10 January 2012

Lab Techs and Kidneys and Daleks, Oh, My!

This morning I had my appointment for the renal ultrasound that Dr. Earnest's office so helpfully scheduled without bothering to inform me of either it or the need for it in advance of giving me the appointment.  For those of you just joining in, I had an appendectomy 4 days before Thanksgiving last November.  I was given a CT scan in a local hospital to confirm the diagnosis, after which the radiologist flagged a potential "renal mass" in my left kidney.  The scan results were then faxed on November 28th to my new GP, who then decided to wait until January 4th to order a follow-up ultrasound.  It's been special.  Dr. Earnest and her office staff are on my list of people to hit with sticks should I ever decide to become a SCA fighter like my daughter.

Anyway, I dragged myself out of bed around 8 am to go take a shower before my appointment, after having already spent a half an hour hitting the snooze button on my alarm clock in a Herculean effort to pretend I didn't have to leave my warm and cozy bed.  As I passed by the front window, I noticed a fog outside so thick that I couldn't even see the street.  Suddenly I had visions of Heathcliff materializing from the foggy moors, ultrasound gel and scanner in hand.  If I'd had any doubts about the dubious merits of being conscious (as opposed to awake) that early in the morning, they were rapidly squashed by the specter of Radiology Heathcliff (New!  By Mattel!!  Only $19.95!!!) in all his foggy glory.

I trudged to the bathroom to begin my shower, shaking off this unfortunate vision as I went.  Once vaguely revived by the warm water, I got out, re-bandaged my now disgusting-looking toe, and got dressed.  I had a few extra minutes before leaving, since I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything, so I threw the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, packed up my morning meds, and headed out the door.

The outpatient diagnostic center to which I was sent was actually not far from my house, which made a nice change from all the times over the last 12 months that I've been summarily shipped clear across town.  I arrived almost on time, only to discover that the radiologist was delayed by a hospital call.  While waiting, I was checked in by a woman wearing enough scent to suffocate a herd of buffalo.  She informed me that it was a new year--wait...REALLY???  Thanks for pointing that out, Eau de Bronchitis--and that I would therefore have to meet my $300 deductible before the insurance would start kicking in their subsequent 90%.  Personally, I think this is medical code for "your ultrasound will cost approximately $12,000--just for the squeezy gel--so you're getting off lucky with paying it all up front.  Will that be cash, check or charge?"  Heck, that personal ultrasound machine for my wrist was over $4500, just by itself.  How foolish of me to think I'd go in and only have to fork over a copay rather than enough to buy a new set of tires for my car.  Typical.  I ended up giving her half of it; they can bloody well bill me for the rest, since I'll still have to give up that extra 10% anyway.  On the plus side, it's a mere 10 days into 2012 and my deductible's already been met.  On the down side, given the way my last year went, it's probably not a great idea to give me carte blanche to break or damage whatever body part I want just because my deductible's been paid for the whole year.  Hello, Appendectomy--why did you have to wait till freaking November??  I should have been able to get some more mileage out of you!

After signing over my firstborn half of the deductible, Ms. Malodorous snapped on a hospital bracelet (Seriously?  You're gonna tag me for a 30-minute test??) and sent me off to wait for the radiologist.  I only waited for a couple of minutes before she called me in and told me to hike my shirt up to my bra and climb on the table, after which she began to stuff washcloths under my bra and over the waistband of my jeans, presumably to protect my clothing from the ultrasound gel.  The weird part was that she did this on my right side, as opposed to the left which was the one originally flagged.  When questioned about this she said she was doing a renal "study" and so would do both kidneys.  Um, okaaaay.  Gotta get that basis for comparison, I suppose.

Next she squirted me with the gel, which was mercifully pre-warmed, and began the process of jamming in her handheld scanner hard enough to push a kidney out my navel.  She had me roll up on my side, put my arm over my head and hold my breath on and off while she continued to jab the scanner into my waist, back and ribs.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to hold one's breath while being whammed near the diaphragm with a very hard hunk of plastic?  She kept saying "hold your breath...excellent...now another...stop breathing in through your mouth, you're putting too much air in your stomach...excellent..." over and over till I eventually learned that "excellent" was code for "you didn't screw it up so you're allowed to breath now."  She spent a surprisingly long time on the right kidney, far longer, in fact, than she ultimately did on the left unless I'm very much mistaken. This puzzled me, considering it was the left kidney that brought me in in the first place.

She cleaned me off and then had me flip over to do it all again on the left side.  I'm not sure why, but it was less uncomfortable this time; she seemed not to be jamming the scanner into my flesh as hard.  She also made me hold me breath for longer stretches on that side for some inexplicable reason.  I watched as she highlighted spots on the screen in red, typing something illegible from my viewing angle.  I commented on it, and she insisted it was no big deal because she'd done it on the other side as well.  "Um, I couldn't see you do it then.  "Exactly!"  Whatever, Radiology Lady.  Meanwhile, while all this was going on, she had Yanni blasting out of the speakers.  Better than rap, I suppose.  While lying there with my arm over my head listening to Yanni and reverse-hyperventilating, I noticed a sign near the sink demonstrating the use of the eyewash.  You know, like in a lab when you accidentally squirt toxic chemicals or uranium into your eye and have to run to the special fountain to wash out your eyes?  Anyway, as I stared at this sign, it struck me that the picture of the water shooting into the eyes looked just like an upside-down Dalek.  Obviously I need to get out more.

After she'd finished jabbing me and dribbling gel all over my left side, the radiologist again wiped off my skin then told me to lie on my back and pull my drawers down over my hips.  Apparently a "renal study" also included my bladder.  I slipped my jeans and undies down to just above my personal bits.  "Excellent."  This turned out to be perfectly pointless moments later when, despite my "excellent" placement, she stuffed a washcloth and her hand all the way down the front of my pants.  Um, exactly how far do you plan on shooting this gel, lady?  I guess she didn't get the washcloth straight enough to suit her, because next thing I know, she was jabbing her hand down my pants again to fix it.  Thank you, Radiology Lady, but I don't know you this well.  Next time you better damn well be buying me dinner first.

She recommenced with the jabbing, this time around my bladder, making me have to pee.  Fortunately the bladder "study" went much more expeditiously than did the kidney "studies," and she was done in maybe five minutes.  She wiped off the excess gel, then left me with a washcloth to finish the job.  What, now you choose a little discretion??  Give me a break.

I finished cleaning off, yanked my pants back up and got up off the table.  She said I was free to go and started to show me the door but I stopped her, saying, "Can I ask a really weird question?  Can I take a picture of your eyewash sign?"  She started to twitch.  "Um...I..." Okay, I was definitely hearing the wind-up for a "no."  "Well...Hippa...Um..."  I quickly added that I just wanted a picture of the eyewash sign, to which I then pointed.  Twitch.  "Well..."  I asked her if she'd ever seen Doctor Who.  "Yes!"  Ha--nerds with gadgets are clearly the same the world over.  I pointed out that it looked like an upside-down Dalek.  She turned her head, the lightbulb went off, and she exclaimed, "Oh!"  She even did the voice.  Then she flipped over all the exposed paperwork on her desk so privacy was maintained and told me to go ahead, saying she'd never noticed it before.  Then I pointed out that I'd been staring at it upside down for the last 15 minutes so it was kinda hard to miss.  She laughed and told me to have a good day.

Now I'm an eyewash.

And now I'm a Dalek.  "Irradiate...Irradiate...IRRADIATE!!!"

Before I walked out, I asked how long it would be before Dr. Earnest would receive the results.  She replied that it would probably be between 24-48 hours, which means that if Dr. Earnest's office remains consistent, they probably won't contact me with my results till February 26th.  So there you have it.  Now excuse me while I go find a bathroom.

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