9/16/2008

The MRI

I spent some quality time in an MRI machine a few days ago. Mostly because I thought it would be fun, but also because my Doctor wanted to see me stuffed inside a small tube.

Every time I talked to someone about the appointment (my doctor, the appointment nurse, the technician, the technician's assistant, the janitor in the hospital) they all asked the same thing: do you suffer from Claustrophobia? Of course I said no: Santa wouldn't hurt me.

Finally, I was stretched out on the table, heading into the machine and I understood; it's the smallest, tightest little room on the planet, and you feel like you're going into King Tut's eternal apartment. And the folks running the machine don't help that feeling. They could have a big door into the machine so that at least you might feel like you could open that door back up. But no: they slide you into the tube head-first, leaving only the feet sticking out. Now I don't know about you, but if something went wrong and I had to get myself out of a situation, my feet are the last things I'd trust to help me out. Beyond stubbing a toe, there's not much that they can do for me.

So there I am, shoved into this Chet-sized tampon applicator, trying to calm my nerves and convince myself that the tech isn't about to tickle my feet with a hypodermic full of cyanide, when the sounds start.

At first, it's just some clicking. Like a big metal dolphin. Or like they're trying to start the machine and the engine's not turning over. Then things start for real: all of a sudden, there's a huge, constant buzzing noise ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ that the foam earplugs they gave me are doing nothing to stop. Meanwhile, I keep remembering the tech's advice: "stay still - don't move your neck." Easy for her to say: she's not stuffed into a coffin with the War of the Worlds playing around her.

After a couple of minutes of this, the tech's voice kicks in and tells me there's another test coming for 3 minutes. Then the clicking sounds. Then more loud buzzing, but different, like BZZ-BZZ-BZZ-BZZ-BZZ.... After that, another test for four minutes, again with the clicking, and again with yet another buzzing sound, loud enough to rip my head off if I hadn't been told to keep it still.

There were 3 more tests for a total of about 13 minutes, each one with its own unique buzzing sound and pattern. I felt like I was inside an 80's arcade game, when buzzing was about all that the games could do. The last one sounded like a video game sound track composed by Phillip Glass, if he'd only had two notes to work with and a sadistic agenda.

Finally, the tests were over and they let me out. They pulled me out of the machine slowly, just because they thought it'd be more fun for me to be in there for as long as possible.

I understand now what "MRI" means. Some people mistakenly think that it stands for "Magnetic Resonance Imaging," but I know better. It's actually an abbreviation for what you're thinking by the time you leave that womb of torture: "Am Are I?"
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