I had an appointment for an MRI last night. I say, "last night" because it was scheduled for 1:30am. I know that sounds like a crazy time, but the MRI department is open 24 hours. So actually my appointment was this morning. But I hadn't slept yet, and therefore it felt more like last night. The hospital is strangely quiet at that time. Not too much happens at 1:30am and that is a good thing! Signs led us down the halls to the MRI department. It was a very long walk!
The staff at the MRI department asked me a gazillion questions, mostly about operations I had had in the past and if I had anything metal implanted in my body. They also wanted to know if I was claustrophobic. That's when I knew I would be in trouble! Nightmares of waking up in a hospital bed encased in a plaster body cast, images of being locked in the trunk of a car, the feeling of being paralyzed - and now they were going to put me into a machine, like a long tunnel with no escape. Was I claustrophobic? You betcha!!! Would I ever be able to get out?
When they were finally convinced that I had answered all of their questions, they showed me into the MRI room. The machine was an huge, imposing, grey monster. It practically filled the tiny room! A narrow 'bed' was attached at one end. I was told to get up onto it and put my head in a tiny 'head' space and my shoulders against the parts that held my head in place. It felt hard and unnatural. They propped my knees up with a sort of wedge-shaped cushion. My left leg was already going numb and tingly. Then they gave me a pair of bright, yellow ear plugs because the noise inside the machine would be very loud. Oh, great! Confined to a narrow tunnel with no escape AND subjected to loud noises at the same time! How would I be able to stand it? I thought I would get to listen to some nice music or something. Even Muzak would do! I was handed a round bulb-shaped thing on a cord and told that I should squeeze it tightly in order to alert the technician if I experienced any discomfort or problems. I clutched the device tightly in my left hand as close to the bulb as possible. What happened to the person who was going to talk to me while I was going through my torture! I guess at 1:30am there are not too many people around who have time to sit and chat. That's when I realized that I would be alone in that grey room with the imposing grey machine tightly locked around me! And what would constitute discomfort? Would they stop the test if I felt as if I couldn't breathe and wanted to get out as quickly as possible? Should I squeeze the bulb if my leg went into spasms? I guess I should have asked, but I was, for once in my life, speechless! They tested the machine - not so much to see if it was working, but to give me a chance to experience the sensation of being inside it, having it move around me and having it make noises as it sliced my body into nice, neat photographs. Then they stopped the machine and brought me out to make me think that it would be easy! See? I had nothing to fear! But I am skeptical and I feared the worst.
"Are you ready to begin?" The technician asked me. I heard my voice say, "Yes", but I am sure I didn't say that! The machine was already calling the shots! It was speaking for me! "I'm not ready", I wanted to scream! "I'll never be ready!"
"Okay, then", said the technician from the safety of his 'control' room behind the glass. He started the machine, raising my bed-like thing high off the ground, "I will be able to talk to you through the speakers. So let's get started". Even if I had wanted to I wouldn't have been able to get off the bed now! It was too high! I was stuck! "Whatever you do, don't move", the technician warned me! My life passed before my eyes!
The 'bed' moved me far into the bowels of the machine! I had said, "Yes!" Or at least a voice that sounded like mine had said "Yes". OMG! It was too late! The test was about to start! And just as the machine started to engulf me, I felt a tiny itch on the tip of my nose. It was just a tiny itch. If I could have scratched it, it would have disappeared in a second. But I couldn't move! I couldn't reach it with my hand or any other part of my body. I tried to blow it away, but it just kept on itching! The voice from the speakers said we were going to start! The machine started to grunt and groan and make 'popping' noises. It sounded as if I was caught in the middle of a war zone. Bullets were flying past my head! I couldn't duck them and had to trust that the machine would protect me. Another series of bullets and another set of whirs and groans. And all the time the itch on my nose got worse! My legs started to feel as if they would go into cramps at any time! More bullets! OMG! I think one of the bullets must have hit me! I could feel it in my leg! It was a hot, searing pain. Oh. That's right. This was the pain that I was there to have diagnosed. But my feet started to get cold. Maybe it was a bullet! Was I dead? No, I could still feel that damned itch! The voice started to tell me that the next part of the test would last three and a half minutes. Oh, no! Another itch was starting on my right shoulder! And now there was one on my right hip! The wedge thing under my knees made my legs go to sleep! Was the three minutes not over yet? They seemed to go on forever. How long is three minutes when you are being tortured in a small, dark chamber? It all became clear! This was an alien abduction! They were conducting their tests. I would have to check to make sure they hadn't taken one of my kidneys if this 'test' was ever over! IF! It was going to go on forever! More bullets! More itches! More cramps! I moved my big toe between whirs and groans and bullet blasts. I hoped they wouldn't see me. But they were aliens! They would see everything! I hoped they wouldn't be angry at me for moving and take a few other vital organs while they were at it - as revenge. It was getting hot in my contraption! Had I used up my air supply? I couldn't breathe anymore! The itch on my nose had eaten a huge hole in my face! The cramps in my legs would surely paralyze me for eternity! I thought I couldn't stand it any longer. I would have to squeeze that bulb! But my hand was holding it so tightly that rigor mortise had set in! "Get me out of here", I heard the voices in my head scream! "I can't take any more!" And suddenly there was silence! Was the three and a half minutes over? No! A half hour had passed. No more bullets flying past my head. No more whirring and groaning. The bed was moving. It was moving me out of the machine! I could see the light at the end of the tunnel! "Are you okay?", a voice asked.
"Okay? How could I be okay? I've been shot at, my kidneys have been stolen by aliens, my left hand is numb and my legs are paralyzed! And I have a hole in my face!"
I would never be okay again! But the itch on my nose was gone! Oh, miracle of miracles! The itch was gone! My head was dizzy and I had to get up slowly, but get up I did! I got dressed in record time and made my way to the waiting room, where my dear husband was patiently reading a magazine. I 'ran' for the exit as fast as my gimpy leg and cane could carry me! I was free! I wasn't paralyzed! And I still had my kidneys! And my itch was gone! But I wasn't taking any chances!
"I want to go home as quickly as possible", I said. And that is exactly what we did!