Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Day "Minus Nine"

On the evening of Father's Day, Patrick and I caught the shuttle from BWI to the hospital with the help of a legion of angels, I'm convinced.  The information we were given about the shuttle pick-up location is about six years out-dated, according to the shuttle driver.  His was the last shuttle for the night, so we were thankful that he made the extra stop.

Late that night "my" research fellow came in--he was the on-call doc for the weekend.  He updated my pre-scan instructions from "nothing to eat or drink 4 hours prior to scans" to "nothing to eat or drink after midnight."  No matter.  My scan was scheduled for 6:00 something in the morning.

At NIH the oral contrast drink tastes like water that has been stored in a chemical-leeching container, which is to say that it tastes infinitely better than the thick, sickening "berry" flavored contrast that usually awaits me before a scan.  I drank half of the liter bottle of contrast in my room, and brought the other half with me to the radiology department.  Once there, I was stuck in the left arm to accommodate I.V. contrast, and was instructed to finish half of what was left in the bottle of oral contrast.  The CT was uneventful and easy peasy.

Next up was an MRI.  I had thought it would be a twenty-minute affair like the two previous ones I've had, but when I spoke to the tech, she described what would end up being almost a two hour procedure.  I reconsidered my earlier denial of her inquiry about my need for the restroom.

First up would be a scan of my brain without contrast.  The familiar head contraption was snapped over my face, and some other apparatus was strapped across my abdomen.  I was given a pneumatic bulb to squeeze if I should need to stop the test.  Inside the machine, a fan blew air around me to help ease any feelings of claustrophobia.  As usual, I was to lie still for the duration of the scan.  This would take fifteen minutes, she said.  "Just enough time for a quick rosary," I thought.  I hadn't considered how confusing all the noise, noise, noise (!) would be once the test began, however.  I only made it through the third mystery (of five) before that part of the test was over.  Who can pray with all of that racket?

Out came the narrow-narrow bed with me on it.  I still wasn't allowed to move, but the tech adjusted "the coils"...whatever that meant.  In I went again, still with the cage over my face.  I resumed the rosary where I had left off, but couldn't remember the fourth joyful mystery!  "Rats...let's see, sorrowful is Carrying of the Cross...Glorious is the Assumption into Heaven...Luminous is the Transfiguration...what is the fourth joyful mystery?!?!... all the while the machine is screaming its unnerving blasts of sound, first banging, then humming, then what sounds like gunfire...fourth mystery...fourth the temple?  No that's the fifth...ARGH...the noise!  Eventually, I remembered!  (The Presentation!  Woo!) and continued with many stops and starts due to all the noise inside that brain-scrambling machine.

One of the closing prayers of the rosary is a relatively short one to Mary, asking that she show us the way to Jesus.  I've prayed this prayer hundreds of times, but never during a mind-jarring, memory-stealing MRI.  It took me almost all of the remaining time to remember each phrase in the correct order.  When I finally got it right, I just repeated the prayer over and over despite the chaos of sound blasting into my ears, and the shaking of the machine.  I was able to concentrate on the prayer, and not on the fact that I was trapped, which I'm sure kept me from panicking.

All at once everything went still and silent.  I heard the tech announce that the test was over and shortly after that she came and released me from the cage and coils and things.  I dizzily sat up and wondered whose idea it was to schedule a brain MRI back-to-back with an abdominal MRI.  Glancing at the clock, I discovered that an hour and fifty minutes had passed.  I met Patrick in the waiting room and we found our way back to my room where I collapsed onto the bed.

All that lying around inside a scanner can really wear a person out.

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