Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pain in the Neck, Pt. 2

About a week ago my neck malfunctioned again, this time while I was picking up a piece of paper. Since this was the second time in a month, I decided to take it seriously and go to my doctor. I didn't get any fun medicine, but I did get a referral to an orthopedist.

While I was sitting in the exam room yesterday waiting for the appointment, I could hear someone in the next room crying, "Oh, oh, oh! No, stop! Please stop!" I considered leaving right then, but the doctor came in and started thumping me in various places with a rubber mallet and yanking my arms and manhandling my head. Fortunately, my injury is not so severe that I had to beg for mercy at any point.

Not finding anything obviously wrong with me, the doctor sent me to get an MRI today. That experience sucked 1000% more than I possibly could have predicted. The machine is extraordinarily loud, so they put foam plugs in my ears. As the foam expanded, all the sounds slowly faded away. Then they slid me into the tube - the nice, cozy, coffin-sized tube.

Immediately, I closed my eyes and tried to think spacious thoughts, but I started panicking. When they checked on me after the first minute, I told the Peter-Tork-looking technician that I was freaking out, so he advised me to imagine I was in a wide-open space, like the beach. Whatever. I could already tell that wasn't going to work, so I asked how long it would take. 20-25 minutes, he told me. Nearly half an hour without losing my mind and shrieking and flailing - I thought maybe I could do that.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not convince myself that I was in a wide-open space or any kind of space at all. Instead I pretended I was on a water slide. It was the only situation I could imagine where I would be happy to be stuck in a tube, and luckily it seemed to work, seeing as I'm not gibbering and drooling in an institution right now.

Not only was I fighting off buried-alive-in-a-coffin-type thoughts, but I also had to concentrate on staying perfectly still. Some of the images took 6 minutes to complete, and during that time I couldn't twitch, breathe too much, or even swallow. It's nearly impossible not to swallow while you're lying perfectly still on your back thinking desperately about not swallowing.

Finally they told me they were finished and would take me out. But then nothing happened for about 30 seconds. If it had taken 31 seconds I would have lost it. When the table didn't start moving right away, I was convinced that someone was wrong, and I was trapped. A full-scale panic was ratcheting up when they finally rescued me.

Of course, then my hospital gown came untied as I was leaving to retrieve my clothes, but at that point, I was more than happy to show them my ass, as long as it meant I was getting the hell out of there.

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