Sunday, September 16, 2007

Trust Me

Of course I parked on the opposite side of the hospital from where I needed to go. There are two of them in this town, and I’ve learned to factor in time for getting lost when I time my arrival for a test. I can’t keep the layouts straight, and I’m rather glad is hasn’t gotten to the point where I have mental blueprints of our local hospital designs in my memory bank. I don’t care to know my way around them. If I make it to sixty without becoming that familiar with them, I won’t complain.

An indoor mile or so later, I arrived where I was supposed to for a “solid phase gastric emptying study.” I showed my picture ID and insurance card to two window people then sat in a small waiting room. I had just enough time to write down the names and dosages of my meds, which I’d dumped in a tote before leaving my house. They always want a list of meds, and I always forget to write one out the night before. Well, I need to have some non-compliance. After all, I’ve conceded to the point where I keep a bag in my closet, packed with an extra toothbrush, pajama bottoms, etc., in case my heart goes wonky enough to need a sudden ER trip. I think that’s a fairly strong admission of guilt regarding my health.

Just as, my list dutifully finished, I was sneaking out of the waiting room to find a Ladies, a young man with remarkably red hair called my name. I followed him and he, Michael, let me use the lab restroom before beginning the test. Soon enough I was sitting where he told me to sit.

“Did you take a pregnancy test,”Michael asked.
“I don’t know. Don’t you? I went and got the lab work done that Dr. Evans ordered.”
“Did they do a pregnancy test?”
“Maybe. They took blood and urine, so they probably did.”
“I need to see documentation.”
“I don’t have any. They didn’t give me anything.”
“You could have asked them.” He looked upset.
“No one told me to ask and anyway I couldn’t possibly be pregnant.”
“I need documentation that you are not pregnant if you are under sixty.”
“Trust me, if there were any chance, I wouldn’t lie about it. I might even put the news on the front page of the Herald Tribune.”

I like red hair, and his was a beautiful sugar-maple-in-Vermont color, but I don’t envy redheads their complexions. His neck and face were getting blotchy from annoyance with me. A woman, my age, sitting on a stool at a long counter, turned to us.

“Let her sign the waiver, Michael. You won’t get in trouble. She’s not pregnant.”
“Yes. Let me sign the waiver. I’m quite sure I know the facts of life-it’ll be fine.”

The woman smirked and went back to her paperwork.

The unsmiling tech handed me the paper, which he had ready on his clipboard (I suspected I wasn’t the first woman to arrive for this test without proof that she wasn’t pregnant) and I signed, my conscience clear.

He pointed to a paper towel covering a lump that was sitting on a side table which was covered with more paper towels.

“Underneath this towel are some scrambled eggs, with just a tiny bit of nuclear material mixed in with them. You won’t even taste it. What we’ll do is, you’ll eat the eggs and then lie under a machine and we’ll film their progress through your system for ninety minutes. Now when you eat the eggs, please be careful that you don’t spill any on the table, the floor or your clothes, because then the radioactive material will get spilled, too. Uh, it's best if you lean right over the bowl while you're eating." Michael's smile flashed briefly. "Ready?”

“Yes. Sure.”

With that he quickly slid the table in front of me, waited while I covered myself with napkins as he directed, and whisked the paper towel off a little Styrofoam bowl. Michael disappeared as soon as he exposed the eggs. Salt and pepper packets sat next to the bowl. They glowed intensely yellow, but I ate them, without seasoning. After all, I wasn’t having a meal, really, was I?

Michael, somewhere out of sight, called out asking me if the eggs were gone, and when I shouted my assent, he came back and directd me to lie on a narrow table. He covered me with a thin blanket against the sixty-five degree room temperature and left me under the nuclear scanner for an hour and a half. Not a bad test, really. I dozed, and even had a radioactive dream.

Hopefully they’ll find that the eggs followed the usual routine in leaving my stomach, without being held up by a nasty obstruction, and I’ll be able to wait in peace two more weeks until they do the biopsy of my uterine lining. It’s gotten thick, you see, and it shouldn’t have. I’ve done with the child-bearing part of my life. Honest. I’m not pregnant.

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