Friday, April 26, 2013

Radiation Adventures

Thanks to the Thyrogen protocol, I was able to do the RAI therapy without going off my synthetic thyroid hormone for a month (and therefore missing a month of life by being too hypothyroid to get out of bed).
The 2nd $2K shot... I call this one "Lefty"

I got to UAB early on Wednesday morning and tried to navigate my way to admitting.

Concourse A? Like the airport?

The admitting waiting room

Then they got an escort to take me to my room on the ninth floor. Not that kind of escort. UAB is so big that they have a whole team of people who just help you find your way from one place to another. 

I'd read that everything would be covered in plastic, but that didn't prepare me to see everything covered in plastic. 
The entire floor was covered.

The phone and phone cords

The rolling table thingy

But look! They provided all sorts of goodies.

The call button thingy and its cord

The chair

The door knob

EVERYTHING was covered in plastic

The door pulls

The shower? The shower has to be covered? 
And this super-cool trash can inspires all sorts of confidence.
UAB is different from EAMC. It's much bigger, obviously, but there are other differences. Meals are very different. At EAMC, they give you a menu card and you circle what you want. Then, they bring it at meal time. At UAB, they call it room service:

You order whatever you want and they bring it when you order it. It's still hospital food, but the concept is great:

I took this picture of the hallway before they dosed me so that I could remember what it looked like outside the door:
What up, 9 North! 
This wing is apparently a long-term care wing. The people who aren't radioactive seem to stay for a while. They have a laundry room and a communal kitchen for patients and guests. I met one guy who was there for his sixth quadruple bypass. He was about my age, and he knew he wasn't going home. That was tough. We chatted through the door before they brought in the radioactive pill:

My homey little room
The nurses and techs were allowed to be in my room for no more than twenty minutes per day. Yeesh. This is the instruction sheet on the door for what they had to do to enter or leave my room:

Then they brought in the pill. It was in a little test tube, and the test tube was sealed inside this big, lead container:

They unsealed it, and I had to swallow it as quickly as possible so we were all exposed to the pill as little as possible. Then we all watched to see if I would throw it up: 
This is the closest any doctor or nurse would get to me in the room unless they had to take a blood pressure or something.

I didn't throw it up. 

Then the dude with the geiger counter came to check my levels and establish how radioactive I was right after the dose. 
Radiation level: pretty darn high
He said, "I'mma tell you what your husband already know. You hot."

The best part of RAI is that the doctors tell you to keep candy in your mouth as much as possible. It's like eating popsicles after getting your tonsils out. After fourteen days on the low iodine diet, I was not about to argue with those orders.

The point of the candy is to keep the radioiodine from damaging the salivary glands. Iodine is absorbed by the thyroid and the salivary glands. We want the thyroid to soak up the radioiodine (and die), but we don't want the salivary glands to collect it. Then, I'd lose my sense of taste which is not good for an aspiring baker. So we use candy to keep the saliva production up.

All the radioiodine that isn't absorbed by the thyroid has to be processed out. In order to be released from the hospital, I had to get my geiger reading way down. That meant drinking:

Boom! I cleared my geigers on the first try! For posterity, in the 21 hours between getting dosed and clearing my geigers, I drank:
144 oz water
9 cans of soda
1 cup of coffee
1 glass of tea
1 cup of grape juice
2 cups of cranberry juice
I took three showers
And I slept 12 hours.

This was my room:

Now I'm at my mom's, living in the (perfectly lovely, finished) basement apartment. I'm drinking water, taking showers, and sucking candy to try to clear as much radiation as possible for when I go home next week. This is the hardest part. I feel fine. I can't see, taste, or feel anything different from normal. But I have to be away from my husband and kids for a week. I miss them.

I go back for the full body scan next Wednesday. Then I can go home. Meanwhile, it's tv and computer for me. It's like spring break all over again.

1 comment:

  1. That would be quite the freaky experience. Glad you seem to be holding up so well! Hope the next week flies by for you.