Who Writes These Instructions?


On Friday, December 21st, I had a diagnostic pelvic ultrasound in an attempt to determine why my ovaries (or something else in that region) have been giving me so much trouble of late. The appointment, unfortunately the soonest one I could get, came nearly four weeks after I experienced what I can only describe as feeling like a burst ovarian cyst or a moderately-sized firecracker. By the time my appointment finally rolled around, the major pain had faded and left only a dull, heavy feeling that I only noticed intermittently on my lower right side.

Booking an ultrasound appointment is strange for a woman my age, and arranging the time off work to attend one can be awkward. People immediately assume I’m going for gestational testing, even those who are aware I haven’t had a uterus in only five years, and start asking about due dates. What do you say to these people, who are well-intentioned by highly-aggravating? Sometimes I consider having a t-shirt made that announces my status as a former, rather than present, potential fetal landlady, so people just stop asking me already.

When I called to book my appointment, the woman on the other end of the line reminded me to follow the pre-test preparations exactly as they appeared on the back of the requisition form. Two days before my appointment, an automated system called to remind me of the date and time reserved for me, and to reiterate the importance of following all the steps in preparing for the scan.

Let me spell out for you the directions I was given, and explicitly told to follow by both a real person and a computerized “person.” According to the form and the women, I was to drink 1500 ml of plain water, and I was to finish the whole quantity a full hour before my appointment time. That is a litre and a half of water. That is three quarters of a big bottle of Pepsi. That is utterly insane. Theoretically, the people who make up these crazy instructions are medically-trained individuals, and I can’t see any intelligent person believing a human bladder is capable of holding that amount of fluid.

I rarely break the rules, but I did not drink 1.5 litres of water. I am a person who, especially since my hysterectomy, pees a zillion times a day, and who cannot drink more than a glass of anything without needing to visit the bathroom. I choose to believe I have very efficient kidneys, since I seem to process fluids faster than anyone I know, but it’s possible I also have a wimpy bladder. Thankfully (very thankfully) I don’t struggle with incontinence, but I certainly do spend a lot of my time planning for pee breaks.

I calculated what I thought I could handle holding before my ultrasound appointment. I expected I could manage a single bottle of water, 500 mL, and I planned to finish it 30 minutes before the testing was supposed to start. Luckily for me, The Electrician finished work and hour early and volunteered to drive me the 20 minute trip to the clinic, so I could just focus on holding my bladder rather than negotiating afternoon traffic on the last Friday right before Christmas.

By the time we were five minutes from the dollhouse, mired in heavy traffic, I had to pee desperately. The Electrician knows “that” look by now and looked considerably concerned but didn’t say anything. We were also in our new truck, and I am sure some of his thoughts ran to ways to remove 500 mL of urine from seat upholstery, if things went truly south. It’s never pretty–or romantic–when one spouse starts worrying about the other wetting her pants and everything in the vicinity.

Ten minutes from the dollhouse, still crawling along a busy industrial road at a snail’s pace, I was feeling desperate. Without a uterus to support my bladder, needing to pee badly is painful for me, like someone stabbing me in the bladder with a fork. The Electrician wasn’t speaking at all, likely from panic, and I started making plans for what I could do to get myself out of the situation without blowing the appointment or humiliating myself. There was an empty McDonald’s cup in the centre console that seemed my best option, and I fantasized about somehow relieving myself en route to the imaging clinic.

I know all the women who’ve had these fun little tests are nodding along to my misery at this point. Traveling with a desperately full bladder is a rite of passage for females, like piercing our ears or getting our periods or buying our first underwire bras. A friend and I regularly joke about the “probe” aspect of the internal ultrasound procedure. It’s like one of those alien abduction shows, except it’s happening to you.

At long, long last, The Electrician pulled a whimpering, cussing me into the parking lot of the ultrasound clinic. By some urinary miracle, I did not pee myself and the seat of the truck remained dry. Unfortunately, I was unable to stand up straight because the pain in my bladder was so strong, and I was afraid of pushing it any further.

Remember, I drank only a third of what I was supposed to, and I drank it half the time away from my appointment I was supposed to. Who are these sadists writing pre-testing instructions? What super-human woman can actually follow the directions to the letter? Sheesh!

When the ultrasound technician finally came to the waiting room to call me, she was alarmed that I was doubled-over and had tears in my eyes. She stated quite bluntly that there was no reason for me to have a painfully-full bladder, and sent me into the restroom to “pee for a count of five.” I peed for seven, partly because stopping halfway through is nearly impossible. The relief was very nearly a religious experience. Even so, I still had to go urgently during the ultrasound procedure.

In the lengthy saga of my girlie bits, I’ve had numerous ultrasounds, but I think the technician who took pictures of my innards that Friday was the nicest one I’ve had. She actually told me what she was doing, and joked around with me a bit, rather than quietly clicking buttons and going about her business without treating me as a person. I hope I don’t need another ultrasound any time in the near future, but I’m going to specifically request her if I do.

My doctor’s office called this Friday to request a follow-up appointment, so apparently the ultrasound showed something worth meeting about. I’m curious and a little nervous about what they found in there, but mostly I just want to know what’s going on so I don’t have to worry about re-experiencing the kind of ouch my ovary has been treating me to lately.

All I know is that before the next ultrasound, should there be one, I’m drinking a whopping single glass of water, and booking the appointment for a time without rush hour traffic. Either that, or I’m going to arrive half an hour early, drink my water in the waiting room of the imaging clinic, and avoid the stressful drive across town altogether.

copyright 2012:  http://bluespeckledpup.com

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy says:

    OMG I literally feel your pain. I followed the instructions to the “t” for my first US with my first baby – I was literally crying by the time I made the two minute drive to the clinic. Where they had me empty out over half mg bladder as I was then “too full” to have the US. Hope all is okay with you though!

  2. Mary says:

    Oy, that was horrible – you poor thing! Crazy, absolutely non-sensible instructions designed solely to torture!
    Why can’t they tell you the results immediately? The medical profession is infuriating. You have my empathy, and I hope whatever it is the doctor tells you at the follow up appointment is easy to take care of (by him) and non-serious (relatively.)

    Please Kay, can you e-mail me at the -mail address you have for me that I had to fill in below that isn’t posted publicly?
    I have tried to e-mail you in the last month, with no success at a reply.
    Thanks,
    Cinderella

  3. lexy3587 says:

    I haven’t had to experience that yet, but it sounds awful. The ultrasounds I”ve had have all been at the “you’re in agony and at the hospital” stage of things… so then they just make you chug ridiculous (SERIOUSLY!) amounts of water… and then go wait interminably with a sloshy-full bladder until someone’s available. Nothing quite like a 3am ultrasound with the threat of appendix surgery hanging over one’s head. Then again, if I peed myself, at least it woudln’t have been in a brand new truck!
    hope it turns out to be something with an easy and uninvasive remedy, and that you don’t get that stomach pain again!

    1. Thanks for the good wishes! It’s becoming a wince-inducing memory, but I really do think the aching bladder ultrasound is a rite of passage for women. Most ladies seem to have some kind of “They made me drink a litre of water and wait” stories, so we can bond over these wretched procedures.

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