Thursday, March 18, 2010

March 18, 2010
Part 3: Wookie Arms

"There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow." Orison Sweet Marden.

This is Major Tom to Ground Control I’m stepping through the door And I’m floating in a most peculiar way. And the stars look very different today For I floating 'round my tin can Far above the world Planet Earth is blue And there’s nothing I can do." Space Oddity, David Bowie

As I sit here typing, I can't help but notice the hospital band around my left wrist. I have quite a collection of them now, in a variety of colors. And I also see the little cotton ball from the IV I was given. It's taped so tightly to my forearm. And I think to myself "Damnit. Why didn't I shave my arms?" and "Why did the nurse use so much tape for such a little piece of cotton?" and "WHY THE HELL DID SHE PRESS IT INTO MY SKIN SO HARD?"

Okay. So now you know. The secret is out. I have hairy arms. And yes. I have a hairy back. And yes, when I go to the beach, people ask me why I'm wearing a sweater. I recently traced my ancestry and discovered that I have some Wookie in me. On my father's side.

And with as many times that I have had needles stuck in my arms lately, I should have known to shave my arms. I guess it was the fear of looking like I was wearing a cardigan sweater that stopped me. I'll pay for that decision later today though when I go to peel this little cotton ball and the twelve feet of tape used to hold it in place off of my forearm.

I know it's better to just rip it off in one big pull but knowing that doesn't make it any easier. And in this case, it wouldn't work. The nurse actually wrapped the piece of tape around my forearm. I appreciate her attention to detail but it wasn't like I was going windsurfing. I was gonna be laying on my back in a tube.

Maybe she was an ex-girlfriend.

Maybe she just hated guys with hairy arms.

The IV I received was to introduce a contrast solution into my body so that the images on the MRI would be enhanced. Sort of like HD. Some common reasons a doctor would order an MRI with contrast are history of tumor/cancer/surgery, they are looking for infection/inflammation/cancer, they are evaluating blood vessels, or they are investigating a finding on the pre-contrast part of the scan.

Basically, to me, what that means is that they are looking for something. The fact that tumor is the first thing mentioned in reasons as to why contrast is given confirms my suspicions and Frank's statement about what might be growing on my spine. There's a lot of reasons on that list though. I can't automatically assume they're looking for a...well you know.

I had a rough time in the tube this time. Out of nowhere, I got a tickle in my throat. I hadn't had one all morning. I was fine. Not even a cough. But lying there on my back, as my throat slowly filled up with spit, this little tickle started. Scratching. Ever so slightly at first. scratch. scratch. scratch. Like a mouse trying to get out of a cardboard box. scratch. scratch. scratch.

Of course, before you are placed into the MRI machine, you are told not to move at all and "if you can help it, try not to swallow a great deal." Easier said than done actually because that mouse REALLY wanted to get out of the box this morning. So I tried to let out a little cough which of course started a whole chain reaction. It was like playing JENGA and in seconds, after the dam had burst, I was coughing and hacking and rocking the machine.

I finally couldn't take it anymore. I was drowning and needed to swallow. That damn tickle was driving me insane and I needed to cough. I squeezed the little black ball I had been given in case I needed assistance. After a second or two, I heard a voice, which sounded as if it was coming from all around me ask "Are you alright sir?"

Before I answered I thought to myself that wouldn't it be cool if the voice you heard when you squeezed the little black ball was the voice of the HAL 9000 from 2001: Space Oddity. (Are you okay Dave? Should I open the pod bay doors?") Or maybe the voice could be Morgan Freeman. He's narrating everything else these days. Why not my MRI?
Anyway, I digress. Big surprise right? So the MRI technician across the room behind the protective shielding was very patient. He was being very patient...very patient on the other side of the room...behind the wall of glass. I understand that the MRI is not like a regular X-RAY machine and no one is wearing lead aprons. Of course that is just what they want you to think. If you have an MRI, you will notice that the technician is not sitting right next to you, holding your hand. They're in the Fortress of Solitude 30 feet across the room, looking at screens. Sure you are.

Anyway, Larry, my technician and voice in the tube, was being very nice and patient and he said for me to go ahead and clear my throat. So I did. I also swallowed about a gallon of my own spit. Mmmmmm...yummy. After a second or two the voice asked if I was ready and I said I was. I apologized for holding up the procedure and he assured me it was fine.
Then the clicking sand banging started in again. My God an MRI is noisy! MRI's have been around since 1977 and yes it was an incredible invention. Great. As one article states, "MRI provides an unparalleled view inside the human body. The level of detail we can see is extraordinary compared with any other imaging modality. MRI is the method of choice for the diagnosis of many types of injuries and conditions because of the incredible ability to tailor the exam to the particular medical question being asked." Once again...congratulations Raymond Damadian, inventor of the4 MRI machine. Take a bow. Take two. Really. I'm very impressed. And grateful.

But seriously...what's with the noise? It's like being inside a video game. And I'm not talking about being in a video world like TRON. I'm talking about sticking your head inside a video game through a hole you kicked in the back.
There are extremely loud clicks and electronic clanks and clunks. I half expected the Mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to land. But Thank God! I was given earplugs. Two little plugs made from soft rubber. A million dollar machine and the solution to the noise problem is two little rubber plugs I could buy at the Dollar Tree.
What happened Ray? Did you run out of funding? Just give up towards the end? Were you hoping for a second chance with the all new, quieter, now available in 3 different colors, MRI 500 Part II?

So for about 35 minutes I lay there, choking on my own spit, trying not to cough, blink, or breathe, all the while the 1812 Overture is blasting all around me. A million or so thoughts ran through my mind...

"I wonder what they'll find this time around."
"I wonder if they'll have an answer for me."
"I wonder if I will find a neurosurgeon within the next week."
"I wonder what I'll have for lunch."
"I wonder what it looks like under that flap of hair on Donald Trump's head."
"I wonder what happened to Meg Ryan's face. She used to look so pretty."
"I wonder where the word 'booger' came from."
"Why are there scratch n' sniff samples of unscented detergent in magazines?"
"Do people come up to Christopher Walken every day and tell him he needs more cowbell?"
"I wonder if Frank N' Berry was created from the body parts of other cereal characters."
"I wonder if Willy Wonka is diabetic."
"I wonder what Geronimo would say if he jumped out of an airplane."

35 minutes goes by slowly when you are squeezed into a tube and unable to move. I felt every heart beat. I was conscience of every breath. And it's not so much that I felt claustrophobic. Once they slide me in place, there isn't actually any room for claustrophobia. I'm a big guy. I'm an XL. And the tube, at the very least, is a Medium. So it's kinda like trying to squeeze yourself into your favorite sweater even though you've put on five...ten...oh okay...fifteen pounds, give or take a pound or two.

It's a tight fit and the second your shoulders brush against the sides of the machine as you glide backwards, right there and then you wish you hadn't had that second slice of pie for dessert the night before.

So I go to my happy place. I'm not sure where it is, but it's comfortable and tension free. It's kind of like the Chocolate Room in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except there aren't any little orange people singing and dancing. I don't know about you, but those little guys freaked me out. They were creepy.

In my happy place I can watch any movie I want and I won't be bothered by people talking or the ringing of cellphones. In my happy place the pizza is New York-style and always hot and fresh. The sweet iced tea is just this side of perfect and I can wear footie pajamas and no one will judge me. In my happy place I can dance like Gene Kelly and sing like Josh Groban. The skies are bright blue and watercolor streaks of thin wispy clouds stretch across the green landscape until they disappear over the horizon. At night, the moon is crescent shaped and you can sit on it, back pressed into the curve, and dip your toes in the Milky Way. If I want it to rain in my happy place, it is a soft, summer's rain that dances on the tin roof over my head.

There is no fighting in my happy place. There is no shouting.

In my happy place, doctors care for their patients.
And there are no tumors. And there is no pain.

And when nurses tape a little cotton ball to your arm after you've received an IV, they use a magical tape that peels right off and doesn't leave a red mark...or rip off clumps of your hair.
That damn cotton ball with the tape all covered in my arm hair is sitting in the trash right now. It looks like a sick mouse.

Stupid, heavy-duty, super-sticky tape.

and that's Jody with a "y"


  1. Why did they use sticky stuff at all? When you give blood, they bind your arm with stick-to-itself (not you) friction tape. Hairy arms should be an easy clue to avoid adhesive. What is it with stupid people???

    Praying for smarter, more caring medical personnel in your future.

  2. I'm adding this site as one of my "happy places". It helps me get through the day, especially when things have gotten really stupid at work. Which happens often.

    Owing to serious claustrophobia issues, I hope never to see the inside of the MRI machine. There would be screaming.