A cancelled scan is not ordinarily a big deal. I'm sure there are many of you reading this who have, from time to time, suffered the inconvenience of having scans, maybe even operations cancelled. But the thing was this. My scan was going to reveal the extent of my kidney damage over the last six years. It would determine whether or not I would be allowed to continue to urinate through the conventional body part. And it was cancelled because of a mix-up with a couple of porters.
What I perhaps should have known but did not was that porters have absolutely no authority to decide what time a patient can be taken for a scan. That's not that surprising. They are porters, not medical people and so to have them scheduling scans seems a stretch. What is surprising is that they don't seem to know this. They have no business offering anyone any more time to 'settle in' to a ward they have just arrived on. No matter how distressed and possibly terrorised the patient might be. And I was.
And so it was not long before the arguments began to rage. I was rather pointlessly (or so it seemed) trying to explain to the nurse that I did not refuse to go for my scan and that rather I was twice offered more time by the porters. There were more phone calls back and forth. The initial upshot was that since I had not gone at the agreed time, for whatever reason, my slot in the running order had been taken and the best they could do was fit me in first thing the next morning. It's understandable that they want to work to a strict schedule. They have lots of patients to see and very probably cannot afford to waste time waiting for me to decide when I am sufficiently calm to turn up. The first signs of a weakening in their stance comes when the nurse who had been making the calls offers me a CT scan. This will involve the tedious, painful ballache that is having more injections in my already Incredible Disappearing Veins but at least it would be done today.
No it wouldn't. Another bogus offer had been made. While they had room on their schedule to conduct a CT scan, they then informed me that actually this method of scanning was not recommended for patients who had damaged kidneys. Something to do with the dye they use when they are pricking holes in you. A part of me was relieved at not having to go through the whole human pin cushion thing but a significantly more sizeable part of me was further distressed at this news. It was around 3.00pm at this point. Under the terms of their offer I now had to wait another 18 and a half hours to find out my fate.
Another phone call was made to the lab. If the 10 minutes or so that it took was any barometer, the next 18 and a half hours were going to feel like several lifetimes. Yet finally it was worth the wait. The nurse came back and informed me that, miraculously, unfathomably given their previously adamant refusals, I would be able to go for my ultra-sound scan at 4.35 that afternoon. The chances of pissing through a hole carved into my person had not reduced any, but it was some comfort to know that I would not have to wait so long to get the news.
Shortly after the relative high (I was taking any encouragement on offer at that point) of getting my scan appointment back, there came the setback of another encounter with our friend the lady doctor from earlier. Mercifully she had not come to discuss my future toilet arrangements but instead to interfere with my genitals. And not in a good way. Quite matter-of-factly, almost cheerfully, she informed me that she needed to place a permanent catheter into my you-know-what. Why? Was this a rehearsal for what life might be about to be like, post-scan? The explanation was actually that they needed to monitor the flow of my water for a sustained period, maybe a day or two. So from the original prognosis of being in overnight until they could control the potassium, I was now resigned to at least the next 24 hours and probably 48 in the hospital. Not only that, but I would have to suffer the great indignity of having my knob grabbed by a twenty-something, smart-arsed female doctor who I had already decided I did not like. And it wasn't just the knob-grabbing I objected to, but also the insertion of a catheter which seemed roughly the size of a garden hosepipe. That had to hurt. It did.
There followed a pointless argument between myself and the doctor about my level of discomfort (both embarrassment and pain) as opposed to the level of necessity of the permanent catheter according to the urologist. I hadn't even got to speak to the urologist yet, but I was being assured by this doctor that the permanent catheter was the only real way to monitor my condition. It seemed odd to me that of all the many doctors who insisted on prodding me and asking me personal questions on my arrival, the one person they had not sent to investigate me personally was the urologist. Before I could think of an alternative the female doctor had me in her grasp and began inserting the hosepipe. She suggested I might feel a pinch, which was rather like telling Joan of Arc that she might start to get a bit warm.
When the porter arrived I did not hesitate this time. Interestingly they did not send either of the two who had contributed to my predicament. A third porter was tasked with the job. In truth, they could have sent Hannibal Lector to trundle me down to the scanning lab and I would have taken my chances of not being devoured with a nice chianti somewhere along the way. Getting on to the chair which was to transport me was not at all straightforward. With a permanent catheter inserted it was actually very complex. Wherever you go, it goes. Eventually I managed to clamber on to the chair and, carrying the most unsightly and humongous bag of what can only be described as my own piss on my knee, was wheeled off to have my long-awaited ultra sound. By the way, not only do porters not have the authority to schedule scans, they also don't see it as part of their job description to help you complete your journey to the lab. I was left in a corridor for a good five minutes before a member of staff came out to wheel me in to the scanning lab. Another dance with the piss bag ensued until finally I was on the table getting smothered in gel. I was relieved to note that it was not cold. Last time I had an ultra-sound the gel had been freezing cold, just adding to your anxiety and the feeling of wanting to be anywhere else but on that stretcher.
I was taken outside into the corridor a few minutes later, scan complete. Again I was made to wait for a porter to pick me up so we could make the undignified return journey of the wee carriers. An hour later something incredible happened. A man I seemed to recognise approached my bed and began to pull the curtain around it. Not a man I had seen since I was admitted, but someone from a hospital visit in the past. My old urologist. He walked nearer to address me and explained that he had seen the results of my scan. I winced inwardly and awaited all manner of possible calamities about to unfold. Except they never did. He told me that there had been very little damage to my kidneys since my last scan. He also said that a permanent catheter (for longer than the day or two that he also informed me that he had in fact ordered the female doctor to initiate) would be no good for me and that I should continue to use intermittent catheters. A permanent catheter would only increase the risk of infection in my case, he said. A wave of relief shot through me but I just felt drained, physically and emotionally after everything that had unfolded in the last 24 hours or so. What he could not tell me was how to stop the palpitations which I was still experiencing, although they had become something of a side issue. For that I would need to consult with the other doctors, including my new girlfriend.
I was not out of the woods just yet.