Yesterday was scan day for our girl. We went into it thinking we knew what to expect. She’d done this 10 or so weeks ago, after all. That day had been a bit rough, with an unexpected vomit session while placing the IV, but overall not too bad.
So, we got there a bit early, thinking we’d hang out by the desk till they took her back, put in the IV, go right next door to the cool CT machine decorated like an aquarium and then be on our way back to the car to drive over to the other place for the MRI. The CT was scheduled for 2:00, with the MRI at 3:30. She has to go to another place for MRI because they reserve the one at the Children’s Hospital for the kiddos that need sedation for it. Staying still for the scan hasn’t been an issue for her. The timing would be ok because the CT is a super-quick scan, leaving the hour + MRI scan for last, but still finishing there before that part of the hospital closed.
Well, as we’ve figured out a couple of times in this cancer treatment saga, we don’t really ever know for sure what to expect, even when it’s something we’ve done before.
It started out just fine. We were glad to be met by a Child Life Staff member (dressed as Waldo for Halloween) who took us back and explained what to expect. Joanna asked her if Targa the service dog was available to swing by, or another dog if not Targa. I am so, so glad Targa and Targa’s mama were available!
Once they started to find a vein for the IV things got a bit trickier – the one that was easiest to find wasn’t going to work because they could feel scar tissue in there. Yep, my barely 10-year old has scar tissue in the vein in her arm from the pre-chemo blood work. Not the chemo; that goes in through the port in her chest. But, in addition to that needle stick into her chest each of the 20 doses she’s also had 24 “pokes” in her arms for blood work each week. That has taken a toll on her growing body.
I could tell something was a little off. Instead of a quick find the vein, clean the skin, put it in, there was lots of looking at her arm. The staff conferred with each other, used their vein finding light and went for it. It didn’t work. Blood came out of her arm, lots of blood, but the vein wouldn’t cooperate in a way that they needed it to for the contrast needed for the CT scan to be able to go in. So we paused. Hurt, crying girl, parents trying to be encouraging, and staff doing their best to care for her. Plus, a super-calm dog laying there for comfort. Yay for Targa!
Since that didn’t work they contacted the PICC team to see if they had anyone available that could come put the IV in, using their ultrasound machine to help.
They do, yay! But, Joanna is still crying, her arm is hurting and she doesn’t want to be stuck anymore. And, her emla cream’s effectiveness is wearing off, and it isn’t on the places the next team wants to try. Hmmm. We’re in a building that has emla cream at least 3 places that I know of. But, none in the room we’re in. Child Life to the rescue again! They contact the awesome nursing staff upstairs and we get a nurse and another Child Life Specialist to come help. These ladies cover all the possible spots for the next IV. Targa is still hanging in, doing her part at helping keeping Joanna calm while her mama keeps Joanna distracted with conversation.
Some time passes, for the cream to kick in and numb the skin and for the staff and their machine make it to us. As this is all happening, I’m getting nervous about timing. The CT was supposed to be at 2:00 and MRI at 3:30. We had to drive another place for the MRI and were supposed to check in about 30 minutes early. It’s after 3 and we haven’t done the CT yet. Both scans need contrast, so they both need the IV, so having to come back another time for the second one and get another IV after the horror she just went through is not appealing at all. Thankfully, the staff in CT land communicated with the staff in MRI land and they were able to work it out, including having someone stay later than he was scheduled to get the contrast for the MRI worked out for her.
The PICC ladies and their ultrasound machine had success finding a vein that would cooperate. It still hurt to do. And, it still about broke me seeing my girl trying so hard to be courageous, yet squealing with pain and having tears run down her face. Yep, I was crying too.
IV in, we head next door to the room with the machine and she gets settled onto the table. There was even a Halloween pillowcase for her to use. Morgan and I got our protective aprons and bibs and she laid still and did her part of getting the scan. This was the easy part.
It finishes, the staff tells us to please hurry to the next place, it is after all already past when that scan was supposed to start, not just our check-in early time, but the actual scan is supposed to already be in progress.
We get to the next building and they get us checked in. Joanna asks for me to come back with her, and they allow that. Morgan gets to wait out in a lobby. I don’t have pictures of this part because you have to put all your metal stuff into a locker. It looks just like an MRI you’ve seen on TV. We’re not at the children’s hospital, so no fun decor here. The 2 ladies helping us are kind and efficient. They get Joanna all settled onto the table and let her know what to expect. The scan goes smooth. We’re done! They even have a toy drawer for her to pick something from. And, the lady helping her gives her a bag of doritos from her desk. Joanna was hungry, she’d had to be without food or water for the CT and there was no time to eat, so it’s now after 5 and she hadn’t had anything since before 10.
We are all so, so glad to be done. It’s been a full, rough, tiring day. Now we can go celebrate it being done with a gluten free bundtlet from “Nothing Bundt Cakes”.
Knowing that she’ll need scans again in 3 months was, of course in the back of mind as we struggled so hard to get the IV in. Knowing that she’ll remember how hard it was once we schedule the next one and yet she’ll have to find the courage to walk on in there to do it again is just heartbreaking. I hate dealing with childhood cancer. It really is horrible.
As awful as the afternoon was, we’re ever so thankful for the staff. They’d all had a full day already. Fuller than usual due to trying to bring some Halloween cheer to the kiddos spending their days in the hospital. Even the service dog was in costume. All 8 ladies that helped in CT land (from at least 4 different places/specialties in the hospital) were encouraging and kind. They are amazing.