Anticipation builds up as I switch out from my street clothes to a heavy blue gown. This sad shade of blue looks distressingly similar to those of hospital patients. Even the black outfit I was wearing somehow exuded a cheerier aura than this sheet of heavy cloth with holes in the right places that could barely pass off as clothes.
A nurse opens the door in the restricted room and motions to me. I walk in, still unaware of what lay before me.
A grey matte cylindrical behemoth sat unassumingly in the middle of the room. A small consolation lay in the fact that it yawned open at one end, but could barely fit a soccer ball. I was still unfazed. The novelty of the procedure had me, well, excited.
I lift myself gingerly onto the mattress. Calling it a mattress is grand, really – it was more of a surface. Maybe those kinds of beds that are commonly found in clinics, those that are always covered in extremely weak toilet paper-esquey sheets that change with each new patient. Are those called clinic beds?
As the motorized mattress (fine, I’ll call it a mattress since it’s not hard as a rock) on which I lie starts to bring me into the belly of the beast, the last thing I see is a glassy frame of what looks like a palm tree’s leaves. The lack of texture does little to ease my nerves. My face is the first to realize the reality of the confined space I would spend the next half hour in.
“OMG,” I exclaim.
“Are you okay?” asks the nurse.
Not somewhere I’d voluntarily spend my idle time, but too late to back out now. I grit my teeth.
“Yes,” I lie. No wonder they ask if patients are claustrophobic on the sheet of paper I’d handed to the receptionist, I thought.
My dad had mentioned he had some tunes to make the procedure more bearable as the mammoth machine scanned him noisily while he lay motionless. For me, however, I was only given a pair of rubber earplugs that were rudely jammed into my ears.
“Why would I need these things,” I foolishly thought. Much too soon, I was greeted with a slew of unwelcome noises that would ring around my head for the next 30 minutes.
It started out with wailing sirens, reminiscent of the school fire alarms. It was every schoolkid’s fantasy for the alarm to go off since the fire drills interrupted lessons; every teacher’s nightmare as their trains of thought were disrupted and they had to ensure no one was left behind in the deathly heat waves and raining debris. Did I forget to mention fire drill?
Subsequently, the sirens stopped. This brief respite was impeded by short, rapid sounds that resembled a machine gun. (And the rate at which my mother talks.)
This cycle went on. And on. And on. I half expected to hear the whirring of fighter jets overhead, readying to drop bombs and complete the war zone feel of this too-close-for-comfort, potentially PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)-inducing experience.
I tried to distract myself by thinking about how I could showcase my colorful vocabulary in this very post. As I trawled my mind for somewhat poetic words to puff up the experience,
Towards the end, my body itched to move. I hadn’t realized lying stationary could be so tiring, and what I really
wanted needed was a good stretch.
My left hand fondled the mini distress alert balloon. I had half a mind to press it. I was craving an outlet to relieve my increasing levels of restlessness.
Ironically, when I was finally let out of the machine, it hadn’t felt like the 30 long minutes that gave rise to the restlessness. It’d only felt like 20.
“How was it?” asks the nurse.
This time, I ain’t lying to her. “Not a pleasant experience,” I reply.
(Conclusion: The MRI revealed no abnormalities.)