Radioactive, Part II

While I count down the final hours of the LID and toward the triumphant return of cheese to my diet, I thought I’d look back two days and recount my exciting time receiving my radioactive iodine treatment in the hospital. Prepare to be dazzled. (Oh, and sorry for the length of this post. I’m in isolation! I needed something to keep me busy.)

9:45 a.m. I eat half a cantaloupe before we leave for the hospital, knowing that I need to start fasting and won’t be allowed to eat anything for a few hours after getting my RAI dose. (In hindsight, I should have eaten some black bean salad, or anything without gobs of sugar. More on that later.)

11 a.m. Arrive at the hospital admissions desk, where they have no record of me being admitted that day. The admissions clerk: “Don’t worry, I’m sure it will probably work out.” Me, in my head: “Oh, lady, you have NO IDEA. Four weeks of diet prep for this! Tears! Difficult decisions!” Me, aloud: “Oh, I know it will work out. I’m having this treatment today.”

11:30 a.m. All worked out. The nuclear med department forgot to let admissions know, but I’m on the schedule. Now we need to wait for one of the four lead-lined rooms used for RAI treatment to open up and get prepped. Could be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. We play Yahtzee on our iPhones to kill the time.

12:30 p.m. A room is available! I’m surprised by how quickly this happened. Last time, I think we waited in the admissions area for three hours (without iPhones, if you can believe it). I’m oddly comforted by being brought to the oncology ward, where two of the hospital’s four rooms are located. The other two–one of which I was in the last time–are freakishly in the labor and delivery ward. I have no idea why there would be lead-lined rooms in the delivery unit, and I found (and continue to find) it odd that they’d put someone getting toxic radiation next to pregnant women and newborn babies, the two groups you’re told to avoid most while radioactive. Anyways, we are told it will be at least 2 p.m. before nuclear med comes up with my dose, so we settle in to watch such exciting TV as the Bonnie Hunt Show and Days of Our Lives on the hospital’s 12 cable channels. We also check out the lovely decorating job radiation safety has done in the room, covering every surface with blue paper and plastic. This includes the bed, the phone, and the TV clicker.

1-2 p.m. A variety of people come in and out of the room, including an endocrinologist on call for my regular doc, who has been called away by the FDA Commissioner to run the expert panel looking into Avandia, the nurse who gives me a precautionary dose of anti-nausea medicine (they really don’t want you puking up radioactive vomit), and my new friend from radiation safety, Clive, who will be in charge of monitoring my levels of radioactivity with a Geiger counter until I get to go home. Clive is the man about town. He knows everyone who walks by. This is apparently because he has worked at the hospital for 30 years. I wonder how much radiation he has been exposed to in that time.

2 p.m. I sign all sorts of forms, including one that has to go to the federal government where I swear to stay far away from people for a bunch of days. The nuclear medicine docs appear at the door with a lead-lined canister that includes my RAI dose and boot B from the room. He takes my street clothes home so I won’t have to throw them away. (Everything else I brought in gets held by the hospital for a couple of months until the radioactivity wears off, and then gets tossed.)

2:20 p.m. After verifying my name and birthdate roughly 57 times, all the docs leave the room, leaving me with one nuclear medicine technician and her scary looking canister. From it, she pulls out three pills that look as innocuous as a Tylenol gel-cap. Well, except that they aren’t. She reminds me again not to drop them. I swallow them, and she briskly leaves the room. (“Flees” might also be an appropriate word here.) But then the door opens again, and it’s my friend Clive, there to measure my immediate radioactivity. I’m at 24 units of whatever per hour. I need to be below 7 to go home. Then he flees, too, leaving me to my stack of magazines and daytime TV.

2:30 p.m. Might as well read People and how Bethenny’s baby saved her.

3 p.m. Yeah, yeah, Bethenny’s baby. Ellen is on. I’ll do word searches during commercials.

4 p.m. B calls, after going to Costco and stocking up on all sorts of dairy and commercially prepared bread products that have been absent from our house for a month.

4:30 p.m. I can eat! First things first: drink half a liter of seltzer and have a lemon drop. I need to eat a lemon drop (or other sour candy) every 15 minutes to protect my salivary glands from being damaged by the RAI. Except for the fact that I followed these directions the last time, and they still got fried. But I’m a directions-following kind of girl, so I pop a lemon drop.

5 p.m. Shower #1. I remember that I have brought big, fluffy towels from home that put the hospital towels to shame. If only I could have brought my own shower, too…

5:15-? p.m. Time rolls on by as I drink more water, eat more lemon drops, read Glamour, InStyle and Oprah, and surf hospital TV. Is there a reason why half of the channels in hospitals need to be devoted to shows like “Trauma: Life in the E.R.” and “Birth Day”? Why no HGTV? In related news, though, I’m now fully up to date on how to care for a newborn baby. Except that I’m not supposed to go near any for a while.

Evening. Get some phone calls, eat some more sour candies. Switch to LifeSaver gummies to save the roof of my mouth, but realize they make me feel sick. As does everything I brought to eat, mostly consisting of fruit. I realize I may never eat sugar again and am thankful that cheese returns to my diet soon. Showers #2, 3, 4. Another endocrinologist on call pops his head in (while the rest of his body is covered with a lead apron) to remind me to stay up as long as I can–even better if I can pull an all-nighter–to keep drinking water, eating sour candies and showering.

Overnight. I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to, what with the housekeeping staff vacuuming the hall at 2 a.m. I find old episodes of Sex and the City on TBS at 1 a.m. It’s just like my last isolation period!

Morning. Time to shower again. Clive said he’d be back between 9 and 9:30, and I’m determined to make it below 7. I want out of this place, to get back to the land of cell phones and laptops and satellite TV and Tivo and no more newborn baby shows.

9:35 a.m. Clive and his Geiger counter arrive. My reading: 7.4. That’s right. I was .4 units of whatever over. Argh! Back to the water and the shower. Clive will be back at 11:30.

11 a.m. Clive comes back early! But it’s a high risk-high reward visit. If I’ve dropped under 7, I get to go home. If not, he has to go do something in the nuclear med department and might be gone for a while. My reading: 5.6. I’ve punched my ticket home, but he recommends I take one more shower, “for good measure.” Just call me raisin from now on.

11:45 a.m. B comes back to drive me home. I walk far behind him, and then sit in the back passenger seat to keep my radioactivity as far from him as possible.

12:30 p.m. Home sweet home (known as the spare bedroom for the next week). Lots of Diet Coke–no more water!–and a long nap. Life after RAI sort of starts.

Friday, 10:50 a.m. Time for another shower. But soon, cheese!

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3 thoughts on “Radioactive, Part II

  1. I’m happy to read this, as I had been wondering… You make it sound so exciting!
    Ok, you don’t…it isn’t…but still.
    I am posting this from 2 blocks away. Don’t be surprised if you hear rocks against your window tomorrow!

  2. i read the same article about Bethenny’s baby saving her. and now you’re forever tied to her in my mind. i’ll think Bethenny, Michele, Bethenny, Michele. are you okay with that? 😉

    i’m glad you survived the day.

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