I’m Radioactive, Radioactive!


Apparently I snore.

It’s the day of my PET scan and I’ve been chauffeured (via ambulance) to a private hospital (la-de-dah!) in the hills of Wellington.

I get undressed and into the standard sort of hospital gown you wear for all sorts of procedures, lie down on a bed in one of the ante rooms and relax while being prepared for the scan.

The sugary, radioactive substance they inject you with for a PET scan is attracted to muscle movement, so lying down and resting ensures the liquid is attracted to major moving organs like, in my case, the heart rather than moving arms and legs. They actually prefer it if you have a bit of a sleep, so I oblige.

The transit nurses who accompany me to and from the scan tell me later I snored. Not obtrusively, but just enough to show I was happily out to it.

The scan itself is all rather standard and anticlimactic, in fact I just about doze off again!

I’m zipped and zapped and rolled in and out of what appears to be a giant, multimillion dollar, electromagnetic donut.

The most unusual part comes after the scan when I’m ushered into a (lead-lined) changing room (the doors in this place are all incredibly heavy) and told to wait in there for a while, as “You’re still a bit radioactive”.


A Wellington Free Ambulance takes us back to Wellington Hospital and I spend the rest of the afternoon sitting around, trying to ensure any temporary, radioactive-induced superpowers I may have acquired don’t irradiate anyone, make anything explode or accidentally microwave food by staring at it too hard.

We get there, sadly, without incident.

The day before the PET scan I was just about ready to start climbing the walls – Not through cabin fever (I was allowed to go for a wander into Newtown and get a shave and haircut at a barber shop a few days before), but just the lack of general exercise.

I want to run, I want to bowl, I’m feigning on and off-drives in the corridors because my arms and legs are getting bored from inactivity, but the ever-present fear of tachycardia returning limits what I can do.

I’m just about to ask the Cardiologist what exercises I can do when he notes there hadn’t been any sign of the VT for at least two weeks, so he’s sending me down to do a fitness test on a treadmill to see if the tachycardia returns under stress / exertion (of which there is sod all in daily ward life).

If I can survive the treadmill test without any arrhythmia it also helps make a good case for letting me go back home to Napier for Easter Weekend! The doctors are aware I’m far from home and missing my family, so every little bit helps.

So later that morning I’m wired up to heart rate monitors and put on a treadmill with a technician and a House surgeon keeping a close eye on me. The test is set to last about 15 minutes, with the treadmill‘s speed and incline increasing every few minutes.

I only make it to about six and a half minutes before my legs give up on me – Nothing heart related, just a lack of fitness and condition after spending the majority of two weeks sitting and lying around being inactive, which annoys me.

The up-side of the exercise, um, exercise is despite pushing the heart rate higher than it had been in weeks, there is no sign of tachycardia! This is a very good sign and gets me closer to home, if only for a while.

“Easter Thursday” arrives and, despite being told the results for the PET scan would take up to ten days, my Cardiologist is able to give me the results right away.

They are: Nothing.

We had been hoping that there was another, far more accessible growth like the one on my heart in me somewhere.

There isn’t.

Back to the cardio-thoracic drawing board.

On the upside PET scans are primarily used to detect cancer and the scan has detected nothing cancerous either, which is a good thing.

The heart surgeons will have another get together and figure out how they are going to do a biopsy on me, but that will take a few days and it’s a long weekend…

So they’re sending me home for Easter!

The Hawke’s Bay Air Ambulance is bringing someone down that afternoon, so I and three other HB patients get to hitch a lift back home on it.

Home at last!

Albeit for only a few days…

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