This ultrasound was more soothing

April 14, 1997

The other day I had to have an ultrasound test on my neck, to show whether the lump that's hanging out in there is attached to my carotid artery or my jugular vein.

Cheery thought.

I considered the test a necessary evil, and because I was told it was painless I went rather cheerily to the medical suite at Robinwood Medical Center campus.

Actually, cheerily is a relative term. I should say I went in a better frame of mind than when I went for my CAT scan. That's because I KNEW what they do to you during a CAT scan. I've had one of them before.


I must say the CAT scan experience was better than the last time I had one several years ago, because my head was inserted under a large donut hole device, rather than in a small vice as it was the first time. And the voice in my ear was human, not mechanical like last time.

I'll never forget that deep, cold voice. "DO NOT SWALLOW...HOLD YOUR BREATH..." Do not swallow, cough, growl, bend, fold or mutilate. Easy for it to say.

Just try not swallowing when you know you can't. Just see if you can NOT swallow when they tell you that if you dare swallow they will unfortunately have to start the whole test over again. As soon as they tell you that, you have to swallow so bad you can't stand it. Then you panic, because you CAN'T or they will start this all over again.

Like I said, this time the CAT scan was infinitely more pleasant an experience, mostly because of the technician, who alertly recognized the look of stark terror in my eyes, and took pity on me.

She comforted and soothed and even when she couldn't find the vein in my left arm for the IV, she apologized profusely. When all that was done and the iodine dye did its rush job and I thought my groin was having the mother of all hot flashes, she explained that was perfectly normal and I shouldn't worry one little bit.

I liked her because she told me everything that was happening to me, in order of occurrence.

I firmly believe in the patient's right to know everything that is happening to him or her. I also firmly believe that whoever invented those little "gowns" with the weird armholes ought to be hung by their thumbs.

It is very embarrassing to come out of your little cubicle with both arms in one hole, and the gown's back in front. It's humiliating. I hate those gowns.

Anyway, I went to my ultrasound test with my normal curiosity, but little fear. After all, it was painless and I didn't have to take my clothes off and try to figure out how to get my arms in the right gown holes.

So I walked in the ultrasound room and stretched out on the table and let Stephanie do her thing. First she slathered my neck with a gel. "WHAT'S THAT?" I asked. She told me.

Then I heard these little button pushing sounds, and felt something crawling around on my neck, slowly. "WHAT ARE THOSE NOISES? WHAT'S THAT THING ROLLING AROUND MY NECK?" She told me. By this time, she probably hated me. I didn't care.

Everything went pretty well after that until she hit that spot on my neck. You know, the place that when touched makes you want to scrinch your head down to your shoulder. The place that when touched makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time.

"Ooooooh! Stop that! It makes me want to giggle," I almost said.

Of course I couldn't. After all, Stephanie might not have understood. And she was the one hovering over my exposed neck.

Thankfully, it wasn't long before she rolled away from that spot and headed for my jugular. I was just getting relaxed - after all, it was sort of like a mini-massage - when I heard a high pitched sound fill the room. Whooooooooosh, Whooooooosh...It sounded like a Roto-Rooter jet stream rushing through a sewer main at the speed of light.

I almost jumped off the table. "WHAT WAS THAT!!!!!" I demanded. "AM I HAVING A STROKE OR WHAT?"

Stephanie didn't miss a stroke with her ultrasound sensor thingie, which continued to crawl around my neck like a computer mouse in slow motion.

"No," she said calmly. "That is the sound of your blood rushing through your arteries."

Aha! Good news. My arteries were still open.

I came to the conclusion that doctors should rely solely on ultrasound for all medical diagnoses.

No pain, no nudity, a massage and sound effects. And no disgusting gowns.

What more could a patient ask . . . except a few questions.

Terry Tallbert is a Herald-Mail staff writer.

The Herald-Mail Articles