(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 24, 2010)
CAT scan, computed tomography (CT), has become a routine part of our regular vocabulary. Like colonoscopy. And constipation. The older you get the more your lexicon takes on a medical slant. And conversations begin to sound like a recitation of a pharmaceutical dictionary.
MRI. Magnetic resonance imagery. This is the Cadillac of X-rays. I won’t attempt to give you a journeyman’s explanation of how it works. Mainly because I don’t know. Besides, if you’ve had any sort of internal woes lately, an MRI is on your chart.
A while back CR2S, with foot in cheek, playfully confessed its worst fear. Even worse than a foot-long needle. I asked readers to imagine themselves in an MRI tube when there is an earthquake. The technician takes off like Apolo Anton Ohno, leaving you in the whirring, clanking machine as it continues its impersonal search.
Segue to Saturday last. At a funeral reception, of all places, I am explaining an early departure is necessary because of an MRI appointment that afternoon. Considering my aforementioned anxiety, you ask why the nonchalance?
Easy to explain. I had emphasized at the time of scheduling that claustrophobia made a new-fangled, open “halo” machine necessary because of my morbid fear of the old-fashioned torpedo tube. I was assured the Mark Taper Imaging Center had one, not to worry.
The long drive from Montebello to the Center is stop and go, an hour in length. But I had the foresight to grab some sushi so I could nosh en route to the vicinity of Cedars Sinai. (You don’t have to starve before an MRI.)
The first-time patient processing goes smoothly and swiftly. I am in a robe en route for the procedure post haste. Upon arrival I see the ogre. My nemesis. It’s the monster. After a nervous explanation of my dilemma, the technician shrugs in knowing sympathy and simply asks: “Do you wanna give it a try?” That’s when push came to nudge, morbid fear gave way to Jappo upbringing:
“Okay, why not,” I bravely responded.
He explained the noise that would follow made ear plugs necessary. He then asked what kind of music I would prefer. When I answered “40s Big Band” he guffawed, “Haven’t had that request in a long time.” After answering “about 25 minutes” to the question of how long it would take, he placed a rubber “panic” bulb in my folded hands. “Just in case,” he said, while putting a small towel over my (closed) eyes. He punched the “Start” button.
As I entered the dreaded cylinder I ordered my mind to remain cool, calm and non-calamitous. Twenty-five minutes. That meant 1500, sixty times twenty-five. I decided to conduct the count backwards. There was a waft of warm air but no Tommy Dorsey. And that skinny guy who was his male vocalist.
Somewhere around 1391 I lost count and started over again. I could feel beads of sweat form in both arm pits. That brought about a much needed smile. I lost count, again. Then decided there wasn’t much sense in starting over.
Hard to imagine but I must’ve dozed off for a moment or two. The sudden movement of the slab jarring me back to reality. The rubber bulb was not only unnecessary, it was as dry as Death Valley, er, the Sahara.
The guy says, “Now, that wasn’t so bad, right?” When I kidded him about forgetting to turn on my Sinatra music, he apologized.
For what it’s worth, dear reader, the MRI has yet to be discussed. The sorry medical plight of CR2S continues its discouraging downtrend. The call from my new specialist to determine our next step has yet to be made. The promising start has taken on a déjà vu coloration as there was no follow up last week. When contact was finally made Friday, the office guaranteed the good doctor would discuss the situation with me on Monday. That’s today. At this moment it’s 9:17 p.m. Wanna bet the phone doesn’t ring?
On my birthday, November last, the inexplicable pain was an unexpected gift. Unfortunately non-returnable. A pox on someone.
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached by e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.