Close Encounters of the MRI Kind
MRI: A Long Day's JOURNEY into Piped-in Muzak
This past Sunday, I visited the gleaming, new state-of-the-art Sheikh Zayed Tower at Johns Hopkins Hospital to get a state-of-the-art 3-Tesla MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) of my troublesome foot, which I injured following an ill-advised 10K race back in April of this year. (Yeah, I finished in the top 15% of that day's field, but big whoop-dee-frickin-doo: I haven't run since!)
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is a medical diagnostic technique that creates images of the human body using the principle of nuclear magnetic resonance. It can generate thin-section images of any part of the human body - from any angle and direction. Now, I had never heard of a "3T MRI," but apparently it's the most detailed MRI one can get. If a picture is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes, a 3T MRI is worth an Encyclopaedia Brittanica. And I like that the top-line 3T MRI name-checks its pioneering founder Nikola Tesla, whose 1882 discovery of "Rotating Magnetic Fields" was the springboard for subsequent magnetic resonance imaging technology. Take that, Edison!
I had been told by the office secretary to expect to be there for up to three hours and that I'd probably be enclosed that whole time. I was dreading this, because I have a phobia about being enclosed - to this day I rarely take elevators (or "steel coffins" as I like to call them) because of this fear of entrapment (plus stairways never break down, in my experience) - but in truth, the whole experience was rather pleasant. The entire procedure only took 45 minutes and only my leg had to go inside the MRI device, which was open at both ends. Whew!
The staff was friendly (a cute blonde was my radiologist) and reassuring. When I told a lab assistant about my elevator phobia, she empathized and told me about her experience last year when that she and her husband were trapped in an elevator at Baltimore's Monoco Hotel. I shared my recollections of being trapped inside one years ago at one of the City Paper's "Best of Baltimore" parties at the Belvedere Hotel. (I had hesitated getting in the tiny lift because it was crammed with a bunch of sweaty, huffing fatties anxious to make a bee-line for the buffet shrimp on the 13th Floor - and, sure enough we got stuck, with little folk like me left to inhale their excess gas and body odor while they gluttonously hogged all the oxygen. Never again!)
But most of the fuss about getting an MRI has to do with the sound of the MRI machine - not only did they give me headphones to listen to "soft rock" to offset the noise, but they also gave me a panic button to press if I was "freaked out" by the experience.
Much ado about nothing! I actually dug the loud MRI sounds! As I texted my girlfriend aftewards...
"Just got out of my MRI cocoon. They are burning me a CD (which I'll add to my "Tom's Body A/V Collection," which also includes my Colonoscopy Photo Gallery). The hardest part of the procedure was listening to the piped-in "soft rock" muzak of Journey ("Don't Stop Believin'") and The Doobie Brothers ("Listen to the Music"). I actually liked the MRI sounds - really loud electronic/industrial noises...or "real science-fi like on channel 45," as Balto-punks Da Moronics would say...kinda like Kraftwerk meets the soundtrack of Forbidden Planet!"
[Forbidden Planet, a 1956 sci-fi movie adaptation of Shakespeare's play The Tempest, featured the first entirely electronic film score, composed by Bebe and Louis Barron.]
I eventually took my headphones off, dreading that a Phil Collins aural attack was imminent (which made me think of Alec Baldwin's classic riposte from the first season of 30 Rock when someone asked if he liked The Prince of Pablum: "I have two ears and a heart, don't I?"). After all, in Inner Space no one can hear you scream!
Hopkins gave me a CD of images from my procedure, but I wish it had an audio track of all that great MRI machine noise!
I was so in the mood for electronic music after my MRI experience that I made a dash through a raging rainstorm afterwards to go to the Towson Record & Tape Traders to pick up an out-of-print Cabaret Voltaire LP I had seen there in the Bargain Bin two days prior. But, alas, somebody beat me to Code - used copies of which go for $40 on Amazon. (Someone also snagged the Van der Graf Generator LP I had my eye on, plus Leslie West's The Great Fatsby and Mick Ronson's Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.) He who hesitates is lost - unless it's a crowded elevator, that is!