On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have CLL, a lazy kind of leukemia that so far has done nothing but raise my white blood cell count and cost my insurance company a ton of money. Last December I had to get a CT scan to check on some deeply buried lymph nodes and to get some blood work that’s complicated enough to make Abby Sciuto sit up and take notice.

The day before the procedures, I went to the lab and picked up 2 ounces of clear liquid along with an instruction sheet. I was to mix the liquid with a juice of my choice and drink it in three installments beginning a couple of hours before the procedure. I should have suspected something when the contrast came in a specimen bottle! That stuff was nasty! Even raspberry lemonade didn’t cover up the bitter taste, and regardless of what you see on TV, holding your nose while you drink it doesn’t help.

To make matters worse, they threw down the at-your-age card. Because they planned to inject me with an intravenous contrast in addition to the oral version, and because of my advanced age, I had to arrive 30 minutes early so they could draw blood and test my kidney function.

Dutifully, I followed instructions. I mixed my contrast cocktail and refrigerated it; I set my alarm at 5:15 and dressed in warm, comfortable clothes with no metal zippers, buckles, ornaments or underwires; I ate breakfast and took my regular meds before 6 AM; I drank the prescribed 8 ounces of yucky stuff at 7:15, 8:00, and 8:30; and I arrived at 9:00, ready to fill out paperwork and have my insides dyed and scanned.

After a suitable wait, the lab tech called my name and another lady’s name. We followed her through the door and down the hall as she issued a steady stream of instructions in both English and Spanish. Since the English instructions were the only ones I understood, I followed those, went to the second door on the right, and sat in the blue chair. After another suitable wait, the tech appeared, bared my left arm of its warm, comfortable sleeve, and slapped a recalcitrant vein into submission. She efficiently and almost painlessly inserted a picc line and withdrew an ounce or two of my aging blood, and left.

I assume my kidneys were deemed functional enough to withstand the coming ordeal, because after a while, another smiling lady appeared at the door and told me to follow her. Since she had on a lab coat and seemed to know what she was doing, I did. She led me to a room that contained a large donut shaped machine with a board sticking out of the hole. She sat me on the board, gave me some more yucky stuff to drink, and told me to lie down. The board moved in and out of the donut while a disembodied voice told me when to hold my breath and when to breathe. Halfway through the test, the smiling lady injected more yucky stuff into the picc line. It gave me a funny taste in the back of my throat and made me feel like I was peeing on myself.

When the CT ride came to an end, I tried to talk the tech into leaving the picc line in since I was going straight to the hematologist’s office to have more blood drawn, but she didn’t think that was a good idea. By the time I got to the doctor’s office, the picc line site was beginning to bruise, so the nurse tried the other arm. She got a vein, even though the pesky little thing tried to roll away, but no blood would come out. She returned to the original arm, but the picc line hole started bleeding. She finally found a vein in my hand that gave up the five vials of blood she needed, and I went home bandaged, bruised, and thoroughly tested.

Now, if I didn’t have health insurance, my PCP would probably have looked at my high white count and said something like We need to watch that. Come back in six months, and we’ll test it again. But then I would have missed all that fun, and all those nice ladies might not have a job.

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