Going Nuclear


Today was RADIOACTIVE IODINE DAY, and the very helpful staff in the alarmingly-named ‘Nuclear Medicine Department’ kindly permitted me to take a photo of my pill, before I was asked to imagine I was drinking from a champagne flute (if only!) to tip the pill into my mouth and glug it down with water. This was after they’d patiently answered lots of questions and shown (but sadly declined to lend) a Geiger Counter in action. The Nuclear Medicine is in the Turner Diagnostic Centre, the newest part of the hospital, hidden amongst a rabbit-warren of corridors with ‘pre’ and ‘post’ radiation waiting areas and toilets, and no windows.

First I had to be weighed in Outpatients (why this obsession with my weight? No-one is interested in my blood-pressure or anything else about me, only my weight!) No, I’m not telling how much either, but I’m sure it could have been significantly reduced if I’d been allowed to remove my boots and coat…

My pill had been transported in its lead-lined pot from Germany (though some come from Holland), usually by ferry these days. Previously, some have arrived very late when the Channel Tunnel has been at a standstill. [‘We don’t know what will happen after Brexit’ said my Consultant on a previous occasion.] I don’t like to think how much this process will have cost the NHS.

All iodine in the body goes straight to the thyroid, so that’s where the radiation is headed, after which it will be expelled mainly in urine, and a tiny bit through sweat, and my radiation levels will decrease quickly. My dose was related to my weight (aha!) and would put me above normal ‘background’ radiation levels, as demonstrated with the Geiger counter. The technician opened the door of a lead-lined cupboard to show the reader going into overload, then quickly closed it to demonstrate ‘background’ radiation. There is plenty of radiation in everyday life,  in the earth and soil around us, or if you fly, for example.

My thyroid will, if all goes to plan, gradually be ablated (medical talk for destroyed) most likely over a period of months. The ‘quarantine’ precautions are overly on the cautious side, they say, and so long as I adhere to the no-prolonged-contact rule (keeping you all at arm’s length), I’m allowed out and about, though not on public transport, or in crowded indoor spaces. Apparently I’d set the alarms off if I went to an airport at the moment! Local friends, if you see me out for a walk, you don’t need to run and hide…

I have a tasteful wristband to wear for three weeks – in case I need emergency medicine (which I won’t be denied – phew!). As soon as I had taken the pill, I was shown the door, and sent into the outside world which was carrying on as if nothing special had happened. Queuing to pay for my parking, I was glad the elderly couple behind me couldn’t see my ‘Nuclear Medicine’ wristband.

Back home was another Goody bag on the doorstep (thanks P) with rations – chocolate, wine – and some glow-in-the-dark stars! Thanks too, everyone else, for kind messages and cards. So now I’m going into temporary hibernation with books, music, films and writing, and I’d be glad to hear from you if you read this!



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