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« A Dream With A View | Main | God's Curveball »
Saturday
Jun012013

This Is Not Me - My Journey Through A Brain Scan

The tech rolled me up to the slab. A lamb for slaughter. At least that's what I thought it would be like. My last MRI's have not gone well. The pain from laying flat. The agony of being still.

I pulled my right leg off the wheelchair foot-holder and set it on the floor. The six-foot-five technician towered over me. The abominable snowman in a coat. He held his hand out for mine. I pulled my body up onto my right leg and shifted it closer to the MRI. My left leg hung as though it waited for a command - that never came. I gently pressed the palms of my hands on the slab and lifted my body to its cushion. My neck flared a fire inside its base, quelling my limbs into submission. That was the easy part. Now it was time to lay down on my back.

I laid flat. My lumbar spine contracted; A whip of my own tail reminding me to ask for the padded bolt under my knees. As soon as I was positioned properly, my body began to shake. It's a shiver reserved for cold medical rooms with naked walls. You have to stay completely still during an MRI. No cell phones, metallic bras or shivering allowed. I asked for blankets. Voila, blankets. He then attached the Hannibal Lector mask over my face. Odd isn't it, that a device that helps to determine the normalcy of one's brain, resembles that worn by a serial killer? I asked for an eye mask. A request that felt good when I said it out loud. Asking for an eye mask felt very spa-like to me. But knowing what to ask for made me feel empowered. And that is the key to surviving an MRI of the brain, or the neck, or anything that can stir the soul into a frenzy.

I was all set. Bolt under my knees. Blankets to keep me warm. No metal in my clothing (only in my spine). Earrings off. Eye mask on. Ear plugs in. Pads set between my skull and the Hannibal Lector mask. Panic button in hand. The coat left the room and the scans began.

The scan begins with a series of clicking sounds. Loud clicking sounds. Like gods snapping in unison with cars for fingertips. Rounds of eight snap-click-thuds measures surround your head. The machine is set. My body moves further into the cylinder.

The key, at this point, is to not look up. Not even into your eye mask. The peripheral vision will flip you out so fast it will make your head spin like the Exorcist on Good Friday - and Ralph's is out of pea soup.

The body is not meant to be canned in a metal body bag, with a cage around its face and an other-worldly symphonic discord of pots and pans in the ears. But, if you approach it properly, an MRI can become an almost Zen-like experience.

My brain was positioned in the middle of the tube, and the dirty-work began. The reading of my mind. The machine revved up, its engine scuffing its hooves into the dirt. A Trojan horse of answers to what has become a puzzle consisting only of outside edges. These scans will offer answers as to why I cannot hold up my head. Why my limbs are deteriorating. Why the numbness and tingling in my leg and arms is giving way to limp and weakened limbs. Why I can no longer brush my teeth without crying. Why my dog has licked so many tears that he now bloats. They are scanning my neck and my brain. My brain is being scanned to rule out any neurological disorder. The kind of disorder you discuss with your doctor that brings images of pity to your mind, and his. It is an interesting day when you pray that your neck is failing instead of your brain, because a neck is easier to fix. So these scans are a horse worth saddling. And I endure.

As the machine readies to scan, I breathe deeply and exhale. Each scan is fifteen to twenty minutes and you cannot itch your nose, swallow too hard, and God forbid you sneeze. There must be complete and total stillness - or you will have a crooked brain. Or neck. Or worse, a blurry brain. Or neck.

As the clicks and snaps repeat in beats of eight, I imagine a mantra to its notes. "I will be healed, I see the light. I will be healed, I see the light." Then, "This is not me, I will be free. This is not me, I will be free." Suddenly, the area between my face and the metal coffin expands and fills with open space. Puzzled pieces fall from the sky into an abyss of hope. I look into my eyelids and see orbs of white lights dancing and floating to the rhythm of this newfound song. I imagine the top of my head as an open vessel with light pouring in and throughout my brain. I feel the energy of the scan awakening a part of my self I never knew was there. It was an engagement with the power of thought I had taken for granted before someone locked us up in a room together - with no one to interrupt but ourselves.

I felt my mind open. I heard my thoughts forgive. I could see how strong my brain is, and how alive she was through the orbs inside my eyes. She became a messenger with a note only I could read.

The clicking grew, the primal beating of a heart within roared with a knowing it would all be okay in the end. "This is not me, I will be free." An odd thing to say to one's self when strapped inside a machine.

 It is up to me now to guide my self through this valley of eye masks and snapping cars. To take the reigns and order the orbs to dance in the darkness before my eyes. It is up to me, to help my mind see what it finds difficult to believe; This is not me, I will be free.

The session ends. The slab pulls out. The abominable man holds out his hand. The mask comes off, my legs drape down. The chair comes back and I am ready now, to hold forever in my mind the memory of what I saw. A self so strong it can't be seen. I'm rolled through the door where my husband stands. Now we wait as it's in God's hands. Like a light you can touch because it is all you can know in a darkness where I met a magical mantra of my self: This is not me, I will be free.

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