20 June 2015

MRI Suite

I entered the vast complex of airconditioned artificially lit building. There was lot of movement of patients, attendants, paramedics, doctors and god knows who? This is the kind of place that makes you scared. Vast, cold, impersonal and artificially lit at high noon. There are neat sign boards that ask you not to enter a particular corridor. For a second I stand perplexed. Then I catch hold of a person who is busily moving across the corridor. I thrust the piece of document that says I have an appointment. He looks at it and surprisingly smiles and directs me to a door which says "Entry Restricted". This is a smaller room and is empty. Here a person directs me the changing room where I change into a long blue gown resembling an Arab Sheikh's. I am asked to wait for fifteen minutes or so.
I am here to get my MRI done. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. It utilises a powerful magnetic field to image the body. If we remember our high school science, all of the atoms behave like magnets in the correct environment. Some substances more so. These are Iron and Nickel and some others called as Ferromagnetic. Others do not. However, Oxygen is unique in that it behaves like a magnet under a strong magnetic field. It is this property which is utilised for MRI. The way the oxygen molecules distort the magnetic field of MRI are fed into a computer that compares it with a standardised algorithm and comes up with an image. This image is then analysed by radiologists and helps them come to a diagnosis. MRI is particularly useful for the "soft tissue" meaning which is not bone. X Rays and CT Scans do not visualise the "soft tissue" well. So MRI and CT Scans / X Rays are complementary. Also, unlike X Rays / CT Scans, MRI does not produce radiation and is hence less harmful. As of now no harmful effects of a strong magnetic field are known on the human body. However, MRI does have its problems. Since it produces such  a strong magnetic field, practically nothing is allowed inside the suite. These include metal items, Credit Cards (that have magnetic stripes), all electronic items etc. The real troublesome are medical devices like pacemakers and orthopedic implants. The patients who have these cannot undergo MRI. Also a patient on a stretcher or receiving oxygen from a cylinder has to be shifted on to some thing which is not Ferromagnetic. Even doctors stethoscopes can create problems. This long list of instructions and cautions are neatly labelled on to the door of the MRI suite.
As I am comprehending all these, my turn comes up. I enter the suite. I lie down on the gantry. It slowly is moved inside the MRI machine which is a circular tunnel. Its almost like crawling back into the womb. My hands are strapped. There is a buzzer provided in my hands .. just in case. Then the MRI starts. This is a modern machine and there are sound defenders placed over my ears yet it makes one hell of a noise. This is one of those movements where you can almost feel nirvana. There are no phone calls, no messages, no talk. You are not supposed to move as it would distort the image. So much so that you are asked to breathe slowly. I look straight up and there is nothing to look at inside the tunnel. I close my eyes and try thinking that it is nirvana. The machine makes different types of noises. One of the background noise is like of a clanging bangles. I imagine a nurse wearing bangles and repeatedly jerking the thermometer to set it back to zero. Soon despite the noise I am asleep. Or atleast I am aware that I am asleep. Then all sounds stop. The gantry is gently pulled out of the tunnel and a contrast agent is injected in my right arm. This will enhance the image. Again the cycle starts. After a while I feel like scratching my nose. But I can't. So I divert my mind to the nurse who is still trying to jerk the thermometer. Finally it gets over. Nearly an hour has passed. The reports will be in by monday.
Back in my office, the real world goes on ... 8 missed calls, 34 watsapp messages, 6 new emails ... the nirvana was temporary.
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