Okay, so on Friday I get hailed in to the Mayo for an MRI. Dutifully show up at 12:30, as requested, bearing an author’s review copy of a novel I’m supposed to be copyediting (don’t ask how copyedits happen at the ARC stage; just be thankful this one is very clean).
Almost two hours later they call me in for the test. I’ve spent this entire time, undressed, in a small waiting room with a damnable television nattering away, rerunning the local morning show, over and over and over and over, telling us all about the weather and the traffic conditions and the six-hour-old news. Focusing on my work over the yammering voice of the woman DJ or whatever the hell she’s supposed to be is passing difficult.
This gives me lots of time to get tensed up.
By the time they finally get around to calling me in for the MRI, this fat lady is ready to go home. I’m hungry, irritated, and would like never, ever, ever to have to hear the inane chattering of some inane blonde talking head on the television again. Or, come to think of it, of anyone. What I would like is silence.
The MRI machine is one creepy-looking gadget, a huge donut-shaped affair reminiscent of a flying saucer stood on edge. It’s confined to a large room roped off with yellow “danger” tape, not very inviting. While it sits there waiting for you, it makes a weird otherworldly tweeting noise, like some sort of manic canary on meth.
The MRI techs pack me onto a kind of cot that can elevate the victpatient into the contraption. They tell me I can’t move—as in not budge and try not to breathe deeply—during the time the images are being taken, which will take about 20 minutes. I’m told this is a relatively brief exposure to the thing. Then they stuff cotton in my ears, which does nothing to dampen the sound of their voices, wrap my head with earphones through which some sort of treacly Muzak is pumped, cover my eyes with gauze, and tell me (only after I ask) that I can expect to be bombarded with a noise that sounds like a jackhammer.
Well, I lasted about 30 seconds in there. They didn’t even get the thing turned on before I was asking to get out.
Creepy. Absolutely, indescribably creepy.
I didn’t feel afraid. I just felt so uncomfortable and so creeped out…sort of like having to pay an extended visit to a cockroach nest under the refrigerator…that I knew I was not going to be able to stand to stay in that thing for 20 minutes.
More to the point, a single cogent thought entered my mind: All these “stress attacks” I’ve been having—and there have been many, many more than the good Dr. Daley knows about—have never been satisfactorily diagnosed. There is some chance that those episodes could be minor cardiac events. If that is the case, then twenty minutes of uninterrupted, rather extreme stress could cause a heart attack.
Eff that, say I, only more explicitly.
Now they want me to consent to going back and letting them drug me with Valium or an intravenous sedative.
i. don’t. think. so.
The techs adjudged me “severely claustrophobic.” Not to be repetitious, but I don’t think so. Though it’s true that one reason I dislike flying in commercial jets is being jammed elbow-to-elbow with strangers (yech!); and it is true that I truly, truly hate the Flagstaff Ice Cave because it’s totally dark, totally devoid of light in there and you can’t find your way out without a flashlight or a lighter and we got in there one time without either of those and I was, yes, freaking scared; and no, I don’t like elevators, “severe” as in “disabling” is not the term I’d use.
Besides, I have a good reason to prefer stairs to elevators. I was once in an elevator that fell 11 stories before we could stop it. That’s 11 out of 13 possible stories…
Since then, if the climb is less than six floors, I’ll take the fire escape, thank you.
The inside of an MRI machine is not dark. It does not go up and down. It does not make you sit next to some odoriferous stranger with a screamy child. And it apparently poses little risk. It’s just creepy. Very creepy.
The fact of the matter is, the shoulder is on the mend. When I called the P.A. yesterday and reported that since the last time I saw him—quite recently—two days passed with almost no pain except for one out-of-the-ordinary position, and that I now can do the hold-your-hand-out-at-shoulder-height-and-pour-the-pop-out-of-a-soda-can maneuver with no pain at all, he remarked that it takes about three months “for the dust to settle.” It may be that given my age and the fact that I can’t take any over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, it simply has taken a long time to heal.
Yesterday after I got home from this entertaining experience, the kitchen sink clogged. To clean that out, I had to hold the plug down tight in the righthand sink and, with the injured left arm, pump a plumber’s helper vigorously in the lefthand sink. This caused exactly zero pain. It’s hard to imagine that if any very serious damage were lurking inside the shoulder, I could pull that stunt without repercussion.
At the moment it feels somewhat like a typhoid or cholera shot, only most of the time slightly less painful.
And frankly…some things are worse than chronic mild pain.
Images: MRI, shamelessly ripped off from a website now disappeared from my computer’s memory.
Elevators at 240 Sparks, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. GNU Free Documentation License.