MRI or, My Brief Life as a Cork
June 20, 2010
I got there early, somehow, and got all the paperwork done.
A chipper nurse named Missy escorted me to a waiting room and supervised the emptying of my pockets, removal of my wristwatch, and the loss of my suspenders and glasses. Then she slid a needle into my right arm and fitted it with a port so they could run some kind of tracing fluid into my veins once they had me inserted into the MRI. I don’t know what it was, but it’s designed to make the veins and arteries in my brain visible.
Because I’ve had a variety of work experiences and have worked around metal grinding and welding equipment and because I once had a bristle from a wire brush stuck in my eye, I had to get my eyes x-rayed before they would give me the MRI. Turns out the magnets in the MRI are so strong, any steel screws, staples or assorted scrap metal anywhere near the magnets gets pulled right out. They said that would hurt. A lot.
A quick note of explanation. I’m not dying, at least, not any faster than anybody else. Without getting into the matter any further, my doc and I figured it might be a good time to check under the hood.
After finishing her plumbing duties, Missy led me down the hallways, she toting a clipboard with my charts and me trying to keep my pants up, down the hallway to a room. She was a little irritated because I had to take an important work-related call and send a quick email before I surrendered my cell phone to the storage locker.
One last turn in the maze and Missy opened a big, thick door.
There it was.
It looked like a gray plastic mausoleum, the burial chamber of somebody important named GE. I looked at the opening with misgivings. It looked like a modernized version of a groundhog’s burrow. Or something very Freudian…the militarized version.
Missy and another woman got me situated on the slab of steel and plastic and fastened something like a cage around my head and jammed foam plugs into my ears. Missy put a rubber bulb in my left hand and said I should squeeze it if I felt like I needed to come out.
“Comfortable?” Missy asked. Except, with the plugs in my ears, it sounded like “cumferubble?”
“What?” I said, as the slab began to slide smoothly into the bore of the MRI machine.
I felt like a shell being shoved down the throat of a cannon.
“You might want to squinch your shoulders in a little,” shouted Missy so I could hear her through the plugs. “It looks like a tight fit.”
I’m a big guy. Too big, to be honest. More than six feet, and a tad over 300. A big tad.
I scrunched. I slid. My nose rested a fraction of an inch from the inside of the tube. My shoulders rolled forward to up around my ears. My considerable gut smooshed up tightly around about three-quarters of the surface, cutting off all the light from that end me. The other end of the tube was open, but I couldn’t see. All I could see was the white plastic two inches from my nose.
I realized suddenly that I would spend the next half hour tucked like a cork in a bottle while loud mechanical noises crunched and crashed all around me and powerful magnetic waves would wash over my poor addled brain cells. Half an hour. A not inconsiderable slice of eternity, from that perspective.
I think I busted the little rubber bulb.
“We haven’t started yet, Mr. Burger,” Missy said.
My reply was perhaps a little brusque.
“Hang on….” She said, as the slab began to slide back the way it had come. I will swear on a stack of bibles that I made a popping sound when my midsection cleared the rim.
I was soaking wet. They had asked me in one of the questionnaire’s if I was claustrophobic. I wasn’t. Not when I was filling out the form, anyway.
NOW I’m claustrophobic.
As luck would have it, they have another machine that does not make one feel as though they have been imprisoned in a giant condom, and the patient scheduled for that machine was late. We went through the same drill. Inside, my nose was no further from the surface, but the sides were open, which I could just barely see out of the corner of my eye.
It was enough. I spent 45 minutes (evidently that machine takes longer) listening to what sounded like robots on roller skates playing racquetball with several old cars, alternately firing laser cannons. Even with the ear plugs, it was quite a racket.
Oddly, I feel asleep several times, awaking with a start when the noise stopped while the technician did something or the other to reset the machine. Perhaps the robots needed more old cars to slap around.
After it was all over, Missy led me back to the changing room, removed the plumbing from my arm, and told me I could re-load my pockets and person with all my assorted hardware. Still shaky, it took me awhile to sort out my suspenders and get them back in place without any knots.
I don’t know the results of the test yet. I like to think if they found anything interesting – my father’s cameo ring I lost when I was 12, or any of that stuff I memorized in the eighth grade – they would have called. So I’m not too worried.
The next night, I went to dinner with friends. We had wine. When the bottle was empty, I picked up the cork and started to put it back in the bottle for some reason. I stopped, pulled it back out and left it on the table.
© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
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