MRI: or Why Health is Wealth

Magnetic Radial Imaging… it sounds oh so sci-fi. One of those experiences you relegate to the “Interesting, but I really hope I don’t need to repeat it in the near future” category. I’ve seen enough episodes of “House” to know what it is so I wasn’t terribly alarmed at the prospect when my doctor told me I needed to have one. Comparatively speaking though – size does matter. The GE model I was inserted into was not nearly as spacious nor as well lit as those I had seen on TV. Apparently the diagnostic facility here on our lovely Greek island of Crete does not enjoy the same subsidies as the Princeton University Hospital that the fictional albeit charismatic Dr. House tyrannizes on the telly.

I found it fascinating, as a newbie, that the staff handling the procedure seemed to take it for granted that everyone has had one, or at least knows the drill. Am I really among the last to be initiated? As it turned out I wasn’t the only newbie, thankfully, because that forced me to be brave (I am mildly claustrophobic so the prospect of being inserted into a plastic tube a mere five inches from my nose, even if open ended, was not something I looked forward to). A gentleman who had been “tubed” before us, and who appeared to be an old hand at the whole business, kindly recommended we close our eyes and try to relax, that it wouldn’t hurt, there was just the sound…

I’m no scientist but the name itself had conjured some speculation as to what the sound might be like. I imagined a sort of whirring electric generator sound… NOT. In the beginning it was sort of like a maniacal Woody Woodpecker trying to peck his way through PVC, then sort of like gears grinding alternating with a pneumatic hammer. I neglected to mention that I had been given neoprene earplugs and thick cotton pads were wedged between my ears and the edges of the plastic cradle which held my head in place. What followed I could only compare to being lodged inside some hyper-physical and not necessarily well-tuned musical instrument. Piano forte, electric bass, at varying intensities and frequencies. There were a couple of moments that reminded me of a Phillip Glass concert I had attended years ago, others that reminded me of the “High Brazil” sing-song sequence from the Monty Python’s film “Eric the Viking”.

Thankfully I had had the forethought to ask the technician how long I would be in the tube… “It only takes about 20 minutes…”. GULP! I certainly hadn’t expected it to be as quick as an x-ray, but my imagination hadn’t considered anything beyond 3-5 minutes (they never had patients in there longer than that on “House”!). That called for a second helping of bolstering my courage.

During the process there were a few of what could only be described as “fake out” moments, when suddenly all of the sounds would stop for about 30-60 seconds, and my brain said “Hooray! It’ over!”. OK, the first had come way too soon (having asked how long I would be inside – I’d only counted to sixty about 7 times by then). The second I said to myself “wishful thinking”, I had counted to sixty 12 times by then. Then my nose started to itch and I lost count… The last one was bitter – about seventeen minutes in.

Another weird thing was that by the end I was quite warm and, without realizing it, had tensed the muscles in my legs and shoulders. When the noises were finally silenced for longer than 60 seconds, the tube became cool. Then the magical vacuum sound of the chamber door opening confirmed I was free at last. The tube spit me out and the technician helped me up. I pulled the neoprene out of my ears and was on my way out the chamber door.

Standing patiently outside the chamber, stoically awaiting her turn was a little girl. She couldn’t have been more than 10. She knew the drill inside and out, even knew the names of all the technical staff. Suddenly I felt really silly for having been such a wuss, and my heart went out to that little girl who had incorporated that freaky machine into her life with incredible aplomb.

Health is wealth. Respect it while you have it!

Victoria Andre King is a freelance writer and audiovisual professional her novel The Führer Must Die is available for pre-orders and will be released on November 8th 2016 with Yucca Publications, an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing NYC.

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