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The Time I Got Stuck in My Sweater While Changing Into a Hospital Gown

I’ve never been good with needles… or having “normal” public experiences. But as they say, life is better when you’re laughing!

Arriving at the hospital, as usual, the first thing they did was pop a cannula in my arm. It was just inside my elbow — rendering my arm completely useless and my elbow unable to bend for fear of ripping out the needle and gushing blood all over the floor and walls like a scene from a horror film. I was then directed to go for a chest X-ray all the way across the hospital, so off I went, babying my arm as though any wrong move might cause it to fall off. I couldn’t even look at the cannula.

I was led to an area in the back of radiology lined with teeny tiny little yellow cubicles, each with a small bench and a door that doesn’t quite reach the floor or the ceiling. I’ll just say right here that the radiologist was a gorgeous young Australian and I wasn’t the only woman in there blushing. He handed me a gown and gestured to a cubicle. I was to take everything off from the waist up and then wait for him to come get me for my chest X-ray. No biggie, I can do this.

But the cannula was still in. How was I to get my shirt (and necklace) off without bending my arm? My bra I could do. I’ve done the great bra extraction under a sweater before, easy-peasy. But I couldn’t undo the strap in the back with only one hand. No matter, I would figure that out later.

On to step one, getting out of this sweater.

I pulled on the sleeve of my immovable IV arm, trying to pull the sweater off in an attempt to back out of it, bumping into the side of the cubicle. Space was severely limited. OK, change of plan: other arm first.

I used my un-bendable arm to grip the sleeve of my good arm, holding it tight as I began again to back out of the sweater from the other side. It wasn’t budging. I pulled harder, still not gaining much ground. I gave a violent tug and slammed myself into the side of the cubicle. Gasps were heard from the seating area across the way. A woman loudly asked me if I was all right and I responded that I was totally fine, nothing to worry about!

Clearly I was lying.

I was stood there with one arm successfully out of my sweater and the liberated sleeve flapping around my head like a wet noodle, panting heavily from the effort. The radiologist in his beautiful Aussie drawl called in the woman in the cubicle next to me — I was running out of time. I had to keep going — I had to get this thing off! How hard could it be to just take off a sweater? I tried to pull it over my head in a graceful swoop when everything suddenly became very dark and very tight. My unbendable arm was pinned straight up in the air, wedged between my head and the sweater that was now stuck around my chest, shoulders and face.

I tugged. I pulled. Did this sweater somehow get smaller?! I was trying desperately to pull it over my head to release myself from the sweater of death, sweating hard and panting like a wounded hippopotamus. The radiologist returned to knock on my door, asking me if I was all right and did I need any help? I quickly bent my knees so he couldn’t see my straight unbendable arm stuck up above the space in the door and told him that I just needed a few more minutes.

I was going to die in there. There would be no turning back. The sweater would have to be cut off of my body and I would have to ride the tube home in a hospital gown top. Even if I could bend my IV arm and risk a CSI blood-spray crime scene in an X-ray cubicle there was no way I was getting it away from my ear. I looked at the IV line to see that the tube was quickly filling with dark red blood, was it supposed to do that? I felt woozy now — I needed to sit down. No, I needed to get this sweater off of me, then I could sit down.

I pulled. I tugged. I banged into walls and turned around in circles — all with a gaping audience watching my dancing arm flailing above the cubicle door. I was like an anxiety-riddled squirrel in there — at one point I audibly pleaded with the sweater. I was sweating profusely, causing the sweater to stick to my skin and feel even more like I was being eaten by a wooly anaconda.

An X-ray isn’t worth this, abort! Abort! If the sweater wasn’t going to come off I could at least get it back on and leave with a shred of dignity.

I painstakingly worked my arm back into the flapping sleeve of the sweater, gaining inch by inch until my wrist poked through to cool, breezy freedom with the plan of then spreading my arms and forcing the sweater back down. This plan would have worked had the thing not then caught on my necklace.

Oh, this was so, so much worse. I still had my IV arm stuck up by my ear, my head was still covered in sweater, I had one breast in the sweater and one wedged under it and now my only good arm was caught, elbow bent, also around my ear. I was stuck in every sense of the word and my cannula tube was full of my own blood. There was no turning back.

I gently leaned forward toward the door, rapped it with my elbow and managed to squeak out a defeated “help” to whoever was out there. A moment of silence until a gentle rap was returned on my cubicle door as a sweet voice called out, “How can we help you, love?”

She fetched the outstandingly hot radiologist for me and brought him to my door. My arms were stuck, they would need someone from maintenance to bring a special key to let me out. The radiologist returned with a maintenance man and a nurse and the three of them opened my door and burst into laughter as he and the nurse attempted to liberate me from my sweater.

The necklace was really caught on the arm of the sweater and it was decided that the only way to get me out of it was to first remove the cannula line, but that couldn’t be done in the cubicle. Together they wrapped me in a gown and guided me, past the gawking waiting room, into the X-ray room so I could lay down on the table to make this easier for everybody. Warning me that she was doing this blind, the nurse reached into the depths of the sweater to remove the cannula without actually being able to see it. I was so grateful to have that thing out that I barely noticed the blood running down my arm and dripping onto the table. I didn’t care, I was nearly free. The radiologist and nurse unhooked my sweater from my bra and necklace and with a mighty final heave pulled it off of my head.

I lay there, half naked and panting in the gloriously cool air on the cold, hard X-ray table, freed at last from the sweater of death.

When I got back upstairs, nearly an hour later, my chemotherapy nurse asked me why my cannula had been taken out. I told her that she was bound to hear about it later and just scurried back to my chair, burying my face into my book and gearing up for a second IV to be put in again.

I’m clearly going to have to change hospitals.


Living with a chronic illness can feel terribly isolating, with the absurdities we go through so hard to explain and relate to. It wasn’t until I began to see the humor in what I was going through that my life started turning back around, and I hope that sharing stories like this, as humiliating as they are, helps you to also see the funny side of falling apart.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images