How a CT Scan ‘Near ‘Bout Killed Me. Seriously!

After you have cancer-schmancer, they’re always going on about annual re-testing, right?  So every now and again I have to go get a CT scan.  Totally routine.  I can’t even tell you how many scans I’ve done in my lifetime, too many to count.  It’s no big deal.

pretty sweet ct scan stock photo

here's the actual machine I was in. crappy snapshot i took with my iphone on my way out the door!

Today was one such routine re-screening CT Scan.  It was up at my favorite pretty pink monolith, Tripler Army Medical Center.  And as you read on, honestly, don’t let this freak experience be a reflection of the good people of TAMC; it was a weird thing and had nothing to do with the medical staff – if anything, they handled it well to keep things from getting really out of hand, and their insanely badass high tech gear swooped in and saved the day.

a weird and terrible snapshot that I took from the car today, you can kinda see the hospital on the hill

First of all:

I should have known today was going to be awful when I met my fancy doppelgänger in the waiting room. 

I never wear metal to CT scans (so I don’t have to change into a gown, or a blue sweatsuit like the gentleman in that stock photo I posted above).  Of course this means I was wearing seven layers of clashing, brightly colored cotton.  The main gist of my outfit being polka dot leggings with a striped baby doll top.  Nice!

In walks this girl, who had the exact same ‘do as me, in the exact same way (messy black crazy hair piled on top of her head).  Wearing capris and a tunic – our silhouttes were exactly the same, same pant length, same billowy top, flip flops.  We looked really similar, except everything of mine that was threadbare, her’s was embellished.  For every friendship bracelet I wore, she had on a Yurman.  I had my usual beatdown Rainbows, she these pretty beaded and metallic sandals.  Full face of make up, gigantor diamond bling ring and (I think) fake eye lashes.

It was so wack – we could have been sisters.  But she was so … fancy!  I wish I would have discretely snapped a pic, sigh!

As soon as Bizzaro-me walked in, I should have taken it as a sign.

I should have, but then a lady bug landed on me.  YES.  In the bowels of TAMC, way way back in radiology, without so much as a window in sight, a ladybug found me.  So I thought the universe was cool with me.   Lady bugs are good luck, duh!

The Part Where I Almost Die, A Couple Times:

To do the CT scan, they have to give you an IV.  They use it for contrast to help the scans show more detail.  I’ve always found this detail of the procedure very annoying.

You should know, I HAVE DREADFUL VEINS.

The average blood draw takes at least three attempts.  A recent visit took seven.  Starting an IV is even worse.  My veins are very very tiny, they roll and move; worst of all – they are scarred, badly.

IV Attempt #1

The kind gentleman puts on the tourniquet.  Ya know that icky-cut-off feeling your hand gets while the tourniquet is on?  I get that feeling.  He goes to stick the needle in, and that dead-hand feeling gets magnified.  He sees the flash (the spurt of blood indicating that he has in fact, struck a vessel), he pulls out the needle.

Mistake: he tries to “float” the cath in.  Bad move.  My veins move too much, floating always hurts and it’s never fruitful.

So anyways, that weird I-can’t-feel-my-hand-feeling magnifies.  He’s removed the tourniquet though, so I don’t understand why the blood flow isn’t returning.  I start to feel “weird.” He notices.

He asks if I’m okay.

I insist I am.


I have had more IV sticks, blood draws, you name it, than one could count: hundreds, literally!  I’ve had hours and hours of tattoo work, surgeries, etc.  I have never ever passed out.  Never!  But today was my day… and I was going down fast.

He had to bust out the vapors. Smelling salts! Ammonia.

I felt like such a swooning damsel circa Scarlett; today Tripler was my Tara.

it probably looked JUST like this

He waved the ammonia under my nose, and things got better.  I honestly have no idea what happened.  It was just so weird.  And I kept repeating that over and over again, “this is so weird.”  I just felt all clammy, shaky, yucky.

He insists that for the second IV attempt, we’ll wait till I’m on the table – so that I’m lying down, so if I pass out again I don’t get hurt.  I was so embarrassed. But I mean, I didn’t want to pass out and fall down.

I’ll admit, during the whole thing – my hand was, well, it was dying.  It was purple and I couldn’t feel it.  It felt like every time your hand “falls asleep” times a million, and nothing I did would get that blood flow back.  I thought I was Captain Hook in the making, Johnny Tremaine (well, he’s just a welded hand… not total loss from elbow down).  I had this whole scenario flash before my eyes in which I was going to lose my hand.  And then the other part was being way too specific about it – wondering, how are they going to fix this? what do they do to get the blood to go back into my hand? how long will I be in the ER? who will take JJ outside? how can I text Duggs to tell him what’s happening if my hand is dying? and so on.

My mind was swimming in the minutia.  But it all happened in a minute or two.

On to attempt on my life #2:

hey where the party at

I move to the procedure room, with the CT machine.  I’m on the table and he goes for IV attempt number two.  Tourniquet.  Needle.  Flash.

Then the dreaded phrase… “Umm, (so-and-so), could you hand me ehhm, that towel? Yeah? Thanks…”

Why is the man starting my IV in need of a towel?

The room I’m in is freezing.  So they’ve bundled me in these blankets.  I’m laying down on this narrow gurney, the one that will slide in and out of the CT machine.  So when he’s starting my IV, I can’t really see what’s going on.  I can feel, but it just feels normal.

So why the towel?

He accidentally punctured an artery. 

IVs = intra-VENOUS.  Vein, not artery.  He went in the wrong vessel, and according to him, “bright red blood was spurting out… spraying in rhythm with your pulse.”

So cool!

Except not when it’s happening to me.

He had to hold pressure for 25 minutes to get it to stop bleeding.  He was so embarrassed.  Poor guy, rough day on the job for him.

Don’t worry, those were the only attempts on my life.  But the fun didn’t stop.

They called in another guy to try and start an IV for the third time.  He missed, of course.  But not without taking his sweet time, flicking and smacking my arms, leaving the tourniquet on for unbearable amounts of time, and sassing me!

I TOLD him not to go where he went.  I KNOW which veins suck… tsk tsk.  Not my fault.

So yeah.  He tried in the exact same spot that attempt #1 happened.  Not only is that slightly uncomfortable (yeah, they literally ripped the bandage off and went rooting around in the same spot, again with the obscene “floating” technique)… but that weird dead hand happened again.

This time I didn’t pass out though.  Close.  I got fuzzy and tunnel vision, but no big dramatic moment.

I still can’t figure it out.  My dad says maybe it was arterial on that side too?  Maybe I had some weird reaction and my B/P just dropped?  I have VERY VERY low blood pressure anyways.  Not eating all day probably didn’t help.  So that makes sense.   And they did go in the same spot twice.

I’m just glad I didn’t pee my pants.

How they redeemed themselves?

A nice lady came in with a fancy portable ultrasound.  She was able to see where my veins were, and she got one started.  In my upper arm, 1.75 centimeters deep!

I know what you’re thinking: that sure sounds freakishly deep for an IV. 

Oh. It is.  She could only find the vein that deep with the special equipment, and she had to inject lidocaine into my arm to go in that deep.  It was absurd.  She was very nice, and honestly, I was just glad to be on with it.

there's the super long cath held up next to my hand afterward. the tech let me take a pic, and we used my hand to compare the size. that was in my arm, eww!

What a WEIRD day.

So finally, after an hour of trying to start an IV – the CT scan was on.

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!

here i am leaving, getting out of there as fast as i can!

Ultimately, I escaped today’s routine procedure with life and limb.   I ran out of there and hurried home so I could eat.  That kind of fasting is just torture on me.

Figured I would share the ever dramatic and exciting events of my life.  I don’t have any results of the scan yet, but I’m assuming/predicting it will be just fine.  I have nothing to tip me off as to otherwise, and it was just routine.  (I try not to dwell on these kinds of things too much these days, because re-tests of any sort used to send me into a tizzy).

That’s all for today.  Enjoy your weekend everyone!

xoxo, hhr


11 responses

  1. That’s so crazy! I’m glad everything turned out okay but that’s nuts. I feel for you on the vein thing, mine suck really bad too and I know exactly what part of my arm and which part of my hand will give them success but a lot of the time they don’t think I know what I’m talking about. In the past 2 years I had blood drawn and IVs a ton and only ONCE did they get it on the first try. When I had my D&C, it took 4 people and 7 sticks to get my IV in. I had bruises on the inside of both arms, tops of both hands and a nice one in the center of my forearm too. I always feel bad for the doc/nurse who gets stuck with me and warn them ahead of time.
    I’m glad you’re okay!

    • i can’t believe how many people our age have such bad veins. well, you’re younger than me, but you kwim.

      i’m so sorry you have to deal with the frustration and pain too! ugh. it’s awful. seven sticks is crazy. next time they fail after a couple tries, ask for that machine – maybe they’ll have one/a special IV team.

  2. First, I’m so glad you are alive and well!
    Second, I’m so sorry you have to go through crap like this. Praying “never again!”
    Third, I wish you could have snapped a pic of both of you, partly to see you side by side, and partly because now I’m curious about the outfit you had on– polka dots and stripes!
    Finally, perhaps that “ladybug” was Rita Skeeter. Did you get a good look at the eyes?

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