Sunday, March 13, 2005

MRI ay ay...

It was the longest hour of my life. Literally. Anyone who’s ever had to undergo an MRI exam would agree.

But first, a little backgrounder. My right arm’s been bothering me for a while now ever since I dislocated my shoulder over a year ago. How that happened, well, you’re gonna have to get to know me so I could tell you the story, because depending on how you look at it, whether you find it funny or tragic, it’s just pathetic really. The doctors warned me a recurrence of the dislocation was not only possible, it was likely. And so it did happen again, not just once, but four more times. I’ve gotten so used to it I can put the bones and joints back to normal myself, kinda like what Mel Gibson did in that movie. The last time was just last weekend on my way to Puerto Galera. So as soon as I got back to Manila, I made an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon. Doc said I should get an MRI exam so he could tell exactly what was wrong with my shoulder.

A couple of things you should know about getting an MRI. First, it’s frickin’ expensive. I’m not sure if it was just because I had it in St. Luke’s but they charged me more than 12,000 big ones for it. Shit. Thank god I’ve got insurance, else I’d never have gone through with it. No way am I going to shell out that much for one lousy exam (then again, I paid over P40,000 for my appendectomy at Capitol three years ago).

The second thing you have to know is how unpleasant the actual process of getting an MRI is. They scheduled my exam at 8am on a Thursday. (It’s a pretty rare occurrence when I wake up before noon, so the fact that I got there on time was nothing short of a miracle). This nurse or attendant then led me to a small changing room where he tells me to take my clothes off, except for my underwear, and put on a hospital gown. He then asks me if I had a metal implant anywhere in my body because, apparently, that would fuck up their whole system. (As if I was blind enough to miss all the enormous yellow warning signs scattered all around the MRI department). Of course I told him no, I didn’t have one (it was obvious though that I had braces on my teeth, but those didn’t count, or so he said). He then proceeds to remind me to leave all my stuff in the locker, especially my keys and credit cards. At that point I didn’t know if I should laugh or punch this guy in the face. He asks me to strip to my underwear and then reminds me not to carry my credit card to the exam room. Why the hell would I want to bring my credit card with me? And for that matter, where on earth was I going to put it? Inside my ass? Jeez.

So I finally go inside the exam room. If you’ve ever seen those movies where they have the actors lying down and slowly rolled inside the huge cylinder, well, it’s exactly like that. Only they never quite illustrate how uncomfortable it is. The nurse put some headphones on my ear (for the noise, he says) and tells me to lie still and not move too much as he rolls me inside, my nose practically just inches away from the roof of the cylinder. I’m telling you, claustrophobics will find this whole thing disconcerting, if not downright impossible. I felt like I was being buried alive in a cold vault.

And then the wait.

So there I was, just lying there, not permitted to move (well, I couldn’t have moved much anyway, even if I tried, considering how cramped it was inside). I couldn’t open my eyes because there was nothing to see except a bright enamel arc right in front of my face; I felt like it would close down on me any second. I couldn’t sleep either, because of the noise of the machine. First I heard a tapping right beneath me, which I imagined sounded like a zombie from the next grave trying to make contact. Then a loud buzzing sound, which I guessed was the electro-magnet itself doing its work. It was like that for a full hour. I was suspended in a state of near-hysteria the whole time. The attendant placed a buzzer on my left hand and there were a couple of times when I was tempted to press it, get the doctors rushing in asking what was wrong and just walk out of there. I swear there were times when I felt like I would lose it.

I have no idea how I lasted the hour, but I did. I cannot describe how relieved I was the ordeal was finally over. Maybe that was how some prisoners feel when they’re finally set free. I made my way back to the locker room and changed back into my clothes. Although they gave me the plates as soon as I got back out to the reception area; they told me the results wouldn’t be available for another four hours. That was fine. I told them I’d come back for it later. I just wanted to get out of there.

(PS. Turns out they didn’t find any tear in the ligament in my shoulder. Only that the joints already ARE a bit loose. Big surprise. My doctor said he’s scheduled me for arthroscopic surgery in a month. In the meantime, he’s recommended I undergo physical therapy. Again. Whee.)


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