Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ready for My Close-up

This morning, Zach and I headed over to the nuclear medicine department at the hospital for a little fun known as a MUGA (pronounced "MUGG-a" scan. MUGA (or, more accurately, MuGA) stands for multi-gated acquisition.

Yeah, I don't really know what that means either.

And, yes, I did ask the technician to explain it.

Here's the layperson's version of what it is:

First, you go to the wrong building. Then you are sent to the right building, but to the wrong room. Finally, you land in the right place, where it is approximately 86 degrees. So you immediately strip off your down jacket, scarf, and fleece. This helps very slightly.

Then you wait for someone to come out from the back and call (by which I mean, of course, mispronounce) your name. Then you and your incredibly handsome husband go into a conference room in the back, where a medical resident explains the procedure to you (sort of) and you sign the consent form.

Then you go back to the waiting room. This is a small space with 10 chairs in a U-shaped configuration and a TV set above the right-hand arm of the U. The TV set is playing "Guiding Light." You take out your magazine but find it impossible to read given the noise of the TV right above your head and the sauna-like temperature. You get a headache from both. Later, you will remember "Guiding Light" with fondness. Really.

Eventually (you have lost all track of time at this point) a friendly phlebotomist will call (mispronounce) your name and take you and your incredibly handsome husband to another room down the hall. She will speak to you in a thickly accented English. You will think she is Dutch. In fact, she will be from Georgia (the former Soviet Republic, not the Peach State).

You will wait while she finds someone to serve as a witness. Then you will recite your name and birthdate, twice, and wait for each of them to sign some document that will protect them and the hospital if you turn out to be some sort of impostor. Because, of course, lots of people try to fake their way into nuclear medicine departments to have MUGA scans. Right.

You will tell the friendly phlebotomist that the veins in your arm are shot and that she will probably have to use one at your wrist or on the back of your hand. She will not believe you. Eventually, after tying a tourniquet around your upper arm and asking you to pump your fist a few dozen times, she will see the light. She will untie the tourniquet, move it down to your writst, and stab you on the back of your hand. (I mean stab in the nicest, gentlest possible way.)

On the bright side, she will get your vein on the first try. Then she'll take out 2cc of your blood (not very much), remove the needle, apply a [insert generic name for Band-Aid here] and tell you to apply pressure for a while. She will tell you that a technician is going to tag the blood with a radioactive substance, after which it will re-injected into your vein. She will say that it will take half an hour. (Don't believe her.)

Then she'll send you back to the waiting room, where a woman sitting across from you will get up and change the channel from "Guiding Light" to "Maury Povich." You will get to hear (but not really see) a man try to convince his girlfriend that he did not, in fact, sleep with any of her friends or family members. Maury Povich will announce that a lie-detector test backs up these claims. The girlfriend then promises to abandon her suspicions, at which point, on cue, the man drops to his knee (you can kind of see this out of the corner of your eye) and proposes. Then a voice-over will solicit other couples who need a lie-detector test to prove or disprove infidelity to be future guests on the show.

Just when you are giving thanks that "Maury Povich" is over, "The Jerry Springer Show" will come on. His guests will be a wife and mother of four whose husband has been having an affair and—you guessed it—the other woman. They have what can only be termed a catfight against a backdrop of cheering and jeering from the audience and the sound of a boxing-match bell ringing every so often. You will calculate the chances of retaining any brain function if the channel is not changed. Then you will very politely ask the other five people in the waiting area whether anyone would object to the channel being changed. You will hold your breath. No one will object. You will exhale.

Your incredibly handsome husband will get up to change the channel, and the woman sitting closest to you will request "Martha Stewart," whose guest will be Bette Midler. Your incredibly handsome husband will comply.

You will think that anything will be an improvement over the last three selections when a voice-over announces that on today's show, viewers will learn how to make a Halloween costume of a witch using nothing but garbage bags and duct tape. You will despair for your soon-to-be-lost brain function. You will try to read your New Yorker. You will fail.

A different woman will then start a trash-talking campaign to get the channel changed back to "Jerry Springer." This will happen even after the woman at the front desk has walked over and announced that it is against hospital policy to tune the TV set to whatever channel carries "Maury Povich" and "Jerry Springer" because those shows are not relaxing for people about to have the tests they have traveled to the nuclear medicine department to undergo. Your incredibly handsome and diplomatic husband will manage the situation so skillfully that "Jerry Springer" is not heard from again.

Eventually, the friendly Georgian phlebotomist will come calling (mispronouncing) once again, and you and your incredibly handsome husband will return with her to the tiny room where she will once again have to find a witness to confirm that you are the same person you were an hour ago when she first confirmed it. Everyone will sign another form, and she will re-inject you with your newly radioactive blood. While she is doing this, she will ask you if you have children and then, in a misguided effort to be sensitive, tell you that you will absolutely be able to have them after you have finished the chemo. Then she will use about five strips of tape to secure a piece of gauze to the spot on your hand where she has stabbed you a second time. Then you and your incredibly handsome husband will be escorted across the hall to the room where the actual test will happen.

There, you will be asked to lie on a long, thin table. You will not have to change into a hospital gown. (This will seem like a major coup.) Three electrodes will be attached to your chest and stomach by one of the two trainee-technicians, who will then try to convince your incredibly handsome husband to leave the room because you are giving off radioactivity. (Translation: she prefers not to learn in front of an audience.) He will gallantly elect to stay after confirming that there is not, in fact, any real danger.

You will be instructed to stay perfectly still while a camera is positioned at an angle above you and the first of three studies is done. The trainee-technicians will figure out how to use the remote control for the table and camera with only a couple of missteps. You will try in vain to nap during the seven-minute study.

One of the trainee-technicians will then re-position the camera so that it is directly above your head. You will watch with concern as the camera comes uncomfortably close to your face, but you will not flinch. Much. Then you will spend seven minutes trying not to develop claustrophobia.

For the last study, one of the trainee-technicians will move the camera back over to your left side. You will lean your left arm up against it for a five-minute study. When it is over, the technicians will have a three-dimensional view of your heart and be able to measure your cardiac function. Your oncologist will use this information to determine whether it is safe to give you a new drug that is very effective against some breast-cancer tumors (like yours) but carries a cardiac risk. Assuming your heart is working just fine, you will be given the drug (Herceptin) for the next year and will repeat this test every three months to make sure that there are no ill effects.

You will then be escorted to the waiting room while a doctor quickly checks the studies to make sure they were done correctly. You will get to hear Bette Midler sing one more song before you are finally free to go.

Total time in the nuclear medicine department: three hours.

Total time not sitting in the waiting room: 45 minutes, tops.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Zach IS incredibly handsome and I have never been able to pronounce "Jody Rosen Knower" either. It's tricky.

December 29, 2005 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody, does this mean you WON'T be trick or treating next year as the duct-taped witch o' the garbage heap?

December 31, 2005 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, a bit late on the scene here....
for some reason, didn't get the blog to come up the other day, so I thought you hadn't started it. Fortunately, checked again today--
this is tooooo hilarious!! I had a MuGA done years ago, and I can tell you, I didn't have nearly the "fun" you did. Probably because it only took about 20 min., cuz back then they didn't care about paperwork, liability, or who you were, etc. On the other hand, I did have to pedal a stationary bike upside down. And I did not have an incredibly handsome husband with me.
So, congrats!

January 4, 2006 5:11 PM  

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