I would have felt more comfortable in a dress. I’m fidgeting with my hospital gown as a technician is explaining to me that once they feed me to MRI I must lie as still as possible. I cannot talk. I cannot move. I cannot even wiggle my toes while I’m in the gullet of this machine. She hands me candy corn orange earplugs. As the foam expands everything becomes muted. Joelle, her assistant, ties me up like Hoodini to make sure I don’t move during the procedure.
“This will take about 20 minutes.” I look down the gullet of the MRI, my head the only thing not tied down.
“I can’t move a muscle for 20 minutes?”
She nods. “Especially your toes. Don’t wiggle those. Otherwise we’ll have to start all over.” She begins to walk away. “Just try to meditate, or go back to sleep.”
It’s probably best if I don’t sleep. I talk in my sleep. And it’s not as if I say funny cute gibberish. One time I sat up in bed, turned to my novia and said “I really didn’t mean to kill all those people,” after which I giggled and flopped back down on my pillow.
A voice like that of a submarine captain called out above the hush. “Ok, we’re going to begin. Keep very still. No talking, and do not wiggle your toes.”
I closed my eyes and began to breathe in through my nose, and out through my mouth, while thinking, “Woosah.”
The machine began with a soft hum, no louder than an electric toothbrush. It cycled through varying sounds and shudders.
Every few minutes the technician would tell me, “You’re doing great. Keep very still. Here we go.” Each time the hum grew louder. Random itches would spring up all over my body, but I couldn’t move. It is beyond maddening to be unable to satisfy an itch. Also I kept having to clear my throat. I tried to do this in between the cycles so I wouldn’t have to start over.
“Ok, try not to clear your throat.” I’m trying not to lose my mind from all the places I desperately want to itch. Especially the tip of my nose.
“Alright, last one.”
The last cycle sounded like a prehistoric wood pecker hammering the hull of an empty battleship. I was trying to keep myself calm by doing meditative breathing, while saying to myself “Woosah.” My body had been transformed into a marsh. My legs were tingling—woosah—my legs felt like they were in an oven—woosah—my eggs like they were being hard boiled—woo—hot!”
“Ok, we’re all done,” the tech said. Only we weren’t. It was only the first of two MRI’s I was to have. The next stop was the specialty department where I would have contrast dye injected into my left hip joint. All because of a mountain biking accident several years ago.
A gruff nurse entered. She walked and talked like John Wayne, and she had the bedside manner of a butcher. “Alright,” she said, standing there with a wheelchair.
It’s a quick jaunt to the Specialty department. She parked me in the middle of the room, and abandoned me there. Two men were prepping. They acted as if I wasn’t there. I saw an operating table with a step ladder next to it. I certainly wouldn’t have minded some guidance instead of having to operate on assumptions. I shrugged and climbed the ladder, and sat down on the operating table. Seconds later a physician with angular eyebrows appeared wearing something reminiscent of a rubber apron. Immediately I thought of the movie Hostel. I was hoping there wouldn’t be anything reminiscent of the Human Centipede during this visit. If there was my next greatest hope was that I’d be the head and not the tail.
The physician explained to me that he was going to insert a needle into my hip joint and fill it with contrast dye. While he was explaining another physician inserted arm holders into the operating table to constrict any moment. About the only thing I could move this time were my toes. I saw the needle that was to be used. Now normally I’m not afraid of needles. In fact I’ve always prided myself for that. It makes me feel manly to face them without fear. And I like to tell any man who tells me he has a fear of needles about my lack of fear in order to prove to him that I am the bigger man. However when I saw the 6 inch formidable needle he was going to drill down into my hip joint I whimpered like a dog.
“We’re going to need you to pull down your boxers.” I began breathing in preparation. A surgical tech covered my privates with a cloth. “I’m going to give you a Brazillian,” he said. With a pair of hair clippers he cleared away the area, then left to go do something else, leaving me with a pile of hair on my thigh. He must have gone to get a vacuum, or a dust pan, I thought. Nope. He appeared a few seconds later with a community of contrast vials, which he offered to the primary physician like a waiter presenting a bottle of fine wine to a patron. The physician looked down his nose, as each vial was presented to him. Once he was satisfied it was correct he gored it with the needle. Each time he pulled out the needle a jet stream of contrast solution would shoot over me. I was waiting for one of them to spit in my face.
There was the cool of rubbing alcohol on my hip. It smelled of low shelf liquor.
“You’re going to feel a slight prick.” He inserted a needle before he finished speaking. “This is a little local anesthetic.” And it spread quickly. At first there was warmth, then a tingle, then nothing. Two more shots were delivered. Each time he drilled down deeper. Each time I could feel the needle reach slightly past the point of the numbness. I gripped the operating table, trying not to squirm like a fish.
The surgical tech adjusted the X-ray above me. On my left there was a mammoth monitor.
“Is that my hip?”
“Oh fun. I get to watch.” I don’t know why I said that. Probably because I was nervous. Yes, how fun indeed to be impaled with a needle half the size of a ruler.
The physician drilled the needle down into my pelvis. He practically leaned on the needle. Though I was mostly numb I could feel his body weight, and the trembling of his hands. On the monitor I watched as the needle inched closer to my hip joint. I gripped the operating table for dear life, breathing in and out until I was light headed and my face was buzzing like a bee hive. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the needle had popped out of my backside. My forehead was damp with sweat. I felt somewhat relieved when I saw the tip of the needle enter my hip joint.
“Almost there,” he said.
“It’s already there,” I said.
“Just about there.” He moved the needle back and forth repeatedly. I was breathing loudly by this point. “You’re going to feel a little full for the next couple of days.” A dark outline began to trace my hip joint. “Ok, you can pull your pants back up,” he told me. John Waynett appeared out of nowhere and began to give me help I didn’t need. I’ve but I’ve been pulling my own pants up for the last two and a half decades, woman. Her lack of finesse caused my penis to spring out from underneath the cloth. It made an audible clap as it smacked her wrist. She yanked up on my boxers, strangling my penis with my waistband and giving me a slight wedgie. And then she vanished. It was as it she had only come to take my dignity, not take me back to Radiology.
I dusted off the pile of hair still on my leg. When I lowered myself down from the operating table I forgot my hip was still numb, and practically fell into the wheelchair. I had barely gotten settle into the wheelchair before it started moving back to Radiology for another 20 minutes of no moving, no talking, or toe wiggling.
Joelle was kind enough to tell me how to get the hell out of Radiology. I walked back to my car like a pirate with a peg leg. I had to use both hands to move my dead appendage as I got into my car. I paused, realizing I had to use my other leg to release the emergency brake. Rather than get out of the car, I crossed my legs to press down on the emergency brake, both releasing the emergency brake, and sandwiching my man grapes at the same time.
I felt rather silly as I limped into the office.
“What happened?” The ladies asked, looking concerned. The sympathy was nice. The limp was not. Especially once my leg woke up.
“I feel like a gimp,” I complained.
One of my co-workers quickly corrected me. “That’s not a gimp man. That’s called swagger.”
Well. At least I only paid $250 for my swagger. Seems pretty reasonable.