Its Fine - Amber Knox
The questions to determine if there is any metal in a person’s body before they are slid into the enormously powerful magnet are both logical and quizzical. The oddest and most horrifying question is . . .
“Have you ever gotten metal shavings in your eyes?”
How does one get metal shavings in their eyes? Would the machine rip the metal out of the eyeball, or just take the whole eye?
Have I ever had metal shavings in my eye? Think! Maybe? Wouldn’t I remember an incident that caused metal shavings to get in my eye? I think I would, so that must mean I don’t. Right? What if it happened when I was little and I don’t remember?
I had a friend who got a dart thrown in her eye. Would that have left metal bits in there? But, that wasn’t me.
Does the lead from a pencil count as metal? I don’t think I’ve been stabbed in the eye by a pencil, though, either.
After checking no to all of the questions and changing into a lovely gown, they lead me to a locker to put my stuff in. I purposely wore clothes with no metal so I wouldn't have to wear a gown, but at least they let me keep my decades old fleece pants and sports bra on under the gown. These pants are like my adult blankie, threadbare and magical. The perfect waist band that is just tight enough to keep them from falling off but not so tight I look like a muffin.
Mmmm, a muffin sounds good right about now. Fasting does not suit me.
The man, I have immediately forgotten his name, leads me to a slim white pipe that runs vertically up the wall. I’m instructed to stand in front of said weird pipe and he explains it is a metal detector, “Just in case you forgot anything,” he explains.
Hallelujah, I’ve really been second guessing some of my answers.
“My hair tie might have metal inside of it. I don’t know, so I’m just going to take it out,” I tell him as I unleash the nest of crazy on my head, “We’re traveling so I didn’t do my hair,” I explain. There isn’t a mirror but I know what two days of dry shampoo and an updo look like when you try to turn it into a down-do.
My hair started thinning when I had my daughter sixteen years ago and the latest attempt at fuller hair was a waving iron I had used a couple days earlier, thus adding to the ocean witch vibe I know I must be giving off.
“Better safe than sorry, you can put it in the locker right there with your things,” he smiles encouragingly.
He takes me to a chair and a twenty something girl with long red hair and and longer legs comes in with a clanging tray of tools.
“Hi, I’m Kate. I’ll be starting your IV”, she announces formally.
As I watch the needle slide in and the blood fill into the tiny tube leading from it I remember something I should have mentioned, “Oh, I’m on blood thinners.”
The warnings that come with blood thinners are no joke. Do not shave your skin with a razor. In case of injury let medical personnel know immediately you are on this medication. Tell your doctor if you see blood in your stool. Do not use if you have a bleeding ulcer. If you start bleeding it may never stop and you will die. Well maybe not the last one, but that’s how the warnings made me feel. Small unexplainable bruises, bloody noses that don’t quit and the first day or two of my period is like a scene out of a horror movie are the only side effects I’ve had so far. I decided to forgo the no razors rule. So how bad can a punctured vein be?
The no name man teases Kate about hitting an artery in a kid once and blood spurting out everywhere. He laughs. She shudders. I do not feel better.
We go into the room with the MRI machine and Kate begins hooking up the little sensors to me. Because it is an image of the heart, and thankfully my heart is beating, they use the sensors to take the images between beats. I will have to hold my breath so my lungs don’t affect the process. That is what my late night google search of “How do I do a cardiac MRI” told me. Although it didn’t say how long I would have to hold my breath so that is concerning.
Because I had politely declined to remove my bra Kate was struggles to get the web of sensors that are attached to long cords in the proper places.
“Do I need to lift my bra a little?” I ask her.
“Ya, I think that would help. Just here in the middle.”
I could tell that she was trying to not make me feel uncomfortable and I thought I would return the favor.
“Do you have kids?” I ask as she is reaching under my bra.
“No, not yet.” One down, five to go.
“Well when you have kids you get over being embarrassed. All of a sudden you're laying there with a nurse you just met holding your boob and trying to get your baby to take it,” I laugh remembering that bazaar experience.
Kate laughs uncomfortably and keeps attaching her sensors. Most people must take off their bras because she is really struggling.
I look at the wall across from my feet. There is a large window into another room surrounded by a jungle mural with huge smiling monkeys. Oh ya, children’s hospital. Is he laughing at me? Mocking me? Fuck you monkey!
She stands up and I close my gown tight and try to hold it so that it doesn’t fall open. No name walks in and begins his instructions and then places a large plastic thing over my chest.
“Is that too heavy?”
“No, I use a weighted blanket.”
“Oh, okay. Well remember, do not move. If we can get all the shots in one take it should be around forty five minutes.”
“I’m a squirmer so what happens if I move my foot accidentally?”
“Just don’t move.”
“What if it's just like one toe?”
“Just really try not to move. We don’t want to have to start over.”
“Oh okay. Sometimes I just move without thinking about it. Like what if just my pinky twitches.”
“Please just try very hard not to move,” he smiles and I start to slide away from him and into the machine. When they did the MRI of my brain they were worried I would be claustrophobic, especially with the plastic cage over my face, but it was fine. Not moving was hard and I’m dreading that, but I just have to focus my mind and do my yoga breathing.
This is very different.
My arms are touching on both sides and the top is inches from my face.
Fuck this, I need out. I can feel the button he had placed in my hand in case of an emergency. I have to push it. I need to move. This is not okay.
I stare at the grey stripe that runs down the center of the inside of this torture tube, the clastrophia casket, the tunnel to hell but it doesn’t help. I’ve had panic attacks before and I can feel it starting up, revving it’s engine and ready to drive me off to Fuck This town.
I bend my head back and can see the opening is just inches from the top of my head. Free space is that close. That actually makes me feel better. I need to get this test done. I’ve been waiting for this test, but a big part of me wants to push the button and say, “You know what? Let’s just not and say we did.”
You need this.
You’re in a children’s hospital, meaning children do this.
Oh my god, is this a child sized MRI machine?
“Alright, you ready?” I hear through the too large headphones he placed over my ears before sending into this god forsaken white cavity.
“Great, let's get started,” he says.
Whatever I say in here is fed to that room. I just talked about a nurse holding my boob a few minutes ago. Good Lord. Did he hear all that?
“Deep inhale and hold,” he instructs.
Okay, breathe deep, remember how deep so you do it exactly the same next time.
Even with headphones on I can hear the machine start up. It is very loud. Very odd sounds. Like the inside of a UFO maybe?
“Release,” he says.
Oh that wasn’t too bad. I could have held it . . .
Oh already? How much did I breathe in last time? Shit.
This time it feels like it’s taking longer. Don’t panic, you’ll use more air. Calm down. Look at the grey stripe. Wait was I supposed to keep my eyes closed? Better safe than sorry. I don’t know if I can hold it much longer.
Oh thank god! I’m a little out of breath now.
“Big breath and hold.”
What?! I need to catch my breath still. Google said nothing about this. The focus on the noise. It’s a bit different this time.
“Release. Are you still doing okay?”
“Okay, you’re doing great. Remember, don’t move.”
Now all I can think about is how I need to move my right leg ever so slightly to the right. I really need to move it. I really really need to move it.
Don’t move your leg, don’t move your leg.
This cycle goes on for another forty two minutes. We don’t have to start over, which means I was still enough. Thank you baby Jesus.
As the table I lay on slowly slides out of Lucifer’s mouth the giant smiling monkey comes into view. He’s kind of cute. I bet the kids love him.
On my way out I hear them prepping the next patient and talking about his tattoos. He has a deep, robust voice. He sounds big. How will he fit? I want to warn him, but what do I say? Instead I exit into the sun and my waiting family.
“How’d it go?” my husband asks as I get in.
“Great!” I say smiling, “What did you get me to eat?” I ask.
“We didn’t know what you want so we got you a farmhouse salad,” he smiles, handing it to me.
They got me what I always get, but I really could have devoured a huge fucking cheeseburger right now.
“Thanks babe, alright are we ready to get to Oklahoma and see Rebecca!”
“Ya!” the kids squeal from the backseat.
I won’t know the results for a while. We’ll go visit my husband’s cousin. We’ll have a relaxing weekend away. I’ll not think about doctor offices or unanswered questions.
“Alright, let’s do this,” my husband smiles, reaching over to gently squeeze my thigh.
“Let’s do this,” I cover his hand with mine.
Amber Knox works in broadcasting, rearing up children and playing at writing. This is a creative non-fiction short story.