12 June 2008


Yesterday morning, at the ungodly hour of six forty-five ante meridiem, the wife and I walked through the automatic doors of the local hospital, through an excessive maze of twists and turns demarcated by poorly photocopied signage, past the storage room where all of the broken wheelchairs apparently go to die, and finally arrived, hand in hand, at the specified waiting room where we stood and stared at the empty desks where the receptionists might normally be expected to be found. This was followed by more staring, and then a little more. This did not bode well, we thought.

Yes, dear reader, Tuesday was my day to go have my brain looked at by an unknown series of people in laboratory coats. And no, you need not point out that today is Friday and I am several days late in completing this bit of writing, but this time I have a decent excuse: I have been battling salmonella, or so my doctor thinks. I know, it seems a bit like piling it on, but that is the way life goes at times and I shan't complain, but I digress...

So, the wife and I stood there in the reception area of that obscure corner of the hospital dedicated to scanning our collective and my individual innards. The particular innard in question on this bleary, early morning was my pituitary gland, though they would be imaging my entire head/brain area in order to look at the little – perhaps malfunctioning – bugger. But, back to the reception area...

We stood there for a while; did a bit of whistling, perhaps a little swaying, and eventually we sat down. After a few minutes, which included a couple of mildly quizzical looks at each other followed by shrugs, someone finally entered the room and made his way over to one of the aforementioned desks and took a seat. I was quickly called over and the paperwork began.

I shall now fast-forward through this section of the morning, dear reader, in order to spare you the redundancy of describing the paperwork portion of the show, a process you all, undoubtedly, know all to well. I got the clipboard; I filled in lines and boxes; I circled yeses and nos; I returned the clipboard with papers and pen attached, which led to further queries. I sat back down and waited.

Eventually the technician came out from behind the double-door emblazoned with the large DO NOT ENTER sticker and took me, along with the wife, back through the double-doors to a small dressing room where I was divested of all metal – which was all quickly dispatched, except the wedding ring which no longer fits over my knuckle, as I had removed the piercing at home. A few more questions and off we went, the wife sent back to the waiting room because they don't let pregnant women hang out with the scannee, a fact that, I must admit, did little to inspire confidence. The last question that was asked, as we entered the chamber of secrets, was "Are you claustrophobic?" Luckily, no.

If you have never had an MRI before – not the new-fangled, friendly open kind, but the old-fashioned, slide-you-in-a-tube kind – I shall now give a brief overview. You lie down on a padded slab, head on a small, not-entirely-uncomfortable pillow. On either side of the pillow are large clips to which is then attached a plastic cage which is adjusted to hold your head in place. Another pillow is then placed under your knees entirely without irony for your comfort. Finally, as you now realize that you should have itched your nose beforehand, you are offered music – which should be refused unless you really like Enya or Steely Dan, god forbid – or earplugs – which, in my not-so-humble opinion should, too, be refused as they would obscure the best part of the show. Thus prepared, the slab slides, unceremoniously, into the large, medical-beige tube behind you and begin your half-hour long stare-down with the curved wall four inches from the end of your nose. A disembodied voice clicks on – the technician in the adjacent room – and asks after your well-being, instructs you to wave your arms – I don't see how, seeing as you are in a rather small tube – if you become distressed, and, finally, informs you that the scan is about to begin.

I thought I was prepared for this, dear reader. I had, in the past, accompanied the wife to her open MRI and assumed it would be about the same, but just a little more cramped. I was, in fact, wrong. Little did I know I was in for such a sonic delight. For a moment or so there was just a little, repetitive clicking from somewhere deep in the machine, and then, all of a sudden, without the slightest of warning or build-up, I was surrounded by a phenomenal WHHOM WHHOM WHHOM WHHOM. Whereas I might have been expected to have been startled, indeed, no, an enormous grin immediately spread across my face, and it was all I could do to not thrust a fist in the air – which would not have worked, obviously, because of the already discussed wall four inches from the tip of my nose. It was absolutely symphonic, which I suppose I should have expected as I was indeed deep inside a machine known as the Magnetom Symphony. I have been to this concert, several times, back in my high school and college years. I have stood in cramped, dank, sweaty spaces and watched ensembles of disaffected youth perform these very sounds. This was better. Thus I laid back – figuratively speaking, as I was already quite supine and caged – and prepared to enjoy the show, which, I must say, I did.

That is, until I was so rudely interrupted. After about twenty minutes, as calculated afterwards, the concert came to an abrupt halt and I slid again unceremoniously from my sonic chamber. The nurse who ended the waiting game in the reception area swiftly crossed the room and requested an arm, stating, "Now I have to inject the dye." Quick shrug and my right arm was extended, swabbed, poked, pricked, and filled with some cool dye that will, undoubtedly, appear in extraordinary patterns if and when I ever see the images of my brain. Mission accomplished the disembodied voice returned to announce that I would have ten more minutes in the tube and off I went, again to my great sonic delight.

More WHHOM WHHOM WHHOM, and then out I came again. The technician returned to uncage me, and a moment later I was off the rejoin the wife in the waiting room where I was assured, by said wife, that most people do not have the same response to an MRI.

Back down the labyrinth, out the automatic doors, back home with that scene from Kindergarten Cop implanted in my head. Cue Schwarzenegger. "It's not a tumor."

Though it might be.



Blogger Poking-Stick Man said...

Ah, me -- only you could manage to have a mystery ailment AND salmonella simultaneously (see why I'm a vegetarian? damn the tomatoes!). And only you could manage to regard the sounds of an MRI as a delightful symphony...!

6/13/2008 1:13 AM  
Blogger four inches of ego said...

I can't be the only one; can I?

6/13/2008 6:44 AM  

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