Wednesday, May 17, 2006

MRI for I & I

I had an MRI this evening. It's always so interesting to be on the receiving end of medical care. The Southern-accented technician who did the intake was quite business-like but friendly in his own way, sort of military in his inquisition style and the way he called me "Sir" too many times. We sat in the "Interview Room" where he made sure I had no metal in my body and understood that if the doctor decided to give me a magnetic contrast dye---gadolinium---that they were fully prepared to revive me in case of anaphylaxis. I told him I had nothing against Ana Phil Laxis and would have no need of her services. (Actually, I thought of that just now and am so glad I didn't say it. Stupid Jewish punster humor can be so embarrassing.) The perfunctory interview complete, I locked my belongings in a locker, took off my earring in case the magnets of the massive machine ripped it from my unsuspecting ear lobe, and lay upon the table amidst the machinery which may have originally been designed for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Ear plugs donned and padding stuffed around my head to cut down the noise, the table rose into the air and I was slid into the sarcophagus-like tube. The disembodied voice of the technician came over the intercom every so often to inform me how long the subsequent series of pictures would take. I guess this is supposed to be reassuring, but I found it annoying in terms of interrupting my meditation.

Each time the machine whirled into action, it would make a semi-rhythmic set of sounds---electronic, of course, but each one with a distinct tone. While it would be easy to be unnerved by the racket, my predilection for strange electronic and experimental music paid off in a big way. (If any of you've heard Matmos' CD, A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure, you know what I'm talking about. That CD is made almost completely from sounds recorded, sampled, and edited from various medical procedures such as liposuction surgery. Really. And it's still called music!) I approached each sound as an event, a sonic reality which presented itself for meditation and analysis. Each series of sounds and vibrations brought a new mental sensation and emotional timbre. As I listened intently, I even found myself hearing harmonics and other layers of sound which I was not sure were real or simply a part of my internal aural experience as the sensations entered my inner ear and traveled the cranial nerves into my brain. The permutations of sound were actually multitudinous amidst what could be experienced as a form of post-modern sensory torture. (Does the United States government employ MRI machines in its arsenal of interrogation techniques? They could consider it, but fans of electronic music and meditation would be strongly protected against ill effects. Attack dogs are so much more cost-effective, as is near-drowning and sexual abuse, but alas, that's for another blog....)

Anyway, despite what could be considered as infernal noise born of a Radio Shack in Hades, I experienced what turned out to be a quite peaceful time in that tube. Beyond simply learning a little more first-hand what patients experience in the maw of the MRI, I took advantage of this opportunity to have an interesting and thought-provoking aural adventure at the cost of many thousands of dollars by Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I should let them know how enjoyable it was and that I feel it was certainly money well spent, no matter the outcome of the actual exam. I'm sure they'd be thrilled (and subsequently increase my deductible).
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