Friday, 11 April 2008

The tale of the HSG

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who's sent me comments and emails wishing me luck for what happened today. I've gained an enormous amount of support and comfort from your messages.

The next thing I want to say is intended for anyone reading this who hasn't yet had their HSG, and who, like I was last night, is terrified. It wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be. I got myself into a virtually hysterical state last night - I was so scared of what I believed, having read numerous scary accounts, was going to be pain on a level that I couldn't cope with. It wasn't. It hurt, I won't say it didn't, but it never went beyond tolerable.

The final part of my opening preamble has to do with the results: my tubes are clear! I'm so happy about this as it means that next we can hopefully try a drug to make me ovulate, as it looks as though everything but my polycystic ovary is in order.

After my hysterical outburst, I got drunk last night and watched a stupid thriller. The wine helped me sleep initially, but I woke at 5am sick with dread. After tossing and turning for 90 minutes or so, I got up, vomited, showered and then inanely decided to paint my toenails. All I can say is that when one's legs are destined for stirrups, one wants one's feet to look presentable.

I tried breakfast but it was a mistake as it didn't stay down for long. I dressed in the most comfortable outfit I could find - long, black, stretchy cotton skirt; T-shirt; snug cardi; flat, slouchy boots - and said goodbye to hubby as nicely as it's possible to say goodbye to someone at whom you've just yelled "Would you for the love of Christ stop fucking SNEEZING!"

My mum turned up early and I traipsed out to the car in the manner of a condemned woman walking to the scaffold. I was armed with water and painkillers - I didn't want to take them too early - and I had very little to say.

We arrived at the hospital and I downed my 800mg of ibuprofen in the car. After finding the X-ray suite quite quickly, I was surprised that we only had to wait five minutes before the nurse who'd be doing the test came to collect me. This was a very different experience to the pelvic scan where I nearly ruptured my own bladder due to my appointment being delayed.

The nurse took us to a seating area just outside the room where the test would take place. I told her I was terrified. She then spent 15 minutes explaining every minute detail of the procedure to me in a manner that was warm, kind and patient enough to make me well up now just remembering it. Her name was Joan and I didn't get her surname but she's the most wonderful nurse I ever met. She said that many women arrive terrified and leave thinking that the experience wasn't even a quarter as bad as they'd imagined it would be. She also said that she believes the internet features a disproportionately high volume of scary stories, for the simple reason that women who've had an awful time are more likely to be traumatised enough to write about it.

Joan went through the paperwork with me and I felt myself relaxing gradually as we talked. Partly this was down to the agreeably dreamy zen induced by taking way too many ibuprofen, but a lot of it was down to Joan's skill at relaxing me in the manner that a horse whisperer would calm a frantic pony.

Joan gave me a plastic bag and showed me into a changing cubicle. She told me to strip my bottom half naked, but that it was fine for me to leave my T-shirt, bra and socks on. (Waste of nail polish.) As I was changing I heard her asking the consultant radiologist if my mum could sit in. I distinctly heard him say "Absolutely not" and then I distinctly heard Joan insist. Again, I'm forever grateful.

I emerged wearing the gown I'd been given, which was open in the back, but this was made less embarrassing by the fact that they'd also given me a cotton robe to wear over the top until I got in position. However, the gown was blue and white, the robe was bright blue and really oversized, and my socks were red and stripy (donned that morning in an effort to be cheery; I was also bedecked in tiger's eye jewellery to bring me courage). The overall effect was lunatic asylum meets Ronald McDonald.

There was a flat bed in the middle of the room with steps up to it. I was asked to lie down and put my head on the pillow. They laid a blanket over my hips and thighs - similar to the blanket you get in a smear test. Joan explained that if I could establish a breathing pattern and maintain it, this would help me deal with the pain and keep my muscles relaxed. My mum stood behind my head and started stroking my hair. This really helped, and I started breathing deeply.

There were now three other people in the room in addition to me and my mum: Joan, another nurse, and a female radiologist (the guy had vanished, presumably in a fit of pique after my mum was allowed in). They got the cameras ready and moved them over my stomach. My mum was asked to put on a lead apron so she wasn't at risk from the radiation. The others all wore these too, so for a moment it looked like a scene from Delia Smith Goes Bad.

Joan then said they were ready. The other nurse lifted the blanket and bunched my gown up so that my naked bum was on the bed. Joan told me to bring my knees up, put my ankles together and let my legs fall apart - exactly as if I were having a smear. There were no stirrups, but they placed thick foam wedges under my thighs so that my legs didn't get wobbly from being held in that position.

First of all, Joan said she was going to clean my vagina with a warm antiseptic solution. (I resisted the temptation to tell her it was perfectly clean enough, thank you, after I virtually scrubbed it raw in the course of my morning ablutions.) She took a warm, sopping wet sponge and wiped it down, firmly, the full length of me. She then got a new sponge and repeated it.

Joan then inserted the speculum, all the while telling me what she was doing and what sensations I should expect. It went in fine and she cranked it open - always an uncomfortable moment, but nothing I wasn't familiar with. She then said she was going to insert the catheter, and that it might take a minute or two so I wasn't to panic if it didn't go in right away. I was staring at the ceiling during this and focusing on my breathing, but my mum told me afterwards that the catheter was blue and about the girth of a drinking straw.

This was the part I was most scared of, but I honestly didn't feel it pass through my cervix. I was amazed when Joan said, "That's gone through first time, sweetheart". After every stage - the speculum going in, the speculum being opened, the catheter going in - Joan, the other nurse and my mum told me how well I was doing. That really helped me too.

Joan explained that she was going to inflate the balloon on the end of the catheter, and that this part would cause a sharp period-type cramp to come on suddenly. This was absolutely accurate - it came really quickly and built to the level of a bad day one period pain. It hurt, but it was tolerable.

Joan then said she was going to start putting the dye through, and that this would cause the cramping to intensify a little. Again, this is exactly what happened - the cramp sort of wrenched slightly and got a bit worse. I wanted to gasp but I felt that if I interrupted the steady breathing pattern I'd established, I might lose it altogether and suddenly lose my handle on the pain, so I didn't. I just kept breathing. I'd been lying with my hands folded on my chest like a corpse, but at this point my mum took my left hand and the other nurse took hold of my right hand. (She'd previously told me to resist the urge to clutch my stomach when the cramping started, so maybe this was to make sure I didn't - it was nice of her, though, whatever the reason.)

After about 15 seconds - literally, it couldn't have been more than that - Joan said, "That's it - that's great - we're done". I couldn't believe it. I'd been on the bed for about 15 minutes, but most of this time was spent waiting for them to assemble the equipment. The nasty part - from speculum going in to Joan saying we were finished - lasted about four and a half minutes.

Everyone told me how well I'd done, and I just felt overwhelming, dizzying relief. Joan deflated the balloon and removed the catheter, and the cramping subsided immediately. She then removed the speculum and pushed a big, pillow-like pad up against me to stem the flow of dye.

I stayed lying down while I gathered myself and they moved the camera off me. It took about five minutes before I felt able to sit up, and when I did, my mum came round and they tilted the screen so we could see the pictures. Joan explained that they'd only had to use 3ml of dye, and that the test had gone so fast because it had immediately shot through both my tubes and spilled out the ends - i.e., my tubes are clear.

She then took us through around 12 moment-by-moment pictures which showed the catheter and balloon in place in my empty womb, then my womb full of dye, then both tubes filling up, and finally the dye spilling out the end. One of my tubes was really long and straight and the other was more bunched up, but Joan said this was simply because of the position of my insides on this given day, and that she was happy both tubes were perfect.

When I felt the headrush subside, I got up and was shown to a bathroom where they'd put my bag of clothes ready, along with some soapy solution, wet wipes and dry wipes, plus a sanitary pad. I cleaned up, stuck the pad in my pants and got dressed.

Since my mum was with me, I was allowed to leave straight away - but not before I thanked Joan profusely for being so nice and patient with me. I had to resist actually hurling myself at the woman and hugging her, I was so grateful.

For the rest of today I've felt sporadically crampy - some of them quite sharp - and sore, and I've leaked dye and gunge. I'd probably have had an easier day if I hadn't sucked up my day's entitlement of painkillers in one go, but I remain glad that I did, because perhaps the during-cramps would have been much tougher to take if I hadn't. However, the after-cramps have been easy to deal with as I've been chilling at my mum's, eating comfort food and watching Pretty Woman.

I'm so grateful to Joan and the other staff for making this as easy on me as possible. I'm also grateful to my mum for coming with me, putting up with my uber-bitch mode this morning, and watching what must have been the difficult sight of her daughter undergoing a distressing gynaecological procedure.

I'm also soooooo hugely relieved that my tubes and womb are clear. Hopefully this will mean that we can make some progress really soon!

I've booked my massage tomorrow to reward myself for being brave and going through with it. But take note - I'm the biggest wimp going, so if I can do it, anyone can.


Sarah said...

Yay! on the all around good news!

rach said...

Well done for making it through all of that...and fab news! At least now you know exactly what you're dealing with and can get on with it (NHS scheduling permitting...)

s.e. said...

Pamper yourself even more. What a big accomplishment and with good news attached. And tell your mom she's amazing. Congrats!

mutterings and meanderings said...

So good to hear A. It wasn't as bad as you thought and B. things up therer ain't as bad as you thought.

Michell said...

I'm so glad the test went well and that all is clear. And I love hearing stories about great nurses. Enjoy your massage.

Anonymous said...

I'm so so pleased to hear that the HSG went well. I was thinking about you all day....and not only thinking about you, but calculating the time difference (I'm in Canada), so as to figure out when you were probably on the table, in pain, and finally, relieved the test was over....

Anyway, your blog (and others) has inspired me to start my own. Maybe it will be theraputic...

Candace said...

I wanted to de-lurk to mention I enjoy sharing in your blog. I also wanted to say Thank You. Thank you for posting your experience so candidly. I may have to undergo this procedure and it helped reading your post. It Helped ALOT. The wonderful nurse helped you and you have paid it forward and helped me through your post. Best of Luck my Dear!
Check me out anytime.:)

Heather said...

I am so glad the HSG went well. You must be so relieved. I was thinking about you over the weekend, hoping it would not be as bad as you thought. The next chapter begins!

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