Up Front by Emma Hart


Bonging Science Doughnut Time

A bit under a year ago I was <a href="http://publicaddress.net/default,6074.sm#post6074
" target="_blank">telling people that, while having an MRI hadn't been unbearable, it wasn't something I'd want to do again. Last week I had my fifth.

The anxiety should have tailed right off by now. I should be one of those Old Hand Patients. Thing is, last time I did one I had a head cold, and that induced a panic attack. So my famed sang-froid wasn't really at a high. It also wasn't entirely reassuring when they had a power surge during the scan before mine.

For a lot of people, I think, there comes a point somewhere when you just get completely sick of being 'medicalised'. You get so sick of the poking and prodding and medication that you'd rather just take the risks. I've seen friends and relatives go through this, including one desperate to get off the rat poison, and damn the pulmonary embolisms. It's not logical, and we know that everyone's just trying to help and it's all for the best, but eventually the label "patient" just becomes ironic. Yes, we know it's stupid. Yes, I feel bad when I see a three year old boy in the neurology waiting room. Yes, I know I've been ridiculously lucky. It doesn't help.

So I've been impossibly childish and difficult about this. My scan in January was clear. How could I possibly need another one in June? It wasn't FAIR. I shouldn't have to. Perhaps they could make do with a picture of me I'd provided:

(Original art by Rhiana Dearden, aged 2 ½)

Anyway, apart from the bit where they had to stop in the middle and recalibrate the machine, the scan went perfectly smoothly and I lived through it just fine. To give a taste of the experience, I suggest the following experiment. Load up this:

Turn the volume on your computer up until it produces 120dB, then tie your desktop speakers to the sides of your head. Lie on your table with your head in your microwave, and play it on loop for forty-five minutes.

(OSH warning: don't do this. What, are you fucking insane? Also don't let your baby operate a chainsaw unsupervised or stick your hand in a running waste disposal.)

That wouldn't be entirely accurate, of course. Every separate scan sounds and feels quite different. Given it's not possible, with your head in there, to think about anything else, one becomes a connoisseur. Hmm, one thinks, this one makes my engagement ring vibrate and get warm, but not my civil union ring. This one appears to make the entire table shake: my head can't be bouncing up and down like it feels it is. I wonder what this will be like after I get a whole bunch of red tattoo ink on my back later on this year?

Anyway, my brain has been so well-behaved that I get a whole year off of MRIs now. An entire year. Whoop, frankly, de-fuck. What I'm hoping is that some time before I die and stop needing MRIs, medical technology will advance to the point where they can be done with a hand-held salt-shaker thingy.

Emma Hart is the author of the book 'Not Safe For Work'.

(Click here to find out more)

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