This morning I drove a little over an hour to get to the closest Major Medical Center in order to have an MRI done. I arrived about a half hour before my scheduled appointment as instructed in order to fill out the paperwork. I was given a ticket, as if in a delicatessen waiting for a sandwich. It wasn’t even 9 am and already I was Number 21. And then I waited to be called in. And waited. And waited. I waited until every single person in the room had been called away, all the way up to Number 36. I read a little of the book I brought. I sent frustrated text messages from my phone. I did some people watching…..a patient who was brought in by two large corrections officers generated some attention. He was in arm and leg shackles, in a neck brace, and was actually wearing a striped prison uniform like you see in cartoons. Not an orange jumpsuit, but actual stripes. They whisked him away into the back, away from everyone else. I guess they felt it wasn’t good PR to have him sitting out in the waiting room.
I waited for two hours. I got up a few times to inquire if they had called me and if I just hadn’t heard my name (since I can’t hear very well, that’s a reality). But no, they hadn’t called me. After about an hour and a half I had a nice headache brewing and started to have fantasies of getting up and leaving. Suddenly standing up, I would stride over to the desk, hand them my papers and say “Sorry, I was here on time for my appointment but it’s been hours now and I really can’t spend the entire day sitting here waiting. I think I will get this done closer to home”. But I didn’t do that. Honestly, I don’t see why I couldn’t have had this MRI a lot closer to home. Here I had to take a day off from work, drive over two hours total, and then sit and wait. However, my doctor insisted that I get the imaging done at this medical center because they supposedly give her exactly what she ordered, and so here I was, stewing in my own mind.
Finally they called me in. I know their tricks though. You get called in from the Big Main Waiting room and then they stick you in Smaller Waiting Room Part Two, where you wait some more. And that’s exactly what happened. I read my book, ate some chocolate, fired off a few more aggravated phone texts and then got up to use the bathroom. When I came back into the little waiting area, the prisoner and his escorts were sitting there. We all sat together for a minute or so. I really wanted to ask him what happened to his neck, but of course I just ducked behind my book and he didn’t look at me either. Then the officers suddenly got up and took him out of there, presumably to another private area. Again, probably a public relations issue.
A nurse finally came out for me and said I would need an IV for the contrast dye. I was pleased that when I told her which arm to use and which vein to hit, she actually listened to me, making this a non-event. Then I was told to go back to the little waiting room and wait some more. A couple of more phone texts and then finally I was moved on to the room with the MRI machine.
I am no stranger to magnetic resonance imaging. I have had my brain, my neck, my spine and my shoulder all imaged for different reasons, ranging from hearing loss to accident. My trick for tolerating the ongoing loud hammering is to transcribe it into drumming, and make up songs to go along with the drumming. This has been a very effective strategy, which I highly recommend to anybody who has to have and MRI and can’t stand the repetitive noise. Turn it into a song, pretend to drum along to it.
In this way the claustrophobic feeling can be averted. Even though the tube is open-ended, you are still in there as in a coffin, and it is a close fit. I am not an especially big person, but my left shoulder was right up against the side of the machine. I don’t know how really large people deal with that. I asked the tech about it. He told me they have squeezed some really big people into that tube, so that the machine is touching them on all sides rather tightly. Not sure how I would feel about that.
What was different this time was that the air conditioning blowing through was extremely cold and windy. It is always very cold in those imaging rooms, but in this place there was a pretty steady wind blowing. Also, my left upper arm kept heating up and cooling off. I wondered if my cells were cooking in there. It was definitely weird. Oddly enough, and thankfully, the headache had gone away.
So, there I was, and I got into The Zone. With the blankets pulled up to my neck and the drumming in my head, I closed my eyes and tried to forget that I was strapped into this big, scary machine. It went on for over an hour. I spaced out and came back and spaced out again.
When it was over, I checked the time and discovered this whole ordeal had taken four hours from arrival to departure, not counting the travel time, which would make that six. Navigated my way through the maze of hospital corridors to the parking garage, where it was 100 degrees outside….. then set my new birthday present GPS towards home to Get Out of Dodge. It sent me through kind of a strange maze of streets, but finally I was out on the highway, where a strange calm began to settle in. With great surprise, I discovered that I felt thoroughly and amazingly rested, as if I had taken a long nap. And I realized why that was.
That last hour and a half was enforced down time. I was not able to read, watch television, talk on the phone, be on the computer, listen to music, write, draw, socialize, clean, cook, look out the window. There was nothing to do but close my eyes and focus on the within (albeit with hammering/drumming), and be still. An enforced meditation of sorts. Imposed stillness. It made me realize that not all leisure time is necessarily relaxing time……and that in a way, this lemon had become lemonade……something to consider……..