03 March 2011

The Origins of Electronica?

So I'm back from my encounter with the Most Ridiculous Instrument, also known as an MRI machine.

Almost laughed when it started up because I immediately recalled what my brother had said about his MRI experience a couple of years ago: it's like old school electronic music.

But backing up for a moment, I was amused when the guy running through all the safety questions with me said, "You don't have problems with small spaces, right?" as though it was an afterthought. Way to assume the sale, buddy.

"I do actually, but I think I'll be all right."

"Oh you will be, you're thin. It only covers this much," he held a hand at the top of his head and one by his waist, "And you can see out the whole time." He told me he'd be back for me in a few minutes and closed a curtain across the hallway behind him.

I closed the locker he'd given me for my jacket and took the key out of the padlock and sat back down.

I waited a few minutes looking at the row of lockers, the rocking chair next to me, a bench, some posters about how to use ear plugs and a mostly covered shelf of folded white fabrics. Then I noticed the open door to my left was to a patient restroom.

Last thing I need is to be fighting the urge to pee while I have to remain still in a claustrophobic space for half an hour. I hit the restroom and a few minutes later the MRI tech came to get me.

As we entered the MRI room, he pointed to a ledge by a glass partition behind which he would run the test. "You can put your key right there. It will be safe and no one can get to it unless one of us comes inside this room with you."

Hmm. Guess the magnet isn't as super strong as I'd thought.

To my left was a long narrow table covered with white fabric. Beyond it, the MRI machine. I admit I didn't really look at the machine because I didn't want to focus on the size of the opening. Besides there was a bunch of other stuff in the room. I'd been thinking pristine white empty room a la Grey's Anatomy, but this actually seemed like part storage room.

Shoes on or off was my preference, but I left them on since they felt ok.

I lied down on my back with my head resting in a cradle. He gave me a support to go under my knees and ear plugs. Once I was done with some goofy, fidgety jockeying around I lied back again.

He slid a cage above my face like a wire guard on a sports helmet. Oh my god, that's close. Breathe.

The nice tech and another assistant slid angled foam pieces down by my ears to help keep my head still. The tech said, "You need to keep your head still for 15 minutes while I'm taking pictures, when we pull you out to give you the contrast injection, and then when we put you back in."

His voice was muffled between the ear plugs and the cushions. So was mine when I said, "You mean I need to keep my head from moving the entire time from when you start to when we're totally done?"


Exhale. "OK."

"Most people keep their eyes shut, but you can have them open. It makes no difference to the test."


"I'm going to slide you back now." He pressed a button and conveyor belt style, I rolled back. The sleeves of my bulky sweater and arms were pushed in slightly by the edges of the tunnel. Wow, that's narrow.

"Are you all right?"


Two vertical strips of pale blue light on either side of the ceiling of the tunnel illuminated it. Very 2001. This is when I noticed part of the face cage was a small angled mirror which let me see out of the tunnel.

"I'll check on you in five minutes to make sure you're OK. If you need to stop, just press the button and I'll pause the machine. If you're cold, we can get you a blanket. We want you to be comfortable so you can stay still." I looked at him in the small mirror. "Are you ready?"


He left the room and closed the door. I could see the glass partition to the next room where he sat behind a computer.

Based on a creepy episode of Medium with an MRI (though to be fair, most episodes had creepy elements with murderers), I'd been thinking it was going to sound like a train. I did not expect the sounds to be so varied: knocking, electronic hums, clicks, Space Invaders, sustained sounds, short sounds, beeps: an electronic musical. It would not surprise me at all to discover that electronica was developed by an MRI tech or someone who'd undergone an MRI.

Blood was pounding in my head. Surely my head's moving? It feels like it's moving. I can't get the blood to beat less hard. My shoulders were tense and pulled up. Can I lower them without moving my head? I should've relaxed them before I was rolled in. I probably thought they were relaxed though. Every time I swallowed I felt like I was moving too much.

I tried closing my eyes but couldn't relax enough to leave them closed. I opened them and watched the tech in the mirror beyond the glass. Sometimes one of the other assistants would walk by behind him. Before I'd gone in, I'd been thinking it'd be cool if you could have a picture in the tunnel of something serene and expansive like a cloudy blue sky. This is smart, I thought to myself regarding the small prism/mirror. It lets me see him so I don't feel abandoned and it expands the distance in this room so I don't feel as confined.

The tech's voice came over a speaker, "That was great. Are you doing all right?"


"It'll be about another 10 to 15 minutes before we pull you out for the injection." While he was talking I carefully lowered my shoulders. Ah, that's better.


The crazy electronic cacophony resumed. Sometimes the table would move a little up or down in the tunnel. One series of sounds made my lower ribs vibrate. Then the table was vibrating. All right, if I'm moving now it's totally not my fault.

I watched as the tech alternately looked at the computer screen and then spoke to his co-workers. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but it seemed like typical killing time while the machine runs banter.

"OK, I'm going to pull you out now for your injection."

He came in, and I found myself stifling probably hysterical laughter as he rolled me out. The machine's bizarre sounds just seemed really funny in that moment.

He left to find a nurse and I took the respite to relax my body as much as possible without being able to move my head and with a cage still over my face. After a couple minutes he returned with one in tow. I pulled up my bulky sleeves (before we'd started I had pulled my arm out of my sweater sleeve concerned it wouldn't pull up enough for the injection but then rethought it and put it back on because it was cold in there and uncomfortable to have a sweater half on/half off. Yes it was ridiculous, but they were really nice about it.). The nurse said, "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

She tied one of those rubber things around my bicep and prepared my arm. The the tech hovered a few feet behind her. I could see them in the mirror. I did my best to resist the urge to turn my head to speak to them.

"You'll feel a pinch," she said. Yup, that's what they say every time.

There was a pinch and then a pause.

"I'm sorry, I'm going to have to do that again. I think I went through the vein."

The tech added, "It's better to be safe. The injection's fine if it goes into a vein but we don't want it going anywhere else."

The nurse said, "I'll just do the other arm since this one is bruised."

I must've given a look because the tech asked, "Is there a problem with that?"

"Well," I said, "the other arm is bruised too. They took a bunch of blood for tests last week but there was one test they couldn't do there, so I had to come here for it and they used the other arm."

"Figures we'd do that," the friendly tech said. "I'm not good with needles, I wouldn't have liked that."

"I've had blood drawn three times in the last two weeks."

The nurse and the tech both exclaimed at that. My brother had always said if someone misses the vein on the first try you should ask for someone else, but considering all the stabs I've had of late, it didn't seem unreasonable to think my elbow veins were more delicate at the moment. (Actually, it occurs to me now that it's actually been 4 draws not 3.)

Through the muffling of the ear plugs, the tech good-heartedly said that they need to find a better way to get information/blood, that we need to be in the future.

"I'll try your hand then," the nurse said. She got it and began the injection, "This may feel cold and may make your mouth taste metallic. How's that feel?"


She began the second stage of the injection and said it might feel cool up my arm. It did but it also hurt. FYI, staying still while in pain is not a natural response.

"Are you OK?" the tech asked.

"Yeah, it just stung for a minute." The pain started to subside and the nurse looked at me with concern.

"OK, that's it for the injection." The nurses hand held onto mine for a minute. Her hand was really warm.

I thought I heard her tell the tech, "Just another minute." Then she said, "The needle is out and you have a bandage on your hand. You're all set."

"Thank you." I moved my hand back to rest on my stomach and she placed the call button under it.

The tech said, "Just two more sets of pictures: one five minutes and one six and then you're done."


He rolled me back in and resumed his post in the room next door. The injection kind of hurt and I was starting to feel the room's cold. My whole body was tense and I was just starting to shake when over the intercom, the tech said, "You did great, you're all done. I'll be in to roll you out."

The guy who'd originally brought me back to the MRI area appeared beside me as he pressed the button to roll me out. "How was it?" he asked.

"All right." Just get the cage off! He pulled the foam pieces out from beside my ears and I was sitting up as soon as he slid the cage back.

The MRI tech was on the other side of the table and said something I missed. I pulled out the ear plugs and asked, "What was that?"

"Oh it doesn't matter now," the tech said. "I just said, 'Don't jump off before the table's lowered,' but it is now, so it's fine." They both smiled at me. "So was that fun?" the tech asked, "Or perhaps you'd call it something else."

"Well... it was strange with its old school electronic music."

"Yeah, a friend of mine said she liked the Space Invaders dum dum, dum dum sounds best. Now that's what I think of every time I hear it." His friend was right, some of it did sound like Space Invaders.

He got my jacket for me and told me when I could expect to hear something. Yup, not until next week. Sigh.

Both of the guys wished me luck and told me they hoped I feel better. I thanked them and reentered the hospital maze.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Well, nothing like having your doc call and tell you you need to see a neurologist ASAP. Kind of makes me frustrated how long this has all dragged out waiting for phone calls, results, and such. None of the waiting has been due to my end. And lumbar puncture? Does not sound remotely fun. This sucks.

A year ago on TTaT: Behind the photo: Mind the Background

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