Tuesday, 17 October 2017

What To Expect When Having A CT Scan

Disclaimer:  This post is not intended to be medical advice.  Any concerns should be discussed with your doctor or health care professionals honeys, I just wanted to share my experiences in the hopes it might help others avoid being anxious about having a scan. 

Hi Honeys
These past few weeks have been eventful to say the least.  Do you remember the never ending chest infection I've been battling?  Well it's been over 3 months now and my wonderful GP, and he really is, sent me for a chest x ray.  The x ray had something on it that the radiographer at the hopital didn't like and my GP somehow managed to get me an appointment at the (incredibly busy) Respiratory Clinic and also requested a CT scan too, which I was told by the hospital bookings clerk when she called me, might take at least 5-6 weeks to arrange.

Next thing I knew I had a letter telling me I had a 9 am appointment on Tuesday of this week and later I had a phone call telling me I had an appointment for a CT scan at 1.30 pm that same day!

It genuinely is wonderful, especially in these days of way over-stretched resources, to be registered at the Practice we are, and to be cared for by such fabulous Doctors.  Our Practice has two Doctors, one Practice Nurse and the sweetest admin staff all of whom seem able to move mountains to help patients.

Over the last twenty years or so they've been our family GPs, they've always gone the extra mile to help, always listened,  never been too busy to return a phone call and have always referred me for tests if they've had even a little doubt over what ails me.  The Practice really is a treasure and being a patient there means the world to me.

What to expect when you have a CT scan - what happened when I attended our local hospital for my recent CT scan.

So dear ones I thought I'd share what happened during my visit to the hospital in the hopes it might help alleviate any of the anxiety that I had for anyone who has to have the same tests.  Before we begin, take a few minutes to go fetch a cuppa🍡 and maybe a cookie too.  This is going to be a long post.  I'll wait, see you back here in a few minutes....

Back again?  Cool 😊

Rosie and the Respiratory Clinic Appointment

On Tuesday morning I set off in a taxi, all bundled up against the elements since it's getting chilly now, to the hospital.  I went straight through to the Respiratory Clinic, to the reception desk there where I gave my letter to the Receptionist. She booked me in on the computer, handed me my letter back and I sat down in the waiting room.

My appointment was for 9 am and I got there around 8.45 am.  A little after 9 am a nurse called my name and took me through to check my height and weight which she wrote down on a slip and handed to me.  Back I went into the waiting room and sat down again.

A Doctor came out and called my name and I waved and followed him back to his consulting room.  He asked me to take a seat (I almost asked where to? 😊 I know, but I do that when I'm nervous I make jokes 😊)  When I sat down he shook hands with me, introduced himself, took my little slip the nurse had given me, glanced at it then put it to one side and pointed out the lump or anomaly on my x ray, which was on the screen of his computer.

This was the first time I'd seen my x ray and even to my (very) untrained eyes, I could see it looked odd, this little shape. Out of place. The Doctor asked me some questions about my health history including:

  • Which medications I was taking. I'd taken the slip that's always attached to prescriptions which lists all of my medications with me and handed this to the Doctor.
  • Did I smoke?  Had I ever smoked, if so for how long and when had I quit.  I told him I had never smoked. 
  • Did I get breathless easily.    
  • Did I ever have chest pains.
  • How long had I had the cough?
  • Did I still have the cough now. 
The Doctor then asked me to sit up on the couch so he could listen to my lungs.  He also listened to my heart, took my pulse both at my wrist and by placing two fingers on my neck.  He also checked my ankles to see "if they were puffy" he said.

I was then asked to go sit back in the chair at his desk, which I did, and he told me that what happens next depended on what was found in my CT scan, which I was due to have later that day.  I explained that I'd been born with bronchitis and had suffered it for several months each winter throughout my childhood up until the year I turned 16.  I still battle asthma and that my lungs were my "achilles heel" or weakness.  He listened, jotting down notes and asked me if I had any relatives who had heart or lung problems.

The Doctor said he should have the CT scan results in a few days and promised to phone me with the results and to let me know what we would do next. The results would, of course, also be forwarded to my own Doctor too.  I thanked him and made my way out through the waiting room and towards the little restaurant/tearoom on the ground floor of the hospital run by the ladies of the Women's Royal Volunteer Service.

Preparing for the CT Scan 

Mindful of the instructions I'd been given over the phone to "drink lots of water" before my CT scan, in order to help eliminate the dye used for the scan, I had made an effort to drink lots of water the day before and in the restaurant I opted to buy a bottle of water instead of a cup or tea.  I then fetched a small plastic cup and sat down at a table to drink my water and concentrate on the puzzle book in my handbag. I glanced at the clock and it was almost 9.30am so I had exactly 4 hours to wait till my scan appointment.

After completing two of my puzzles and reading a chapter or so of the book I'd brought (I'd come prepared for a long wait honeys) I just couldn't bare the noise in the cafe any longer.  It was so, so loud in there, and I say this as a person who works in a busy retail environment on a Saturday 😊  I glanced at the clock and it was almost 11.15am.  Still over two hours to pass.

I decided to make my way around to the x ray department and to wait there instead because at least the waiting room would be quieter and thankfully it was.  I spoke to the receptionist, she checked me in on the system and I sat down to enjoy another chapter of my book in peace without the far too loud voices and clatter of dishes and trays from the restaurant.

No sooner did I sit down and start to read my book than a nurse appeared and read out my name.  I waved at her and she asked me to follow her.  On the way around to the CT unit I told her I was very early and she said they'd had quite a few people just not appear for their scans and the unit had been very quiet all morning.  I told her I had waited in the cafe since around 9.30 and she said I should have come round straight away because I could have had my scan and be home by now!  Oh well honeys, lesson learned 😊

Inside the Imaging Unit/Department 

The unit where the CT scans are carried out is quite small.  I saw I think 4 different nurses (including the nurse who'd fetched me from the x ray department waiting room) all busy with different tasks and when I arrived there were two other ladies in the small seating area.

My lovely, friendly nurse went over to a cabinet and returned with a folded up large plastic bag and two hospital gowns which she handed to me.  She said to undress down to my socks and pants and to put one gown on to fasten at back and to then use other other gown as a dressing gown and put it on with the ties facing the front.  The bag was to be used to place my clothes into.

I went over to the little row of four changing rooms, each with a curtain to pull across for privacy, to get changed.  Having read a little online about what to expect from a CT scan, I had planned ahead and made sure not to wear jewellery (even my wedding rings had been left at home) or anything with metal fastenings.  My bra was a cotton crop top with no fastenings or clips.  I removed my polo shirt and a thought occurred to me.

I popped my head out of the curtain just in time to catch the eye of another nurse who was passing by who asked me if I needed any help.  I explained that I'd been careful not to wear anything metal and was it OK to keep my crop top on since God had been overly generous to me when handing out breasts and I preferred to keep "the girls" contained, especially when I was going to have to lie down on a big table.

The nurse grinned and said she understood exactly what I meant and that to be honest it was OK to wear clothes while having the scan so long as there was no metal present at all.  They gave out gowns because most people do have metal zips or bra fastenings etc.  Cool I thought, thanked the nurse and pulled on, as instructed, one of the gowns facing backwards, with the other one on top as a dressing gown.  I kept my socks, trousers and crop top on under the gowns. 

I then placed my jacket, polo shirt, handbag and shoes into the large plastic bag the nurse had given me, opened the curtain and went out into the waiting area and sat down.  I was only there a minute or two when another nurse appeared and asked me to go with her.  She took me over to one of two curtained off areas directly facing the line of changing rooms.  She opened the curtain and I followed her inside where she asked me to sit down on the single chair present.

She then started opening drawers and taking out objects to place on a tray on the table next to me and explained she was to insert a needle for the dye used during the scan.  "Needle!" I said, "...what needle? don't I have to drink something that tastes a bit like an aniseed sweetie?"

"Goodness, no!" my friendly nurse said.  "We haven't done that in ages.  Where did you hear that?"  I told her I'd read it online.  "That explains it then" she said with a big smile.  She then opened the packaging and used a wet wipe to rub the spot on my right arm where she was to insert the needle and very quickly, and expertly I thought, popped the needle into place.  It didn't hurt a bit, it really didn't honeys and I'm not a brave person when it comes to needles.

She then took a very large... it looked to me like a clear, see through sticking plaster or band aid?  Which she put on my arm, it extended above and around the needle, so maybe it was to hold the needle in place? Prevent it from moving around?  The nurse smiled at me, opening the curtain again, and said "that's you all sorted, you can have a wee seat in the waiting room again."

Off I went back into the waiting area with my plastic bag and the newly installed needle in my arm which oddly enough I didn't feel.  It had seemed like quite a large needle to me but I could bend my arm as normal and honestly it didn't feel like it was there.

Having the CT Scan

I was thinking to myself,sitting in the waiting area, that I should have brought my camera with me, when a young male nurse appeared.  He was the first man I'd seen in the unit up till then.  I wondered if the tiny unit I was taken to was, like the wards upstairs, a separate scanning unit for ladies since I'd only seen female nurses and two other ladies, also in gowns so presumably also having scans done, in the waiting area.  

I would have asked him (just curious) but he'd smiled, said "follow me please" and had already wandered off in the direction of one of the two heavy wooden doors in the unit.  I picked up my plastic bag and followed him.  Once through the heavy door I was asked to put my bag on a chair, which I did, and to sit up onto the table or bed of the CT scanning unit which looked similar to this one...

The unit I was scanned with had already been prepared with paper roll on the table or bed part, and had a large, fluffy hospital pillow too for my head to rest on.  The pillow was farthest from the scanning unit so that my feet would be fed in first.

I'm only a little over 5 foot tall so when they asked me to lie down on the surface my feet didn't reach the end of the table so I was asked to sit up again and move (quite a bit) down the table.  The pillow was moved down too and, once lying down again with my feet in the right place, I was asked if I was comfortable.

The still smiling male nurse reached up and his hand came back with a long, clear tube which he laced between the fingers of my right hand (the arm with the needle in it and also the arm nearest him) then attaching the tube to the end of the needle.  Again honeys, this didn't hurt even a tiny bit.

He then said "can you put both hands up please?" and without thinking I popped both hands up, sitting either side of my face, and replied "Why? Are there banditos about? Highwaymen maybe?" and grinned.  I told you honeys, I make jokes to cope when I'm scared or nervous 😊 Just a coping mechanism is all. There wasn't an inkling of a reaction from the Nurse.  He was still smiling but obviously not a lover of Looney Tunes cartoons 😊

"Oh come on!" I said. "Have you never watched any Speedy Gonzales cartoons? He used to save his wee mouse friends from banditos and sometimes from Sylvester the cat"  Nothing.  Just the same smile.  He then told me he'd be in the next room while I was being scanned.  Aha! I thought, that'll be the other heavy wooden door I'd seen from the waiting area.

When he left the room and I was on my own the thought occurred to me that he might be too young to remember my much loved Speedy Gonzales cartoons.  It made me quite sad to think of children missing out on the giggles I had as a child watching Looney Tunes cartoons starring favourites such as the adorable, tiny Speedy and his mouse chums, Bugs Bunny, Daffy the Duck and Marvin the Martian.

We had a much loved Saturday morning kids show on Scottish television when I was growing up called Glen Michael's Cartoon Cavalcade which showed all of my favourites 😊

The bed I was on moved, jolting me away from thoughts of "what was Glen Michael's talking oil lamp called?" (it was Paladin 😊 I asked Hubby when I got home) and a voice said "sorry!" over the intercom 😊

After a few seconds, the bed moved again, feeding me through the scanner until most of my body was through it, up till just past my waist.  The scanner then started up, making a whirring sort of noise.  After another minute or so the bed moved with the scanner (or big polo mint as Hubby called it when I showed him the photo 😊) heading upwards towards my face.

I have to admit this did scare me.  I mean I'm sure there was nothing to be afraid of since it was being controlled by the smiling nurse in the other room but I found myself being reminded of the MRI I'd had a while ago.  Unlike the CT scan though the MRI scanner is a long, enclosed tube and since I don't cope well with enclosed spaces... well you can imagine honeys.

I decided I'd retreat to my safe place while the scan was going on and that's what I did.  If you've read my blog before dear ones you'll know that when life becomes overwhelming or I'm feeling anxious, I go upstairs, sit on the middle of the bed in our master bedroom and stare at my beloved canvas on the wall.  This is it...

What to expect during a CT scan - I closed my eyes and concentrated on my beloved canvas at home.
Isn't it beautiful?  I've stared at this canvas so many times over the last few years that I can, at least in my mind's eye, step into it, walk down those steps, kick off my shoes and sit on the beach, feeling the sand between my toes and listen to the waves.  This is my happy place when life becomes a little too much for me.

Lying on the scanning bed it did start to become a little too much for me to cope with, so I did what seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do.  I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing in and out and in my mind's eye I looked down those beautiful sand covered steps and walked down into my canvas.  I reached the beach below and walked a little, then sat down and watched Hubby throwing a ball for our furbaby Jade to fetch.  I happily watched them play fetch until the nurse re-appeared by my side and began to remove the tube from my arm 😊

"We don't often have smiles in here" the nurse said to me.  I must have been lying on the scanning bed with my eyes still closed and smiling when he came in 😊  "You should let more patients have their scans done on the beach then" I replied and he actually looked puzzled and his smile disappeared for a few seconds.

"Meditation is an amazing thing" I said to him "...and my happy place is on a sandy beach."  His smile re-appeared and he said "..that's a great idea."  He helped me sit up again (I have osteo arthritis in my spine) and fetched my cane, which he'd taken earlier, for me so that I could climb down from the scanning bed safely.  He then asked me to sit in the waiting area and a nurse would remove the needle from my arm.

During the scan itself honeys, I was aware of an electronic voice, coming from the scanner itself, which said "breathe in... hold"  followed by "breathe out" a few seconds later.  This happened twice as the scanner moved up and down and did it's work. It didn't hurt and the only bit I minded was that it interrupted, even if only for a few seconds, my watching Hubby & Jade having fun 😊

After the scan

Back in the waiting room with my little plastic bag containing my jacket, shirt & handbag, I sat down and almost immediately a nurse appeared, smiled and asked me to follow her.  Back we went to the two large curtained off areas, going into the other side this time.  Again I was asked to sit down and the nurse very quickly removed first the clear plaster and then the needle, both absolutely painlessly.

This was followed by a dressing being applied and taped on although to be honest honeys a tiny sticky plaster or band aid would have been enough. While she worked I said I was sorry I hadn't brought my camera with me to take a few photos of the scanner etc because I was planning on writing a blog post. The nurse told me she had considered writing a blog for her Granddaughter who lived down south in England.  She travelled to see her as often as she could and had kept a memory book for her full of photos and souvenirs, such as sea shells, charting their many adventures together

With the needle removed and the huge dressing on my arm, the nurse told me they normally asked patients to wait a little while to make sure the dye hadn't caused a reaction. She asked me how I was and I said I felt fine. She said if I was sure, I could go home if I wanted to.  I thanked her and told her she should try blogging, she'd love it, said bye and went back over to one of the tiny changing rooms, removed the gowns and got dressed again.

I went back out into the waiting area and said thank you to the two nurses there, said goodbye to them then went out into the corridor again.  I walked along to the main entrance of the hospital and sat down there to phone Hubby.  He'd taken the day off work to stay with Jade.  Our furbaby suffers terribly from anxiety and I knew we couldn't leave her for so long on her own, not for hours.

Jade is the reason I work late shifts at work.  Hubby works in an office and I was lucky enough to be able to move my shifts so that when she doesn't have her Mummy with her, she has her Daddy there.  She's our baby honeys, it doesn't matter one jot that she has four little feet instead of two, she deserves all of the love, care and attention we can give her.  If a tiny human suffered from the same anxiety issues any parent would do whatever their baby needed to make them feel safe too.

Hubby asked me how I was and I told him I was OK but looking forward to being home again. He said to stay where I was and he'd arrange a taxi to pick me up and bring me home, which is what he did 😊  I felt very drained when I got home honeys.  This was all me though and nothing, I believe, to do with the scan.

I don't go out, I really don't.  Other than my two shifts each week at work I only go out when I have an appointment at our Doctor's surgery or at the arthritis clinic I attend.  I have very low reserves of energy dear ones and going out really does exhaust me.  I regularly lose a whole day, and for a few months now it's been almost two days, after my shifts at work each week.  It's more than worth it through to still be able to work and to be able to connect with others outside in person.  I adore my little job, I'm not doing anything important but I hope I share smiles while I do it 😊

Reflecting on my experience at the scan unit

While pondering my experience of having a CT scan done, several things jump to mind.

  • It didn't hurt. Not a single bit, not having a needle inserted for the dye, not the scan itself, nothing hurt, it was fine. 
  • The friendliness of the nurses in the unit, they really were all very friendly, and did try to make me feel at ease the whole time I was there. 
  • How quickly it was all done and over with.  Seriously, you've probably spent longer reading this post than I spent, from beginning to end, with the nurses in the unit. 
  • It wasn't the most fun I've ever had, but then medical tests never are.  If I ever have to do it again though I won't be at all nervous because now that I know what happens and how easy it all is, I'll be fine.  Knowledge is power honeys, which is why I'm writing this post.  If it can help someone else not be as anxious as I was, it will have been worth writing I hope.

More to read  

Like I said knowledge is power, it's difficult to be scared of something if you know all about it.  I've managed to find some links for you.

There is a very good downloadable pdf booklet from the Radiology Info site for patients which you can find here  Interestingly enough it shows a lady being "fed" into the scanner head first, where the one I was put on, my feet went in first.

There's an excellent information page from the NHS on CT scans which can be found here.

Another good information page from Net Doctor can be found here.

Getting my results back

As promised, the Doctor I saw at the hospital telephoned me during the latter part of Friday afternoon to give me the results of my scan.  He said there was no sign of pneumonia in my lungs, and that there was no need to worry about the "anomaly" on my lung. He did say there was inflammation in my airways indicating that I may have bronchitis.

I told him that after sitting in his waiting room, surrounded by ill, coughing people and having almost banished my cough after 3 months, it was back with a vengeance and I'd had to be given an antibiotic and a steroid.  He apologised, bless him, and said that was the trouble with hospitals, they were full of ill people 😊

I have an appointment later this week with my own GP, who will have gotten the results back too.  I need to find out if he knows what this "anomaly" is on my lung.  If there's something growing on my lung I'd like to know what it is.  As I said at the beginning of this post, I have a great GP and I'm sure he'll explain what it is and if I have to do anything about it.   

Have you ever had a CT scan honeys?  What was your experience like?  If you're planning to have one I hope this has taken some of the anxiety away and given you a little peace of mind.  Any worries though should always be discussed with your Doctor.

Till next time dear ones, be happy, be well, smile lots and hug even more, huggles always xx

Huggles Always, Rosie xx

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