Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The difference between jazz and blues

Noon. That was the time of my scheduled brain scan today, my bimonthly MRI, to be followed by a quick blood draw and my monthly appointment with the neuro-oncologist -- well, actually, his trusty nurse practitioner Jennifer -- at 2.

So dutifully I headed out to the UW Hospital, making sure to get there 20 minutes early and checking in at the Radiation desk. I filled out the standard form -- no, no bullet fragments, pacemaker, tattooed eyeliner or penile implants that might screw up the MRI magnet -- while I scanned the waiting-room denizens: a couple of women with their head buried in books, a man reading the Seattle P-I and commenting to a stranger about a story on the front page, a man instructed to drink two chalky milkshakes as prep for some test, a lady complaining about claustrophobia and popping anti-anxiety pills to steel herself for her scan, a 30-ish guy in a wheelchair, so pale he looked transluscent, breathing through an oxygen tank. And more.

A lot of people, which explained the long wait.

An hour passed before they called my name and I went into the bowels of Radiology, to a smaller waiting area, where I put my stuff in a locker and waited for someone to give me an IV for the mid-MRI contrast dye. This whole IV thing is a fairly recent protocol in Radiology and one I don't appreciate, mainly because the techs there have messed it up more often than not, poking me multiple times, spilling blood and, one time, leaving a needle that another nurse roughly ripped out of my arm later. Better to just administer the contrast dye during the MRI, I've always thought, rather than add the extra IV step.

But today the IV tech never came. Instead another half-hour passed -- we're at 1:15 p.m. now -- before a nice woman fetched me and walked me past the MRI room, through long twisty corridors, outside, and to a second, remote MRI machine. There I waited again until a bad-leg patient was wheeled out of the MRI room and I was ushered in.

What, the tech lady said, no IV? That's OK, she said, we can take care of the dye injection here.

Fine by me. She put me on the table, gave me my earplugs and headphones -- the MRI machine is extremely loud -- and asked if I wanted some music. Sure, I said, got any blues? "Is that like jazz," she asked. Well, I made the mistake once before of asking for jazz and got some Enya elevator music, so I changed direction and asked for classic rock. Ah, Hendrix and BTO!

As the automated table slid me into the big MRI magnet tube, the tech lady shouted a question: "What's the difference between jazz and blues anyway?"


"Is one more up-tempo than the other," she asked. Yeah, I guess so. Yeah, that's it.

After the scan, 1:50 now, I trundled up to the lab to get the regular blood draw before my 2 o'clock oncology appointment. No luck. They didn't have my paperwork on file. Another 20-minute wait while the clerk paged Jennifer and waited for a fax of my orders.

OK. They figured out who I am -- M-A-T-A-S-S-A, 2-18-60, I confirmed -- and they sucked my blood. I walked over to Neurology, 20 minutes late now for an appointment scheduled two hours after the 30-minute MRI for which I was 20 minutes early.

Jennifer said everything looked fine and sent me on my way.

That, I though to myself, is jazz. It's all about improvizing.

Whereas what I have is the I-hate-brain-cancer blues.


Rita said...

Terrific post, Mark.

I'm in awe of the writing and in agony of the reality.

Ronelle said...

Well said Aunt Rita...
and for what it is worth...I hate brain cancer too!

Rita said...

Also..........Happy Surgeversary.