I left the last shred of my dignity sitting on the table in radiology.
Because that was where weeks and weeks of pent up biting my tongue and refusing to cry all poured out along with the contrast solution during my HSG. I had a panic attack. I sobbed hysterically. Which is actually very appropriate, given the origins of the word ‘hysteria’. I also learned that I have one of the world’s greatest doctors.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This morning I got up, showered, and started the water heating for coffee. I took some ibuprofen in preparation. I got dressed. Really, like any other morning, except for the nerves.
I drove to the hospital. Parked the car. Walked in the door. Got directed to Women’s Imaging. Smiled at the friendly receptionist, who took my file and had me verify my name and birthday. She looked at the schedule. “Oh, I think you’re in the wrong place,” she said. “You need to go to radiology.”
I thanked her, turned around, and went back out the door. Found radiology and went through the name and birthday routine again. Sat down in the chair, tried to read my book, and rolled my eyes as I watched Kelly Ripa trying on expensive dresses for the Oscars. Got unaccountably hacked off at Kelly Ripa, because how dare she walk around giggling about how nice this designer dress was or staring at her incredibly thin, toned body in the mirror when I was here wondering if I’d ever have a baby and having gained ten pounds from all the stress eating.
I was called back by a very nice radiology technician. She showed me where to get changed, and then showed me the equipment they would use. I nearly threw up right then and there when I saw the catheter. Somehow I’d thought it would just be a tiny, thin tube, but it looked like a very tiny foley catheter with the inflatable balloon and everything. Having to get a foley placed is one of my weird, irrational fears that I developed in nursing school. I grimly joked to the technician that I had always devoutly hoped that if I had to have a catheter placed, I would be unconscious.
At this point, I went into the bathroom and stripped from the waist down. A real, cloth gown was provided, which made me weirdly happy, because I hate the paper ones. I sat down on the radiology table and was given a real cloth sheet that actually draped instead of tearing like the paper ones. The technician and I shot the breeze for a little bit.
Dr. B. (one of my OB/GYNs) came in, explained the procedure and then we got down to business. There were no stirrups on the radiology table, so I bent my knees, put my heels together, and let my hips fall open. There was a little cramping as the catheter slid in, but then all of a sudden, there was pain. A lot of pain. I yelped, mostly in surprise, and that was when the full-blown panic attack kicked in. I started sobbing uncontrollably, because that was the only thing I could do that didn’t involve leaping off the table.
The technician squeezed my hand. Dr. B adjusted the catheter, and the pain went away, but the panic attack, having started, was going nowhere. I buried my face in the crook of my elbow and continued sobbing uncontrollably while telling everyone to go ahead with the procedure, I was fine, really, I was. No one was convinced that I was fine, but we decided to continue.
The radiologist came in and tried to introduce himself, but I continued sobbing and kept my eyes covered in the crook of my elbow because I was so embarrassed to be behaving like this that I couldn’t bring myself to look at him. The contrast went in. It actually didn’t hurt at all, maybe just a tiny bit of cramping. Then I heard these words: “Can you turn a little? We can’t see the dye spilling through the right tube.”
Instant rekindling of complete panic, because now my worst nightmare is suddenly starting to come true. I roll around on the table as directed. Dr. B tries to reassure me. The technician helps me and gently keeps reminding me to breathe in between sobs. Everyone is incredibly nice. I can feel the adrenaline rocketing through me and now even though I really want to, I can’t stop sobbing or hyperventilating.
I finally uncover my eyes and see the radiologist shaking his head. “I didn’t see the dye spilling through that right tube.”
I thought I’d already lost it, but I was wrong because now I really lose it. Tears are pouring down my face, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I’m dimly aware that I’m mostly naked on a hard slab and all I’m hearing is NO DYE. THERE’S NO DYE. OH DEAR LORD IN HEAVEN THERE’S NO DYE.
Dr. B and the technician remind me to breathe. I can’t. I finally manage to get a deep breath, and the technician helps me sit up and finds me a Sprite and some tissues. “I don’t think the tube is blocked,” Dr. B says gently. “I think it went into spasm. It’s nice and thin, and if it were blocked, we’d expect to see a bulge where the dye stopped in the tube. It’s inconclusive. But I really don’t think your tube is blocked.”
Everything explodes out. That my one long friendship is in conflict due to a pregnancy. That I’m nervous about seeing the RE in a couple of weeks. I’m terrified because what if that tube is blocked, and that might mean IVF. And now we’ll have to do the HSG again because it was inconclusive and how am I going to do another HSG? What if I wind up having to do IVF. Every tear I’ve refused to cry is now pouring down my face, much to my complete horror.
Dr. B reassures me again that she really, really doesn’t think the tube is blocked. She’s extremely kind to me, as is the technician holding my hand. The radiologist has quietly slipped out because at this point, he’s not involved any longer.
Dr. B goes above and beyond to make sure I’m okay and get home safely. And when I say above and beyond, I mean, above and beyond. Totally qualifies for world-class doctor status. Really and truly, I’m going to be writing one heck of a thank-you note. It’s that quality of kindness and caring that gets people through this stuff and she was great.
Really, the procedure itself wasn’t bad for me. Except for that one painful minute or so, the physical discomfort was a lot like what I expect when I go for a pap smear. Right now, I’ve got a little bit of cramping that feels like mild menstrual cramps. It was the emotional aspect that got to me.
I go back Wednesday for the sequel.