Terror in the CT

It sounds like the title of a very bad B movie. I could only wish it were that. But the title totally captures last Monday morning.

The doctor decided he needed a chest CT to rule out “other things”. Don’t ask what “other things” might have been. It’s a question I didn’t even want to ponder. Yes. Call me Cleopatra. I’m the queen of denial.

So Sunday night, the nurse tells me nothing to eat or drink from midnight on. Okay… that freaked me out just a bit. A CT really is nothing more than an over-glorified x-ray. Next morning, they put in another IV port. Okay.. An over-glorified x-ray I kept telling myself.

So about 10:00 AM I walk down to radiology. The nice tech makes me lie down on the table. He then starts by putting a strap across my middle. Okay. I won’t fall. I promise. But better safe than sorry I guess. He then puts another one across my thighs. I feel the anxiety beginning to rise. I don’t like to be tied down. I was doing my best to try to breathe. Not an easy feat lying down when you can’t breathe sitting up. Then he puts another strap across my knees. And then another one across my ankles. Not good at all. I was almost to the point of panic. I just kept trying to tell myself that nothing bad would happen.

He then takes my arms and stretches them up over my head. Each wrist gets a strap as does each elbow. I swear I thought I was on some medieval torture device. At that point, I was doing my best not to scream.

He then starts the CT. It probably took five minutes tops. But it certainly felt like an eternity. At this point I’m thinking (sort of in the back of my mind) why the IV port. I wish I had never found out.

He brings out this contraption, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. He unties the hand with the IV port in it. He plugs me into whatever this machine was and straps my arm down again. I still don’t know what it pumped into my body, and I have a feeling I don’t ever want to know. He then says “pain”. All I could do was nod that I understood. I was already freaked out. And now he’s telling me “pain”. Great. Just freaking great.

He wasn’t lying about the pain part either. I thought my body was burning from the inside out. I’m not sure how long the second scan took. I don’t remember any of it aside from those first few seconds of burning. I don’t know where I went. And I really don’t want to know.

The next thing I remember I was back in bed and crying. A very nice nurse had given me an injection of some sort of benzo a few minutes before and was trying to calm me down. At least she pulled the curtains around my bed so the 4 Korean grandmothers in the room couldn’t see me.

I couldn’t tell this poor nurse what was wrong because we had about six words in common that were useful. And even if I could have told her, I was too ashamed to do so. I was ashamed of my reaction then and there as well as ashamed of the flashback.

For whatever reason, this is the one memory from growing up that I have yet to write down any place. And in all the hours of therapy, I’ve never shared it either. I don’t know why. It isn’t any “worse” than any of the other incidents from my childhood. I just don’t know why I can’t bring myself to write it down.

15 thoughts on “Terror in the CT

  1. What if you took a newspaper or another paper with lots of writing on it, and in a faint pencil wrote down this memory in the tiniest letters, across the printed writing? And as soon as you finish, you can burn it.

    Ugh for being tied down… glad you survived.

  2. that had to be such a triggering time, and we are sure most of us can fill in the blanks. i don’t know if they have any over there but you know those “magic” boards with the plastic pencil and you write or draw or whatever then lift up 2 sheets and the black disappears? you could write it there then erase it immediately just to get it out.

    peace and blessings


  3. Most Noble and Honourable Stanley the Scintillating of Leg over Wallop says:

    A friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself.

    Believe in your friend.

    I’ll always be here.

  4. Keith says:

    When you try your best but you don’t succeed
    When you get what you want but not what you need
    When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep
    Stuck in reverse.

    When the tears come streaming down your face
    When you lose something you can’t replace
    When you love someone but it goes to waste
    Could it be worse?

    Lights will guide you home
    And ignite your bones
    And I will try to fix you

    And high up above or down below
    When you’re too in love to let it go
    But if you never try you’ll never know
    “Just what your worth”

    Lights will guide you home
    And ignite your bones
    And I will try to fix you

    Tears stream, down your face
    When you lose something you cannot replace
    Tears stream down your face
    And I..

    Tears stream, down your face
    I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
    Tears stream down your face
    And I..

    Lights will guide you home
    And ignite your bones
    And I will try to fix you.

  5. Thank you both.

    I wish I knew what it was about this specific memory that’s holding me back. In some ways, that bugs me even more than the flashback/dissociation itself.

    I tried again yesterday on my break at work to start writing it down. My thoughts were it was better to do it when there are people around. Even if I can’t tell them what’s wrong, I wouldn’t be all alone.

    Maybe I’ll try to set up an online chat with a friend this weekend and tell him about it. He was incredibly supportive during the holidays.

  6. I can’t believe they didn’t tell you ahead of time the test would be like that. I’ve never had one but I know the procedures because of friend’s telling me. Each of them were told ahead of time. It’s bad enough knowing what’s coming but not knowing and getting hit like that would make it all much worse, I think. No wonder it triggered a memory, it sure would have triggered one for me!

    Hope you are feeling better now! And when you feel safe to share the memory, we’ll be here for support.

  7. I’m sure they do tell people ahead of time. Problem is that I speak virtually no Korean. I’m an ESL teacher living in South Korea. And the tech didn’t speak any English.

    I figure him telling me it would hurt was the best he could do.

    I’m definitely not upset with the people in the hospital. There was just a language barrier. It’s nobody’s fault.

  8. Oh man, first of all I laughed through most of it but I found myself rocking back and forth when you got further into the part about being tied up. Contraptions the likes of which you have never seen and him saying the word, “pain” are a humorous mask for the sure terror you felt. Mentioning the Korean grandmothers was a good mask of laughter to hide the fact that flashbacks can snatch you in a second and no matter where you are, who you’re with, the only thing you can seem to do is shiver and cry.

    Your entry is written very much in the way I wrote my experience with my own MRI where I had a panic attack. And the last MRI when they strapped me down I was okay UNTIL they put something over my face. That’s when I let myself dissociate, leave, so I could get the test done. Since these experiences are similar something tells me the aftermath of both are similar as well.

    You and me and a heck of a lot of other survivors laugh when we want to cry. It helps sometimes to laugh it off but its certainly okay to have the curtain pulled and let the tears flow.

    Smiles to you and yours,

  9. Austin,

    Until you said it, I didn’t even notice the use of “humor” in the post. I just don’t know how to deal with all this crap. It was the only way I knew how to write it.

    I tried talking to a friend last night, but I couldn’t. I haven’t been able to write down the memory that was triggered by the whole experience. And that pisses me off more than anything.

  10. I don’t suppose it would be easier to whisper the memory instead of writing it down? Or write it one word at a time on tiny scraps of paper?

  11. I don’t know.

    It’s something that needs to be tackled. But I don’t know if now is the best time.

    I’ll keep everyone’s suggestions in mind.

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