It’s been quiet for a couple of seconds, and I suspect we’ve finally reached the end of the 25 minutes. It’s confirmed when I hear the technician’s voice come over the speaker system, even though I can’t hear what she’s saying through the earplugs. I swallow deep, and move my hands. As soon as I’m out of the tube, I pull out the earplugs. “Time to change the bed,” the technician says, and I realize that my right hand really was well and thoroughly asleep when pins and needles creep back in. I move to a chair in the room and work on getting the circulation back before I have to lay back down. Just before she slides me back in, I remember the hairs tickling my face and make sure they’re all tucked away.
The new bed has a cage for my head, equipped with a mirror so I can see someone talking to me. When there’s no one there, it’s pointed directly at the camera on the wall that’s pointed at me. I wonder if that’s supposed to make me feel better. It makes me glad they let me keep my pants on. For this scan, they don’t send the bed all the way into the tube. I can see the edge without moving my head. That makes me feel better. I’m not particularly claustrophobic, but these are very tight quarters. There’s no fan this time.
The sound is like the jackhammer sound, but in quick bursts, six times and then six taps. It’s like an alien trying to make communication for the first time. But it quickly becomes apparent the alien is retarded and only knows the one trick.
BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ tap tap tap tap tap tap BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ tap tap tap tap tap tap BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ BZZ tap tap tap tap tap tap
What if I’m dying? I want things: A career in television, kids, a house. All of those things take years. If I had to give up those goals, what would I have left? I would have to move home, but the cold might kill me first. I like my life in LA, but my parents couldn’t move out here long-term. My mother is a year away from my retirement. But my friends are my surrogate family. I couldn’t leave them.
If it’s just surgery, that would probably be okay. It would suck – I was nauseous for a week after my hand surgery last spring – but it would be okay. I could tell my neurologist I want Sarah’s brain surgeon. I never actually met him – he consistently made his rounds about 15 minutes before I got to the hospital, regardless of when I got there. But he did good work, and I know his name.
BUP BUP BUP BUP BUP BUP BUP BUP BUPBUPBUPBUPBUPBUPBUPBUP
It’s like those puppets on Sesame Street who only talk with one syllable. There are parts of the brain whose only function is to look for patterns that might be faces or sounds that might be words. It’s way we see a man on the moon and sometimes on toast and cats howl “no” when they get a bath. Those parts of my brain seem to be working fine.
My boss told me she thinks I have medical problems because I’m tall, the way big dogs are prone to hip dysplasia. I might have inferred the last part. I said that I’m just put together wrong and she acted aghast, like my suggestion was worse than hers.
When the technician pulls me out again, it’s just to inject the contrast. Sarah says the contrast makes her nauseous. I didn’t realize I’d be getting any this morning. But as I recall, Sarah built up an intolerance to the contrast. Hopefully I won’t have the opportunity for that. This last scan is quick. Five minutes. Blink of an eye. I don’t have any negative reactions to the contrast. When I get to work I find out another coworker, Linda, was in a car accident. It looks like she might have had a stroke. She’s recovering. I miss her.
It’s a week before someone finally returns my calls with my results – everything is fine. Whatever’s wrong, it’s not in my brain or spine. I’m more relieved when the physical therapist changes his approach and the new method works. I’m less relieved when I finally get the bill, after insurance, for more than a thousand dollars. But if there had been something wrong, it would have been worth the money to know that. That’s what I keep telling myself.