Subject: The MRI Drum Solo

Date: Thu, 05 Feb 1998 14:21:36 -0800

The waiting room at the MRI unit was comfortable, carpeted, nicely furnished and reflection lit. So it was easy to wait quietly after I'd filled in the forms and John was running about reparking the car and getting some stuff done at the Group Health Credit Union. And, eventually, the technician came for me. He was very cool, amusing but calm and collected and unhurried in his instructions as he led me to a locker room where I could get undressed and pull the tragus ring again.

Hrm. For those that don't know where a tragus is, it's the little nub of cartalige in front of the ear channel, and I'd had it done about the second week of October.

If I hadn't had the darned piercing so recently I wouldn't have had any problem with the procedure. I'd likely have even enjoyed it more. As it was, I had to figure out how to undo the ring, which is 18 gauge 14 carat gold, and only 3/8ths of an inch in diameter, so it was really tough to get to come apart enough to slip over the tragus. Even more so after I'd wrestled with it for a bit and the darned thing swelled just a bit in irritation. I'd done all that at work, while I still had a lit bathroom, plenty of Bactine and the ability to clean things up thoroughly. So I managed to pull the ring, put it back in to hold the hole until I was actually going into the MRI.

The main reason I was so worried about the small bit of metal was that the magnet involved in the MRI is so big and so powerful that any small piece of metal can become a dangerous projectile in the sensor. So it had to come out.

So when I undressed, I paniced just a bit again as the darn thing had swollen just a bit more, so pulling the ring off involved using a different angle than before. The rest of undressing, putting on the blue pajamas, and stuff was trivial in contrast. I locked my stuff up, and then padded down the hallway in my socks to the MRI lab.

The tech was seated at a control panel behind glass, and on the other side of the glass was the room-sized MRI setup. It was lovely, huge, white and the equipment around the main tube was more cluttered than in the movies, where they usually put a wall or something around or over the entry to the tube. I liked this a lot more.

There were these idle thunk... thunk.... thunks coming from the machine, slow, lazy sounds, but still a mechanical sound as if something of great weight were either changing direction or being pushed. There is a quality to a sound that really does seem to indicate great mass being used to generate the sound. I could imagine a giant on a swing...

The tech had me sit on the table until he had the leg positioning stuff ready and then had me lie on my back as he locked the leg into place. It went in a small cage of plastic that was formed for the leg, and he stuffed a few bits of foam gently about the calf, so that it was held lightly in place. He also handed me a pair of ear plugs, with an end rolled up so that I could place them in my ears. I looked at him and he said that it was for the noise. So I placed them in and was glad I'd pulled the ring, as the plug would have been pushing up against it. The leg was about as straight as I could make it, and it was just a little uncomfortable lying on my back for my lower back, but not bad at all.

It was with some delight that I realized, as I looked up, that there was a huge skylight above me, with a lattice work of steel and glass being splattered with the rain from above. It was gorgeous to look up into and I'd imagine that during the day the lab room would have been filled with sunlight. Something that would likely help relieve any feeling of claustraphobia during the day.

Then gently, slowly, the table started sliding me into the tube. Before I'd gotten very far, the tech pulled a light blanket over me, asked me again if I was comfortable, then said, "I hope you enjoy my little drumming solo," and then disappeared behind my head.

Gently and silently I slid into the cone that led to the tube, and the table stopped just as my head was at the smallest part of the cone. I was slightly relieved that I didn't have to go all the way in, as it was just my knee that they were looking at. My shoulders were brushing the sides of the tube, and I wondered what they did for someone like John, whose shoulders are several inches wider than mine. Would he have had to scrunch into it? What about someone really big?

One really keen detail that I would never have thought of was that they had a small jet of fresh air blowing lightly across my body. So when I closed my eyes, I had a small breeze gently wafting over me, and I could imagine myself not so entirely confined.

Then I got to find out what he meant by 'drumming solo'. I didn't actually ask, and I probably should have, but I think that the huge sounding thunks were the impulse drives for the gigantic swinging magnet. That as the magnet swung faster, the thumps happened more frequently. So at the height of activity, the whole tube thrummed, shivering deeply with the sounds.

What was fascinating was that the frequencies changed, slowed, quickened, were more or less regular, and then shook my body again. I was to hold still while all the activity went, and while the position had been fairly comfortable when I first lay down, it got gradually less and less comfortable as I lay stock still for longer and longer. The vibrations were something that my body tried to brace itself against, but there wasn't really anything to brace against and nothing really to brace for, and I was afraid that small twitches would mess with the readings. Another annoyance was the fact that since I'd also pulled the inside ligament to the knee, that having it completely straight was tweaking that one weakness badly.

The good thing was that the tech was good about telling me when he was taking readings, how long they were going to take and about how much time I had to stretch if I wanted to. But today I'm getting all kinds of odd and random cramps in my calves, still.

One of the many things that I used to keep still was the fact that in that flawless white cone were two flecks of purest teal, one right in front of my eyes, the other a little above my head. They were like dust, but so clear against the peerless white that I could just focus on them and lose myself in the mindless contemplation. Forget the body and it doesn't move, and forget the pain or breath it in and it becomes a part of you. So I just absorbed it and stayed still.

By the time it was over, it took me half a minute to move my leg again, and I tested it pretty thoroughly before setting it on the ground and trusting my weight to it again. The tech said that it would be three days or so until the doctor got the results and that they'd likely call me for another appointment to look at them. So it won't be until the end of the week that I actually get to know what the results are, and I called them today, Wednesday, to make sure that they'd call me to set it up before I have to go to San Francisco for work next week.

My leg finally worked, and so I hobbled off and got dressed and had to find yet another angle before the ring would go back into the piercing. I couldn't close the ring for the life of me, so I just left it open at the back. John later said that we'd wait a bit to close it with a pair of pliers or something. The weight of the bead will help keep it in place anyway.

So I back out into the waiting room to find John and Anita waiting for me! Hoorah! She and I had set up meeting when she heard that I would be up on Capitol Hill's Group Health as it was only a few blocks from her home. And it worked out beautifully. Anita's another Internet friend, who shares some SF fanish interests with Jon Singer.

She's frank, clear, and fun to talk with and she and John had had a good time talking while I was still in the MRI. So that was good, that John and she had company while waiting for me was a good thing for me. We went to a little Italian restaurant across the street, which was close and had good food and a waiter who had had a rough day or something. The risotto was spicy and filled with just done to tenderness vegetables that I enjoyed greatly. She'd also brought her digital camera and got a great picture of John and I.

After the the dinner, I hobbled cheerfully after John down to the basement of the hospital, got to see some of the maze that both Anita and John wandered through when they had to try and find the MRI suite, which is stuck in the basement of the Group Health hospital.

We then went to the University Bookstore near the University of Washington and got a bunch of really cool books. I was only able to hobble through the knitting and crafts area and the cooking area, didn't get close to the SF & F, thank goodness for my checking account, and found a good book on folk socks and an interesting looking book called Cooking with Claudia which is based on a TV series with Jaqueus Pepin, who's an excellent French chef that does very basic cuisine, quite a change for a French chef some might say, but not for a lover of food. It is very keen. I also found those slender book darts at the U.W. and bought a dozen of the beautiful things for my books, as I've never really liked most bookmarks. These things are so slender and tiny that there's no chance they'll mess with the binding when put between pages.

John then got me bundled back into the Range Rover and I got home to a mug of hibiscus tea, another dose of Bactine for my ear and went to sleep, the leg still a bit sore from the straightness.

So, in many ways, I've got a bit of a Shroedinger's Knee, where the state is still unknown, so I'm having to treat it both as if it were messed up and as if it were going to heal. I've managed to get on an exercise bike for a few times this week, and the exercise has been amazingly beneficial in getting the range of motion back, the stiffness out and strengthening muscles along either side. I still can't straighten it completely and I still can't bend it nearly as much as I can bend the other leg, but it's getting gradually better.

I'm walking okay, still kinda limping, and I shouldn't hobble quite as much as I have been, and when I'm conscious of it, I can walk straight, now. Up stairs is fine, going down stairs is still something that I only bend my left knee for. The right still isn't quite flexible enough to do down stairs easily.

Each day there's been some improvement. So that's been very encouraging, even as it's also kinda discouraging, in that if that ligament is broken, then no matter how much better it gets it's going to have to go through surgery and get worse before it can get back to normal again.

But I guess I really shouldn't worry about it until I have the results in hand. I'd kinda hoped for sooner, but that's life...

More when I know.

Oh... and in case you hadn't guessed, my hands are much better now. And the exercise is helping get the last of that, too.

© 1998 by Liralen Li.

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