Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Light torture

I stumbled into radiology at 7:15 this morning. I know that doesn't sound all that early, but with my work schedule and habits, 7:15 a.m. to me is like 5:15 a.m. to most people. They directed me to strip down and then steered me still crusty-eyed and wobbly-legged into a strange, silent room - large and empty with the exception of a single MRI imaging tube. I've heard that these tests are to be feared, but only by the claustrophobic, so I wasn't feeling too anxious. I laid on my back and the radiologist asked me if I wanted to listen to the radio. I just stared up at her, trying to coax my sleep-addled brain to turn on. Radio? What's that? I nodded weakly. "What station?" Station? What's a station? I mumbled something about NPR. She nodded and wrapped my leg, then left me alone in the room while the platform slid ominously into that alien tube.

I had been instructed NOT TO MOVE, and to NOT TAKE DEEP BREATHS, and my concentration on that made me not only twitch involuntarily, but breathe at a rate I usually reserve for sprinting up hills. I tried to slow my breathing but NOT TAKE DEEP BREATHS, and I thought about the beach, swimming, cycling ... but for some reason my thoughts kept returning to sitting on a plane. Twitch.

The radio switched on to mumbling static, and then the radiologist said something about 15 seconds and URRRRRRRRRRMMMMMMMM ... loud buzzing jolted me out of my airline fantasy and into a state that I'd have to describe as light panic. It sounds like an extreme reaction to a very minor thing, and it was. But I couldn't shake the thought that the loud buzzing was the sound of an alien machine shooting waves of magnetic resonance or radiation or whatever they use, directly into my body. The radio only made it worse. When the machine wasn't buzzing, static voices rattled off the morning's news. URRRRRRMMMMMMMMM ... sccct scct "170 sccct died today in bombings around Baghdad" .... URRRRRRRRMMMMM URRRMMMMMM ... "Tech killer Cho Seung-Hui said in a video sccct sccct ... URRRRRRMMMMMMM."

The minutes ticked on. My muscles were so tense that I felt like I was going to roll right off the platform. Thinking about breathing wasn't helping, so I did something I haven't done since I white-knuckled the passenger's seat of a turboprop plane making its way up to 15,000 feet to outrun a big storm in southern Montana ... I started chanting the Lord's Prayer. You know "Our farther, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." It's not even my religious background, but for some reason, it relaxes me. Yeah. I'm a nut.

But that's my MRI story. I've never dealt that well with anything medical. My sister's a registered nurse and I'm the type that gets lightheaded at the sight of blood. I'm also a bit of a technophobe. Combining the two is about guaranteed to send me into a mild psychotic episode. Especially when I'm directing all of my focus into NOT MOVING.

After my appointment, with the sun out and 50-degree clear weather, I thought I deserved to spend a better part of the afternoon relaxing on the beach and barbecuing Not Dogs with Geoff. Now I'm back to sane. Mostly.