’m not complaining about that.
Lastly, I would love it if every young doctor had to experience that procedure, that is so intensely distasteful as it is.