Tonight I have to get my head (and body as well) examined at the Health Sciences Centre Diagnostic Imaging Centre.
I do not go willingly.
That’s what happens when you get a pinched nerve at the gym, but just for thoroughness sake I have an appointment for an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
I admit I am nervous.
“Don’t worry at all,” said a friend, who underwent the same procedure for something altogether different.
I admit I never really liked being in enclosed spaces with invisible rays whirling about, especially the kind that unnoticeably pierce into one’s body for picture taking purposes.
I’ve seen the diagnostic machinery before and it looks like a big street paving roller that you put your head and body into. Then it whirs and bangs in a way that seems as if it’s about to explode.
I don’t want to go.
“What are they going to find in there, anyway?” I ask my friend, who once conjectured there may be a few loose screws rattling around in my noggin – but that’s altogether another story.
Always quick to soothe my worries, my friend comfortingly replies:
“I’ve read, in some news story, that one time a person discovered they had a pair of scissors stuck in their head, you know, accidentally stuck in there somehow as a kid and they were just fine. They just discovered it with an x-ray and they never even knew it. They were perfectly OK. After all those years,” she said.
I ponder this awhile, and I begin to think my friend should go into a helping profession due to her kind ways.
“But you have to take off any metal pierced ear rings and jewellery,”said my friend.
I begin to worry about a few metal tooth fillings I received before age six. I anxiously reread the requisition and sure enough, it warns about anything metal that is in or on the body, and instructs that it must be removed. This includes piercings, ear rings or other jewellery. I guess a pair of scissors would fall into that category.
Contemplating how well the person with the scissors had done, for some strange reason I begin to think I just might accidentally pass out during the procedure.
I am now like a frightened child begging my friend to accompany me to the procedure. Smiling broadly now, she continues her reassurance.
“Well, it’s a great big magnet. It somehow takes a picture with magnetized rays…if you did have a pair of scissors stuck in your head, it would probably pull them out right then and there.”
I am pretty sure I don’t have a pair of scissors stuck in my head, but then again, the unfortunate person who discovered they had this condition didn’t know it either. But in a flash I am on the phone to the MRI department. The kindly person assures me that my teeth with the metal fillings will be OK. (I didn’t mention the scissors. What are the chances?)
The kindly telephone person adds that a lot of people ask about their tooth fillings, so that is good to know.
I valiantly drive myself to the Health Sciences Centre, defying my friends offer to go with me. I enter the MRI department in the quiet of the evening, except for a distant repetitive chug that sounds a lot like an old fashioned train engine.
“That’s the MRI machine,” replies the pleasant receptionist to my questioning gaze.
I never really liked getting too close to trains, either.
After I retire to a change room to remove my clothing and wrap myself in that blue piece of paper with a plastic string for a belt, I realized I have yet to remove my pierced ear rings. The backing of one remains steadfast and it refuses to budge.
I suggest the nurse call maintenance for the use of a pair of pliers, but it seems that it is decided that things should be done medically and two forceps are found. They work like a charm in the nurse’s hands as she removes the recalcitrant ear ring backing.
Everything is fine until I have to lay down on the MRI table with my head cradled in a cage-like holder that looks a lot like the thing Hannibal Lechter wore in the movie Silence of the Lambs.
“Forget it!” I say loudly, and sit up abruptly, almost bonking the heads of two worried attendants. I am reacting to every single unrealistic fear in my head as I jump off of the multi-million dollar MRI table.
For the test, my doctor ordered sedation if necessary, since apparently my reaction is not an uncommon one. I had earlier filled the one-time prescription. There is hope yet, and I am encouraged to take the medication.
Gulping down the tablet, I am guided to a chair to wait a few moments for the pharmaceutical to take hold.
Instead of quietly waiting, for some reason I begin to feel very conversational and I chat to the nurse not only about the last time I was at the Health Sciences Centre, but as well I begin to offer a chronology of my medical, social and personal history while she diplomatically answers in short phrases of non-committal politeness. (She is a true professional).
Then I begin to think I would really enjoy a nice cup of tea right then, as I listen to the soothing chugs of what I envisioned to be a 1920’s train engine that had just delivered my family into all the hope of a new land. I feel somehow that I should be wearing a broad brimmed hat with an artificial bird on it and gloves for stylishness.
But instead I lay out my gloveless hand for the nurse to puncture my inner elbow with a large bore needle. It delivers contrast medium that will light up the insides of my body and head (and maybe, perhaps, a pair of scissors, too) like a Christmas tree upon the radiographic slides.
I am led again to the chugging cylinder.
Despite the sedation, I still have one small moment of hesitation. But I lay down onto the sliding table anyway that will soon take me into the depths of the large cylindrical MRI machine.
It is not until the kindly attendant laid her hand on my calf that I truly relax. (My legs are now sticking out of the cylinder like a puppet half run over by a steamroller).
I have faith the kindly attendant will pull me out (by the leg) in the event of any disaster within the multi-million dollar medical device. The table (or else the cylinder) seems to move along forward and back. The large cylinder sounds as if it is turning all around me with all sorts of different pulsations, thumps and bangs. It stops many times to begin its song all over again.
I don’t remember much more, since I become lost in my imagination as I envision the bangs and pulsating sounds to be the back rhythms of some fantasized music.
The procedure is over in about 40 minutes, and I emerge unscathed. The medication will soon leave my system.
My friend arrives to accompany me home, and she asks me how it went.
I tell her I will need a ride for the emergency operation I require to remove the scissors that somehow arrived in my head and came to rest there without threat; the radiologist said they looked a lot like a pair of mini pinking shears.
Sounds exactly like the kind my daughter lost around grade 1!
(P.S. Turns out to be a pinched nerve after all, and I am still living to tell the tale!)