I was asked all the usual allergy questions. I was asked whether or not I’d had a CT scan before. She wanted to know if I was allergic to the radioactive liquid they were going to inject into my veins.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“The liquid makes you feel warm.” She offered.
There was that time when they pumped the stuff into me by IV and I’d nearly had a freak out about the needle in my hand. I was so close to a melt down, that I had to make myself run my eyes over every detail of a Jaguar Mk 2 so as not loose it altogether. From back bumper to front bumper and everything in between. It took a blue, green and white Jag before the dreadful thing was all over. I was so close to a panic attack, I held on by my fingernails. Wince!
I looked at her and felt myself smile nervously at the memory. “Oh yes, I have.”
“So no reaction then?”
“No allergic reaction,” I said.
I was led to a room where I was to undress, put on a white hospital gown and some dark blue cotton pants. “Lock you’re your valuables in the footlocker and then wait on the blue chairs.”
The hinge on the footlocker was broken, so that didn’t instil much confidence from the get go.
Pants and a gown, I guess in these ever more prudish days it just doesn’t do to have people with their arses hanging out.
The nurse, a jolly no nonsense older woman with grey hair and sensible trousers, putting the stent in, or IV catheter, or cannulation, or whatever it was called, said, “I’ll insert your IV.”
“Do I have to sit around with that in my arm for 2 hours?”
“No, you don’t have to take the dye orally, so we are just going to get on and do it. You should be out of here in half an hour.”
I wondered about the fasting thing, but said nothing. I'd had an apple at 10.30, what harm could that do?
Nurse put on blue rubber gloves and held the sharp, stabby thing in her hand. The needle looked big and long and thick. She picked up the tourniquet and came for me.
“I’m glad I got over my fear of needles,” I said, as she came for me from the cart. I don’t know why I always say that? I’m not sure if it is a warning about past phobias, so go easy on me. Am reassuring myself that I would be okay now with all of this. Is it was a boast of what I had achieved? As I said, I don’t know.
“So did my husband.”
“I just decided not to be frighten.”
“All needles hurt,” she said. “There is no getting around the fact.”
"It was never about that pain," I said.
"Just the idea of it," she offered.
"Yes," I said. That was really it.
She put the tourniquet on. “Pump your fist.”
The slightly sticky touch of her blue rubber gloves pulled at my bare skin. “That’s a good vein,” she said. “A Lovely vein. I’d rather one over here,” she pointed to the inside of my elbow. “But this one is presenting itself.” She point to the top edge of my elbow.
“I’d make a good junkie.” I winced. I thought it would sound clever, all things considered, but it just sounded like a cliché.
We both laughed.
“You’re going to feel a sting…” I watched it, I make myself watch it now a days. It is like facing the firing squad without a blindfold.” Ah… There…” she said.
I gritted my teeth and felt the sharp sting. It felt huge, the slide in seemed interminable. I wiggled my toes and could taste the saliva in my mouth.
“Um… Ah. No, I’m not happy with that one, it’s not… its telling me the valve isn’t liking it…”
“You have valves in your veins?”
“Yes, to control the flow of blood. So if you walk along with your hands by your sides all the blood doesn’t rush into your hands.” She smiled. “This is why us ladies get varicose veins, something, I’m sure, you would have no knowledge of.”
I remembered my mother’s ropey blue boiled dumpling skin legs and thought I had some idea what she was talking about.
“Well. You learn something every day,” I said.
“Ah, yes,” she said. “That has slid into the vein okay,” blah, blah, something about blood blow back, or blood flow, but I was picturing locks in my veins, stopping my hands inflating like Donald Duck’s car tyre when something went wrong. “But I am not happy about it.”
I started to feel sweaty, dizzy, like the old days. Should I tell her I’d be better without the commentary? I decided just to grit my teeth and say nothing.
“I’m sorry, but I am going to change to your other arm. This rarely happens,” she said. “Just a moment.”
I felt the cold barb exit my skin. She put a round spot band aid on my left arm. “Hold that,” she instructed.
That was okay, it seemed so much more correct for it to be my right arm anyway. She got a new needle from her cart, which looked bigger than the first one.
Then her sticky latex fingers were holding my right arm.
“That’s a good vein.” She slid the needle into my right arm under the skin.
I was feeling queasy by the time she’d finished. Hot. I could feel sweat on my brow, while I felt chilled at my core. I was hoping I wouldn’t shake.
“That doesn’t feel painful, does it?”
“Good.” She smiled. I want to say she gave me a reassuring pat, but I don’t really think she did. “They will call you in a minute.”
She smiled. Hesitated for a moment, then walked away.
“Would you like to come through?” It was the girl from the start with the questions about allergies. She led me through an adjoining door.
The machine was big and cream and plastic. Space age. They always look space age to me. Or do I mean science fiction, all that cream plastic from futuristic movies I saw as a kid. “Lay down there with your head on the pillow with your feet this way.”
“Okay.” The bed didn’t seem long enough.
“We’re going to do some scans first, then I will inject the dye.”
I lay down on the bed and closed my eyes. It was quiet. It was still. It’s just nice lying here, I thought. The bed lifted slowly. Then the bed was long enough. There was a camera, or a laser, or a cell of some sort directly above me. I closed my eyes and didn’t open them again until it was all over.
"Breath in and hold you breath," said a voice straight out or 1984. I felt my chest expand as I breathed in. The machine whirred, well not so much whirred as hummed. I could feel myself move, I think. It was like being in an aeroplane late at night, with a Pink Floyd heartbeat soundtrack.
"Breath normally," said the voice.
I had to raise my arms above my head, but that is how I sleep some nights so I was really comfortable like that.
"Breath in and hold your breath," said big brother.
I didn't know if I was moving, or not.
The door opened and closed, footsteps approached me.
"Now I'm going to inject you with the radioactive dye."
I don’t think it was called radioactive dye, but that is what I heard. "Okay."
"Do you feel any pain?"
"You will feel a warm feeling, you will get a taste in your mouth, you may feel as though you have wet your pants. But that will only be momentarily."
"Something to look forward to," I said.
She walked away.
Keep still, I thought? It was what I do best. I could fall to sleep. I suddenly felt warm, my mouth tasted funny and rather than wetting my pants, it felt like a prostate irrigation. I kind of liked it, the feeling, it was like being a bite wired.
"Breath in and hold your breath." I pictured a hologram head projected on to the wall straight out of Doctor Who.
It felt like I was moving again.
Then there was silence and stillness and waiting. I felt cocooned and calm and safe. So relaxed, I am part pussy cat like that. Om.
The door opened. Footsteps approached.
“It is finished,” she said.
Oh, just as I reached enlightenment. Her voice bought me back from somewhere.
“But because we pumped you full of radioactive dye, you will need to sit on the blue chairs for 10 minutes.”
“Okay,” I said.
“I’ll take out the IV.”
I hadn’t even thought about it, that is progress, that is how far I have come.
I was led back to the blue chairs. I got my phone and started writing in the notes section. Breath in and hold you breath…
“Do you feel okay?” Apparently, 10 minutes was up.
“You can get dressed and make you way to reception.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“You are very welcome,” she said.