I had a bone density scan at the local Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath today. Another woman of my age had suggested it in February, to check on the onset of osteoporosis. So I asked my doctor about it two weeks back, and she immediately agreed that it would be a good idea. She'd refer me. The hospital got in touch within days, and I went up there in the snow this morning.
Because of the snow, they had actually cancelled all the day's appointments, many of the persons having such scans being of course thin-boned and likely to break if they slipped up. But they couldn't get in touch with me, and so, as I'd attended, they saw me as a special one-off.
The nurse who dealt with the scanning was also called Lucy. How nice! We had a good chat, although I think she was being routinely conversational, to take my mind off the scanner's whirrings. She explained afterwards that some patients are very nervous about these machines, quite separately from any worries they may have about the results. I was fine about the entire procedure; but then I'm not a frail 80-something.
So what was it like? I had visions of a huge high-voltage drumlike thing, that would envelop me, and move backwards and forwards over me, or around me, while magnetic or sonic waves zapped into me me with a crackling noise. Not a bit of it. It was just a flat blue plastic bed, firm but comfortable, with white markings on it so that the patient could be easily centred. You just plonked yourself down on your back, with arms at your sides, palm down. No straps. No clothes except boots had to be taken off. The scanning device was just a horizontal bar that jutted out across the width of the bed, and slowly moved from the foot of the bed up to the head, then back again. It made a gentle humming noise. It was clearly a sophisticated device, but not a frightening one.
For the first scan, I simply had to lie still and let the scanner move up to my torso and then back. This took a scan of my lower spine.
For the second scan, this time of my hips, I had to bring my arms up to my chest, so that the hands would be out of the way, and a spacer was placed between my legs so that they were exactly the right distance apart. I also had to turn in my toes towards the centre - the nurse said that some patients can't manage that easily, but I was a star.
The third scan was of my right wrist, and for this I simply sat next to the bed, with my right wrist placed just so on a plastic template that rested on the bed: the scanner then ran over that.
And that was all. No discomfort whatever. My doctor will have the results by the end of the month.
The nurse routinely took my height and weight. And these measurements seemed at variance with what I was expecting.
My height was 175cm today, whereas it had been 174cm back in October 2011, when I last visited this hospital. Closer then to five foot nine than five foot eight. Evidence of improving posture?
The really strange one was my weight with clothes on, though boots off. It was 89kg - about fourteen stone - not exactly a featherweight then, but this was still 5kg less than what my electronic scales at home had last told me, after the best part of a week just sitting around, taking no exercise whatever, while I ate well and endured the worst of that cold. Could it be that all along my home scales have been out of adjustment, and have over-stated my weight?
No, I don't think so either. Back to the diet.