Sunday, July 15, 2007

This Whole Day

You wouldn't really think that spending a day snoozing and smelling things would be taxing, but on the bus ride home last Monday night, I could hardly keep my eyes open. Didn't, for the first hour and a half.

Maybe it was the early start to the day.

I was up and out of Amy's place at about 7:20 to meet Scientist J. at 8:20 in the lobby of the MNI. He showed up exactly on time, very pleased to see me. I get the impression that they have a hard time, not necessarily finding people, but finding people who will show up when they say they're going to. So having someone agree to come from two hours away and then actually show up seemed pretty pleasing to him. When Amy came to visit at lunch, she asked Scientist J. what else he had going on that day. He pointed his chin at me and said "This whole day is dedicated to your sister." Really, they're just lucky Amy is so nice to visit.

Maybe it was the attention.

I'm not really used to having so much of other people's attention focussed on me. Everything I did involved having at least one person in the room catering to my comfort and writing down everything I said.

The PET scan was particularly crazy for that. Particularly because we had to do the hard part of it twice.

The first room that Scientist J. led me to had this encouraging sign posted. Under its ominous banner, I filled out my consent forms and agreed to be shot full of radiation in a few short minutes.

My soul thus signed away, we went off to the room with the PET machine. I took off my boots and removed my piercings, which made me feel as naked as I expected it to. I went and sat on the couch, though that's a luxurious word for the rather firm bench I sat my ass down on, and Scientist J. used some kind of lighted optic probe to inspect the innards of my proboscis, and then used a dilator and tweezers to put a piece of latex in my left nostril. He used his hands to put a piece of adhesive over my right nostril.

He told me to lie down. Scientist E. and the Two Scientists of PET went to town on me. Having walked 20 minutes from the metro to the MNI, I was pretty schvitzy, so when I lay down and Scientist E. started covering me with flannel blankets, I was skeptical about needing them. But it seemed like standard protocol, so I didn't say anything.

The Two Scientists of PET variously stuck an IV in my left arm, which hurt more than I expected, and took my pulse and my blood pressure and strapped my head in place and slid me into the machine and turned on the lasers and used eyeliner to mark my face with the coordinates they would use for the rest of the day.

Now we were ready to go. Scientist J. explained to me that the Cyclotron would be making the radiation on another floor, just under the cafeteria and then there'd be loud clunking and shooping and it would appear in our room.

I forgot to ask if it came by pneumatic tube, but I really hope it did because I love pneumatic tubes.

After a few moments, the Cyclotron receptacle shooped and all the scientists started scurrying around me, manning their workstations. Because my head was strapped in fairly firmly, I couldn't tell what was going on, but I could tell it wasn't particularly good.

There was lots of confabulation and muttering off on the edge of my sight and hearing. Finally, the face of Scientist J. loomed up over me, part furrowed brow, part apology. "It's not working," he said. "I mean, stuff is coming down, but there's no radiation."

Weird to think "Oh drat" when someone tells you your radiation has gone AWOL.

Maybe it was all the whirring.

The MRI felt awful. Not even claustrophobic, which is what I'd been worried about. Not the noise, which Amy had hated when she was getting her brain scanned. It was the magnetism.

Amy thought this was maybe all in my head, but I swear to god I could feel the magnetic fields thrumming and bubbling and mixing all up over each other inside my body and it was an awful feeling. Smoking pot gives me that same feeling. And also anxiety attacks. Which is why I stopped smoking pot and why I will have to be Very Sick to have another MRI.

To calm myself, I thought of Eric, and how he would probably enjoy the not quite rhythmic clunk whir drone of the machine.

The other thing that Amy warned me about was the ugly pink pyjamas I would have to wear. They cannot risk having any metal in the room. The magnetic field around these machines is so strong it can pull a forklift across the room. "So they make you wear pyjamas, this awful pink. They make them such an ugly colour so no one will steal them." I was picturing Pepto Bismol, or ash rose. Nope, fuschia.

This is a colour I've come to enjoy. It's got a girly fuck you quality that I appreciate. You can't see it in this picture, but they are exactly the same colour as my underwear. I would actually have stolen the scrubs except the drawstring wouldn't stay tied and I had to schlep around holding a tuft of my pants in one fist pressed to my belly button. Just one of the many sexy moments of the day.

Maybe it was all the lying around.

Turns out the Cyclotron had been connected up wrong. No one knew where my morning radiation had ended up. They made nuclear scientist jokes about cafeteria food and I pretended I hadn't just eaten at the caf above the cyclotron.

Scientist J. picked me up for my second go 'round at said caf at about 12:45, after my MRI and screening for another smell experiment. We went through the set up all again, except they'd blown out my left vein in the morning, and there was a lot of very painful jabbing around in my elbow until they decided to switch sides.

The face of Scientist E. loomed next. "Aha," he said in his Swedish accent, "You are a druggie, then?" I knew he was joking, but I was a little piqued nonetheless. I felt a little like he was maligning my veins, the veins that the Scientist of PET had just finished either blowing or torturing with a big damn bore needle. "No," I replied, as curtly as one can when one's head is strapped into a plastic cradle. "Apparently I would be a terrible junkie."

They slid my head back into the machine, checked its position against the eyeliner marks they'd made earlier, which I'd forgotten about and had been cavalierly wearing around for several hours, and we all waited for the shooping.

Then success! My radiation had arrived. All the scientists really went into overdrive at that point. One Scientist of PET ran over and injected the radiation into my IV, while Scientist J., who is Spanish/Italian/French, went over the four things I had to remember.

1. Fixate the spot.
2. Don't move.
3. Remember to breathe the right way.
4. Click the mouse.

He put a vial under my nose. I stared at the spot two inches away from my eye. I didn't move. I breathed in while the vial was there. When it was not, I breathed out, breathed a shorter breath in, exhaled. Clicked the mouse. We repeated that several times, with Scientist E. handing bottles over for a couple of minutes - until the half-life of the radiation was done.

That happened 12 times total. Between each sniffing bit, we waited for several minutes, anywhere from 4 to 12, for the cyclotron to tube us more radiation. I kept falling into a light sleep. At a moment's notice, occasionally. They'd start the post-cyclotron scurrying and I'd wake from my daydreaming semi-conscious daze. Scientist J. would check in with me, then turn around to set something up, and a few seconds later, when he asked me another direct question, I would jerk awake, my head snapping forward one millimeter and bouncing back when it encountered the strap.

An hour in, I was barely conscious even when I was conscious. Two hours in, my back and legs had started hurting, and I started daydreaming to distract my self. As well as doing the bridge posture every once in a while.

Finally, at 4 pm, it was over. They slid me out of the machine and a Scientists of PET took my blood pressure and pulse again. This caused surprised and worrisome murmuring. Worrisome, that is, until one Scientist of PET popped up beside me to take out the IV and say "You're going to live a long time."

Now that you've radiated me? I thought. But no. "And her resting heart rate was 44!" the other Scientist of PET had actual wonder in his voice.

I was happy to have impressed the scientists, if not with my smelling, then with my very slowly beating heart.

It was not Scientists J. or E.

I was telling Eric the big long story of my time at the MNI, going picture to picture, and when I got to the photo below of Scientists J. and E. he raised his eyebrows and said "Those are handsome scientists."

It actually hadn't really occurred to me until I saw this photo. I mean, I'm not blind, and the first time I met them, I certainly noted that they were younger and much less hunched than I was expecting of olfactory scientists.

Upon seeing this photo, however, the first thing I thought was "Well, I look like I've been right rogered, don't I?" The second thing I thought was that Agatha would have described them as handsome young pop tarts of young men.

Does It Really Matter Why?

All in all, it was a very interesting experience, and I certainly hope that I get pictures of my brain from the MRI. And it gave me the opportunity to have a lovely visit and delicious dinner with Amy and Paul. And I got paid!

But I wouldn't do it again. For one thing, it took me a while to completely lose the semi-conscious fog. For another, it wouldn't be as interesting to blog about the second time, and really, that was a big reason for going. I did three things during the hours in the PET scanner: slept, thought about fucking, and composed this post.


Amy said...

Great post!! When you get your brain scans, we will have to do a side by side comparison. Whose brain will look nicer?

zoom said...

I'm in awe of your 44 resting heart rate too. Very impressive.

Asteroidea Press said...

A little sibling rivalry will certainly liven this blog up!

Maybe speed up my heart, too.