I was referred by my medical oncologist for a precautionary bone scan.
I attended the department at the beginning of October for the injection. I had received a letter in the post along with a leaflet about the scan and the Covid precautions details, so I felt prepared. I had had a similar bone scan over 20 years ago at Guy's, London.
A nurse / technician did my injection. They were very friendly and jokey, but missed a few opportunities to explain things to me. The leaflet said: if you are claustrophobic to tell a member of staff when you arrive. I told the technician I was mildly claustrophobic but thought I'd be OK. I asked if music could be played (as the leaflet said) but I was told the fans drown out the noise. I asked if I could wear headphones and the technician said that wasn't possible because of the camera, and went on to say they keep meaning to get a picture of the camera machine on the wall in the consultation room to prepare patients. This would definitely be a good idea.
When I came back for my scan, it was late afternoon and I was the only patient around. The same technician was there again and showed me where I could change.
Then the door the the xray room opened and another member of staff called me in. They introduced them self and then helped get me on to the machine.
I hadn't been told that I would be strapped onto the machine with big cloth swaddling that was velcroed together tightly. The staff member was talking to me telling me this was to keep me in the same position and so I wouldn't move. I was wearing a mask. They went on to explain that the camera was going to come very close to my face but wouldn't touch me. The camera began to move into position and I felt increasingly panicked. I felt claustophobic, overheated and momentarily unable to cope.
I told the member of staff I didn't think I could cope. They asked me in what way do you think you can't cope? & they didnt want me to abandon the scan and I saw them look over their shoulder and wave a 'hang on a minute' wave to a colleague. I felt under pressure to get myself together. I took my time to breathe and asked for a bit of time. I said I suffered from menopausal anxiety. I asked if I could remove my t-shirt from under my gown, and the staff member said no because the scan had already started. I hadn't been told this. I then had to work out how to sort myself out, which I did.
I asked the staff member to remove my mask, and my socks to reduce my temperature, which they did. They told me that the camera was only going to come close to my face for a few minutes, then it would go away. I didn't realise they were going to be in the room with me, and they spoke to me and told me when each section had finished. The staff member said the machine was a camera and was only taking pictures, which was a good reminder but didn't help with the claustrophobia.
At one point I began to shake for a few minutes, but it passed. I focused on my breathing and got through it. The staff member said repeatedly that I was doing really well. All the way through I felt stressed, and imprisoned as though I was in a strait jacked. But I got through it. Two thirds of the way through, another technician appeared and introduced themselves and said they were just going to do a quick CT scan. They seemed in a hurry. I asked how long that would be and they replied only 2 minutes max which was good to know.
When the whole scan finished the staff member came back and told me I'd done really well. I got myself off the machine, got my stuff. The team all appeared and started hurriedly to clean the machine. I got a real sense of it being Friday afternoon and everyone was keen to leave. I was a bit shakey and upset but no one asked if I was OK. They weren't looking at me, so i said goodbye and opened the door myself but it was locked so the staff member let me out.
I was proud of myself for getting through it but I felt I could have had more support from the team to help me get through a stressful experience. There seemed to be no idea how to help someone cope who was anxious and claustrophobic - no reassuring continual speaking to me as the patient, I felt like I had to do all the problem solving. No help with visualisation, or breathing.
"Bone scan at Nuclear Medicine Department"
About: Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham / Clinical oncology Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Clinical oncology Birmingham B15 2WB
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