Yesterday, because of my hip/groin problem, I went to hospital to have an MRI scan on my lower spine.
I’m a veteran of MRI scans, in the sense I had one about two months ago on my hip.
More recently I visited a new consultant who informed me I would probably be in line to have a hip replacement one day. He added that sometimes a lower spine problem could cause, or at least contribute to, the symptoms I was displaying and – expressing surprise that I hadn’t already had a lower spine MRI scan (just to eliminate, or not, the possibility) – had booked me in for one.
As I was taken out the back of the hospital to the mobile scanning unit yesterday, the nurse explained that this one would take 20 minutes (twice the length of time of my first one), which caused me to raise an eyebrow.
Within minutes, I was lying on my back – denuded of all metal and accessories including my belt – trousers round my ankles, a polystyrene block under my knees, sporting heavy-duty ear plugs, moving inexorably into the ‘tube’ for my session.
For my previous scan, any advance claustrophobia concerns were 90% dissipated by the fact that, once inside, my head was actually protruding out the far end on the machine.
This time I was totally encased. I don’t regard myself as a physical coward – I’d count myself about average in this regard – but I could not prevent youthful memories of watching the escapees working in the Harry tunnel in the 1963 movie version of The Great Escape, [starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough] coming mind as I settled in.
Back then I had admitted to myself that, had I been in the POW camp in real life, I wouldn’t have joined the escape for fear of being trapped in the tunnel by an earth-fall.
To offset both such fears returning and any worries about spending a full 20 minutes in my ‘tomb’, I decided to close my eyes and try to relax.
The ear-plugs pressed upon me were a wise precaution. The scanner started up with a series of loud individual clicks and then a succession of deafening staccato machine-gun bursts of what I suspected to be powerful x-rays blasts aimed directly at my genitals, probably rendering me incapable, in the aftermath of a nuclear war, of re-starting the human race from scratch on a desert island with a platoon of specially-selected nubile wenches (should the need ever arise).
Then suddenly it was all over.
From somewhere, I vaguely heard the nurse speaking and then the ‘bed’ began sliding me feet-first out of the tube.
My first questions were “Is that it?” and “Have I been in there twenty minutes?”
Upon receiving affirmative answers to both, I said that I could only assume I’d actually fallen asleep – it felt as though I’d only been incarcerated for about three minutes (“Cripes, I hope I haven’t been snoring!”).
Restored to normality – no doubt blabbering due to relief that it was all over and I hadn’t made a fool of myself – I passed a slim lady of about thirty-five being led up the steps as I exited. She looked nervous and was as white as a sheet.
“There you are,” said the nurse accompanying her, “… that gentleman has just been in and he’s all right.”
“Yes …” I quipped, “… in fact I had such a good time that, once you’re finished I’m re-joining the queue behind you and having another one!” [Well, at least I thought it was amusing … and hope it helped].
Of all coincidences, as I hobbled towards the hospital main exit, quite by chance I bumped into a former television colleague (sometime manager of the Light Entertainment department) who was bringing his wife in for a consultation.
“You’re limping as well, are you?” she asked. It turned out, as we caught up and compared notes, that her appointment was a precursor to her own hip replacement operation due to take place in September.
That’s life for you. Well, it is at our age, I suppose.