Patients are kindly requested to speak softly and to leave quietly to avoid disturbing the doctor’s nap during your consultation.
In addition to increasing hardness of hearing, there have been frequent episodes of vertigo over the past 12 months. During these interludes a twist of the head is followed by a swimming sensation; the world moves, sliding ever to my right; images swarm, kaleidoscope-like, chasing each other endlessly, clockwise, around my visual field. It is an intriguing symptom, drunkenness without alcohol. Remarkable cheap, really. People pay good money for bad chemicals to achieve these experiences. It makes my ENT surgeon jealous, resentful, motivated to act.
And when the ENT saw an 11% discrepancy in acuity between the failing right ear and the failed left, he mentioned an MRI. When he heard of my increasing vertigo over the past 12 months, he wrote out a request slip. The request slip might be paraphrased as follows:
1. The patient is deaf, ie old; this condition will worsen but will, like all things, pass.
2. The patient is a doctor, ie hypochondriachal. He requires an MRI in order to cure him of his hypochondriachal fears, and as a punishment for having symptoms.
3. During the procedure, please confine his head in a shoebox, then slide that head into an extremely confined space and assault his damaged ears with mechanical sounds at high volume. During this time, so confine him that he is entirely unable to move. If he has never suffered claustrophobia before this, please assure him that the days of calm inside his head are over.
4. Do not warn him that during his MRI he can expect to wet himself in sheer terror.
5. Ensure that the young technician who asks him to disrobe is female, charming and attractive. Tumescence will then fight against incontinence.
As you will appreciate the MRI represents the Himalayas of medicine where peak ethics gaze across at the highpoint of patient autonomy and comfort.
Before the scan you fill out a form in which you declare your body’s absence of internal metallic items. The list is long and the list of patients who can say “no” to all these is a shrinking one. Nowadays it is as difficult to qualify for MRI as for cremation. In my unserenity, I might prefer the latter; at least you don’t have to hang around waiting nervously for the report.
“Please take off all your clothes excepting your underpants.” It is not every day that a 67 year old gentleman receives an invitation of this nature from an attractive young woman. I am happy to oblige. She permits me to retain my kippah (skullcap – “no bobby pins please) and my socks. A gent in his socks is the epitome of the sexless vertebrate.
I might just as well wear a chastity belt.
Over the past 27 years I have slept with numerous young women whose names I never caught. In each case they supplied me with a hospital gown in place of my street clothes. The gown is a form of posterior strip tease: those who appreciate bottoms would find them titillating. My own bottom is much admired.
In every case my sleeping partner’s service were covered by medicare.
I undressed, donned gown, lay down, relaxed – and in every case I awoke 30 minutes later having been scanned and echoed to the satisfaction of my admirer in whose company I had slept throughout.
Today’s young lady looks more arousing than her predecessors. A panic alarm is placed in my right palm, my breathing accelerates, I begin to regret skipping deodorant this morning, my head is placed in a shoebox and the horizontal platform (upon which they might later conveniently perform my autopsy) starts to slide me backwards into a space so confined that even a geriatric mini-erection will be impossible.
Various constricting fittings are applied to ears, nose, skull. I close my eyes and keep them shut. I ask the charming technician whether I am allowed to sing. No. Further, the musical earphones are unavailable today. I am helpless. The xanax tablet I took seems to be useless. But am I truly helpless? Do I have no resources? Am I habitually unresilient? I’ll marshall my resources – song (unsung but inwardly hummed), happy thoughts, the absurdity of my puerile thinking.
My litter slides me backwards into the narrow vale of the unknown. Clanking sounds, almost musical are heard. Grinding sounds, the sounds you’d imagine to be a machine chewing though the bone of your skull, follow. Now percussive sounds, deep and rhythmic are heard, in fact, felt. Every sound is coupled, every couple is rhythmic.
I decide to think about my grandchildren. My face widens into serial smiles with each I picture. I hum some silent hums. The rhythm and percussion backing create a new music. I reflect on my absurdity; this makes me laugh. My chest rises and falls, doubtless subverting the entire imaging.
I fall into a form of torpid semislumber.
The bed slides, my constriction is at an end. I thank the lady with whom I have so recently and briefly slept and leave, bumping into fixtures like doorposts and tripping over moving parts like legs.
Next stop is the cake shop, where a doughnut coated in thick pink icing beckons winningly. I can recommend a doughnut to follow an MRI.
MRI – an anticlimax.