Staff Column: Laying still no easy task for the antsy
I was told I couldn't do it. No way, no how. Never.
My family just thinks I can never sit still, be quiet or for that matter be patient.
But I proved them wrong when I walked through those hospital doors last week. I showed them.
I was there to have an MRI on my foot. For those of you who are unitiated that is an anacronym for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It is quite a bit more definitive than an x-ray.
"They'll need to give you some kind of drug to keep you still," my wife told me.
"You'll need valium," said my daughter-in-law.
My oldest son, who is as much a nervous sort as me didn't say anything, but I could see in his eyes that he felt the same way.
My youngest son just shrugged his shoulders and said in a drawn out sequence, "Dad........" as he skulked down to the family room in the basement that he calls home for now.
So my reputation for jumping around, not being able to sit in one place for long and having the propensity to get easily excited had my familys mind made up.
However the people at the hospital didn't know that and I wasn't about to tell them.
"Are you going to be able to lay still for a long time?" asked the technician who guided me into the area where the big round MRI machine lay. "You have to stay perfectly still."
After having paid a whopping co-pay at registration I wanted to say that I would be perfectly still since my heart had already been stopped by signing the check, but instead I just said, "I'll be fine."
Laying still for forty five minutes sounds like an easy thing to do as long as there aren't flies buzzing around your head or people with big cleaver hanging over you. But you know what? It isn't easy.
I had to remove all metal from my body; you know rings, watch, cell phone, concealed weapons, etc. Shoes off too. I had to then apply this sticky thing to where the middle of the pain in my foot was. Then the technician put a kind of boot on my foot and propped my knees up with pillows.
"Are you comfortable?" she asked.
"I'm great," I said, thinking that this was going to be easy.
"Put these in your ears," she said as she handed me some big yellow ear plugs. "This can be kind of noisy."
I thought to myself, how noisy can a great big magnet be? All it had to do was sit there and squish the inside of my body around until it saw what it wanted to see.
In some ways I felt like an astronaut on one of those B science fiction movies from the 1950's. The flat bed I was laying on transported me into the machine's tunnel. They had asked me if I was claustrophobic, and I said no. But I could see why some people would be. I didn't even have to go all the way in and the thing was in my face. I could hear what sounded like birds chirping at the other end of the tunnel. I think it was the sound of some kind of compressor with a freaked out rubber ring on the piston.
I looked up and there were all kinds of blinking lights and a big "GE" inscribed into the front of the face of the machine. Not a good idea on how to advertise; if this was to be uncomfortable in any way, I would hold it against General Electric and never buy a toaster made by them again.
The machine clicked and then whirred. Then it started to make loud sounds like a thousand monkeys with little hammers banging on a metal 55 gallon drum. And my head was near the drum.
At first staying still was easy. I thought I could actually sleep right through the procedure. But holding your body in one place is not easy. I think we don't realize how much we move around when we are "holding perfectly still" at home watching television or laying in bed. I tried to concentrate on breathing; then I moved to thinking about problems at work (big mistake); then it was one of the three books I am currently reading (no luck there) and finally I started to count sheep.
I found I had itches in places I didn't know I had. My hair (or what is left of it) kept falling down in my face. My foot in the boot was cramping; I hadn't realized how much I had been moving it when not in the machine to relieve the pain from the bone spur.
The machine would whirl and buzz then a timer would come on and count out the shot they were apparently taking of my ugly foot. Some of the shots took a little over two minutes, others took over four. The worst thing was that I lost track of the time and had no idea how far through the process we were because I was trying to find ways to keep from moving.
And then the devil tapped me on the shoulder. I wanted to move my feet around in quick fashion, just because I was told I shouldn't move them. I wondered if I could do it quick enough between timers that no one would notice. I talked myself out of it. Everyone at the hospital had been so nice; I didn't now want them to start yelling at me.
Finally after one, seemingly very long shot the door to the room opened and I was told I could leave.
I was proud of myself; I had made it through without moving. A triumph of mind power over the expectations of others. I thought about the fact I would lord this over my family for weeks. Ha! Let them think that I, the old man of the house, could still be tough and disciplined, despite my balding head and rounding stomach. It was a great moment of triumph.
Then I limped away on my bum foot, scratched all those itches I had and tripped over the curb on the way out to my truck.