Wednesday, October 22
Ayla and Filipa drive me to the Miriam Hospital, where I will have my MRI done. We park in the back of the building, on the street, right near the basement entrance to the MRI lab. My appointment is not until six, but we arrive early, around five forty. I am anxious about getting there on time, which is silly since it takes us minutes to get there.
We have to wait until the patient before me is done, so we pass the time watching the advertisements for the upcoming election which are playing constantly on the television. I am so glad I rarely watch tv.
I am finally called and told to change out of my clothes into a johnny and pj pants. Everything must come off except for underwear. There can be no metal in the machine, although I don't need to take off my wedding band. Before I get admitted to the MRI room, they scan me with a metal detector, just to be sure there is no other metal in me or on me.
WHEEEW WHEEEW WHEEEW WHEEEW WHEEEW WHEEEW WHEEEW WHEEEW
is the constant backdrop of noise in this room. I had imagined that this was caused by the magnets in the MRI, so I ask the tech about it. She tells me it is the sound of the "chiller," the name they call the hydrogen based cooling system that keeps the magnets cool. It is always on when the machine is on. The tech tells me they are so used to hearing it, that when it is not on it feels strange in there.
There is a curved plastic bed, which is part of the machine, lined with a blanket. A pillow lays at the entrance to the tunnel where I am to put my head. I am directed to lay down on the bed by one of the two technicians working with me. One places a pillow beneath my knees, and a blanket over me. The other tech is busy hooking my left arm up to a IV machine that will deliver contrast dye into my veins at the proper time in the imaging. There is a large, black, rectangular fabric that is draped over the trunk of my body. It is imbedded with nine camera type, which will record images of my abdomen. In my left hand, I hold a ball to squeeze if I feel the need to stop the machine for any reason.
The fluorescent lighting on the ceiling is covered by a photograph of a palm trees with a blue sky beyond. I realize this is probably put up there to relax people who are nervous. I wonder how well it works.
I am told it is very loud in the machine, and I will be wearing headphones to help block out the noise. They will play some music for me, anything I would like. I knew this from my PET scan, but never thought about what I would listen too. I would really like to listen to NPR, but the tech seems so intent on music, that instead I ask for whatever they have on easy listening. The headphones are placed over my ears, and my bed slowly glides into the machine.
The interior is low and close to me, white with a grey strip painted down the middle. I imagine that I am floating in a tunnel, where the traffic line is on the ceiling. I do not feel scared or claustrophobic, I close my eyes and listen to the music. The first song that comes on is familiar, but I can't remember what it is called, or who the artist is after it ends. It is about dancing and breathing, and I wonder if this is another attempt at calming people down.
As I listen, I open my eyes and wonder why they have chosen to paint the interior of the machine white. It seems like they could do something beautiful with this arched tunnel, put something that would give seem to give it depth, and make it more pleasant for people who are uncomfortable in such a tight space. I am thinking something like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or the aurora borealis.
The imaging starts with a short whine. A voice comes over the headphones checking on me, and asking about the music. For some reason, the music stopped and turned into a conversation between two men speaking in German. The tech apologizes, and puts on Elton John, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me. Is this supposed to be inspirational too?
At this point, I am wishing I hadn't requested music. Although I like this song, I find it distracting from the sounds of the machine. Sometimes they come in short, measured bursts, sometimes one long tone. One of the sounds reminds me of the haunted riverboat ride at Crescent Park ,
where I spent plenty of time in my youth. It is a short low blast, like the one that would go off when the car you were seated in entered the dark, haunted interior of the ride.
As I listen to the sounds I wonder if anyone has come up with any music that syncs to the tones you hear inside the machine. It would be some kind of funky, intense music.
The tech comes over the headphones and tells me when I need to hold my breath while they record some of the images. I close my eyes and count, wondering if I will get to the end of each image without having to breath. The highest I count to is thirty, and it is no problem.
There is one long image they take, after they tell me they are starting the contrast IV. The sound from the machine is scary at first, like some kind of alarm. It is made up of short and long bursts and I can feel the anxiety rising in my chest. As it goes on, I find the rhythm of the sound and ease into it. There is this vibration that also goes along with this sound, it pulsates along one side of my body across to the other, down along my left leg, and up my right leg again. It continues on for several minutes. I enjoy the vibrations and the movement of the sound.
After thirty five minutes of being in the tunnel, I am told I am done, and the bed slowly slides out. I am unhooked and free to go. Before I leave I ask the tech about the sounds, the machine makes and she tells me they are from the magnetic gates as they open and close.
I get dressed and go out to find Ayla and Filipa. They greet me in the waiting room. It is now seven thirty and pouring rain. I am so glad we didn't walk.
Ayla drops Filipa and me at home, and we heat up some beef stew. I have been craving it since my birthday, and finally made a pot of it this morning. It has cooked and cooled and been heated up again, and is just the right meal for a rainy night like tonight.