Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Totally Tubular

Hi, and welcome back to "Mark Undergoes the Rigors of Modern Medicine." When last we met, I was headed for a MRI to find out what the devil is bedeviling my lumbar region.

Yesterday morning, bright and early, Peggy took me to the place. I'm going to mention their name - America Radiology in Timonium, MD - because they are about the friendliest bunch of people you could ever hope to meet. Really! We got there well ahead of time, as they said to do, so that I could fill out the paperwork before I intoxicated myself with magic pills to buzz away the anxiety. I popped a couple of Hydrocodones and sat back, waiting to enjoy the Rush. (!) I sat with Peggy, she reading a magazine, I flipping through my iPod like a nut, and then, when I came back from a bathroom break, a young woman was standing there next to Peggy, and I knew. "Is it time?" I asked, and she nodded in assent. I had to walk that green mile (actually it was sort of beige) alone with her - they didn't allow spouses back in the Big Magnet Room.

Apparently, I was not the first patient that this woman had dealt with. She looked me over for metal, but I had cleverly worn sweats with non-metallic eyelets and so all I had to take off was my watch, and turn my iPod over to the tech. I set it to play My 25 Most Played, and during the test, I enjoyed these songs:
  • "Getting to Know You" - Bing Crosby
  • "Hallelujah Day" - Jackson 5
  • "Cleveland Rocks" - The Presidents of the United States
  • "As Long As You Love Me" - Backstreet Boys
  • "Jazz: Delicious Hot, Disgusting Cold" - Bonzo Dog Band
  • "Do What You Gotta Do" - Tom Jones
  • "Don't She Look Good" - Ernest Tubb
  • "Wild Weekend" - Bill Anderson
  • "Mountain Greenery" - Bing Crosby
  • "Just Between You and Me" - Charley Pride
  • "Run To The Hills" - Iron Maiden
I couldn't help but wonder if the staff were enjoying the music. They had to jack my 'pod into their audio chain, which also contained a way for the tech to talk to me in the headphones they stuck on my melon.

Anyway. Supine, all stretched out, pillows under knees, and they back me into the tube in a way reminiscent of the old sawmill I used to go visit as a rural youth, out at the end of Providence Rd near Loch Raven Drive. I got in there and it was like whoa, Nellie, get me outta here! Claustrophobia, plus having the ceiling of this tube about an inch from the tip of my nose, meant instant anxiety. Again, I could tell this was not the first time they had dealt with this issue, and the tech said "How about a blindfold?" and I said sure, let's try it. Had I been my usual self, I surely would have replied, "OK, but then how will you be able to see the controls?" But I wasn't my usual self, to the relief of all, and with my blackout gear
in place, I was ready to re-enter the tube of gloom.

Well, that was the ticket, because I rationalized that without seeing the beige plastic and steel trap that had me captive, I couldn't tell how close it was to me. Blindfolded, for all I knew, I was on my back atop a massage table in an area the size of an airplane hangar. This blindfold thing really works to diminish the
perceptions of one's surroundings and overall zeitgeist - the general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and/or political climate within a nation, as Wikipedia defines it. As I lay there, I deduced that somehow, Sarah Palin has thrown a gigantic blindfold across thousands of eyes. That must be how she's got 'em bamboozled.

So, with all that buildup and drama, the test itself was less exciting than the preamble. I heard my tunes, I was given a squeeze bulb signalling device to be used in case I just HAD to bail, and from time to time the tech came on the headphones, her sweet voice mixing with that of Ernest or Bing or whomever, and telling me how we were doing, and how long the next test would take. In half an hour,
the pills had kicked in nicely, the tests were completed, and I walked out a free and happy man. Well, I should say that I walked out with the peculiar rolling gait that I have adopted of late, but now that the doctors have these pictures of my spine, I'm sure we're going to get to the bottom of it all, so to speak.

But I have to say something about the tech at American Radiology. She sees dozens of patients in a week, and it would be easy for her to become hardened and unfeeling to the human needs of those entubed. But, she doesn't. In fact, she made a point of going to the other end of the MRI machine and touching my shoulder, saying that she'd be right there for me all throughout the tests. And then when she talked to me on the headphones during the procedure, she said "You're doing great!" I think about this sort of thing all the time, how just a few words or a kind gesture can mean so much to another. I was predisposed to liking her; her name was Laura, and it's that way with a lot of my favorite people. Thanks, Laura. You're doing great, too!

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