Breaking an ankle, or any broken bone, sure does expose you to more x-rays than are good for you. And probably more than necessary. But in the agony of pain and the quest to get it over and back to normal functioning it is easy to overlook the harm it is doing.
My falling down the stairs was such a silly accident, well aren’t most? The shock of it – well these things only happen to other people don’t they? Well no, so it seems – we are all vulnerable to those unconscious moments when BANG – something life changing happens. In my case my brain sort of switch off after I lay, I hate to admit, screaming on the floor in agony. Is it common to go into a brain dead state? Well I did. Then set procedures of the medical system don’t help either with the routine issue of pain killers – and regular, very regular x-rays.
Not that I am not grateful. My surgeon did a great job. So the x-rays tell him. The screws look impressive and the bones are being held securely as if it’s a bizarre DIY project. The pain, it seems, is quite normal and I will have it to some level for the rest of my life he reassures me. So in this alien world that I am trying to live, or rather hobble with the aid of one crutch, I dutifully lay down and have my ankle x-rayed from every possible angle at every hospital visit, now too many to dare think about. Ionising radiation was the last thing on my mind.
Until my last visit that is. I didn’t expect another x-ray. After all my surgeon had shown me the screws and the bones and told me all was healing beautiful behind my scarred ankle. The radiologist was not a smiley welcoming sort of guy so it took me some courage to ask “Is this x-ray necessary?”
He asked why I had asked the question and I explained my concern about overexposure to ionising radiation. I must be honest I really didn’t expect any understanding at all – after all these guys do their job day in and day out with patients travelling through as if they are luggage on a conveyor belt at the airport. His dour face broke into the most gorgeous smile as he said “I’m glad that you asked that”. I was blown away!
“Very few patients’ show any concern about the ionizing radiation from x-rays” he told me “And they should”. He took me off the conveyor belt, so to speak, and spent ages explaining the range of radiation from the x-ray machines. Extremities, hands and feet, were the “safest”. Lungs and stomach the worse. Scanning machines for heads are a whole other nasty subject. He gave me an apron type thing, very heavy are they lead? He told me but my head is still on a go slow so I’ve forgotten. And protection for my thyroid which he said was particularly important. Didn’t know that the thyroid is affected by x-rays?
This lovely (never prematurely judge people) radiologist told me that it is every patients right to asked for protective garments against ionising radiation when having x-rays. He acknowledged that that some radiologists don’t recognise the dangers of radiation from x-rays but be insistent – what is their disapproval compared with your health.
So next hospital visit if I am booked in for an x-ray I will ask my surgeon if it is an automatically routine procedure, and if it will affect my healing progress if I don’t have it. I will of course take his advice after airing my concerns but if I do have to have another x-ray be sure that I will ask to wear the protective clothing. I hope that it is the same understanding radiologist – because it will make it all that much easier!