My eyes are aching with tiredness.

I tried dozing off this morning, but the radiographer kept interrupting to tell me to breathe in, breathe out and then hold it before breathing normally again. I tried several ways of breathing in- pushing my lungs and diaphragm up and out,  breathing in to my back, breathing so my shoulders lifted, and finally I gave up trying and breathed through my nose into my stomach. Breathing out completely was beyond me, I held it easily though. It was  breathing normally that stymied me. Short and sharp, slow and easy? How are you meant to breathe when you lie on your back and are belted down?

The man who had been in before me was the same man I had followed around on Friday. We’d both had the ultrasound and quick x ray in the morning before going off and meeting back again in the clinic where they do the internal exams and tell you what’s up (very kindly and taking as much time as you need) before handing you a letter. Everyone who had been in x-ray that morning gathered in the clinic, where we were called in order of our morning appointment. So we had nodded, then said hello and then chatted as we waited to be called in the afternoon. Today we smiled and chatted as he stood in a hospital robe and dressing gown and black socks, holding his basket. We could have been in the aisle of a supermarket. And yet again he went in before me.

Some time later he emerged to trot to the loo before going back in. Oh, I thought, they let you go if you need to, that’s good to know. When he finally came out, he skipped into the changing cubicle before we had a final chat. I had the feeling I would be seeing him again, fairly soon.

Eventually my name was called. I stuffed the arm I was crotcheting into my bag, losing all sense of what round I was on, even though I had brought my row counter. (I can see I will be redoing that arm.) I go in and the radiographer greets me as ‘ma’am’. Fortunately as the time goes on she changes to ‘sweet’. Somehow I would rather be called sweet than ma’am, which sounds very American to my ears, however polite it is.

Belted down and the initial x rays taken, she then tries to insert a canula for the dye. My veins have decided to take up slippiness in their old age. Time was, my veins used to pop up and taking bloods or inserting a canula was easy. Now, because they are getting crabby and want to make sure that easy is not what they want to be known for, they allow the needle entry and then send it out the back door. She tries to get it back in, coaxing a bit of the dye into my arm, before conceding defeat. Now she knows who’s boss, my left arm veins roll over and access is accessed.

You’ll feel a warmth and maybe a metallic taste, a feeling of wetting yourself, but you won’t be, she tells me. And then asks me repeatedly to say how I am feeling while all I want to do is sleep. I mumble as she puts a tray with two bags on top of my stomach. I am rebelted as she pumps air into the bags to compress my bladder and tubes, so the dye stays in the kidneys for a bit. Halfway through the compression my leg decides that it has had enough of my stomach being the one everyone is concentrating on and throws a hissy fit on the table. I buck and twitch until the spasm passes. My kind radiographer waits, asks me if I’m ok and then rebelts and continues to compress.

X rays taken, she unbelts me and dashes off behind the screen to take pictures of the dye rushing through my ureters ( the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder). Then sends me off to the loo. Now he makes sense.

One final set of images and I can leave. The results won’t be ready for a good couple of weeks she tells me. That’s all right, I say, my op is booked in for a week Saturday. Are you doing anything nice this afternoon? she asks as we walk to the door. Sleeping, I said, more sleeping.