In the machine

By recent standards, I was up early this morning, in order to get to the hospital on time for my first scans. I wasn’t allowed to eat, and I could only drink water. Outside it was grey and cool and scattered showers would cross the city as the day wore on. I walked to the local station and caught the train. For fully a third of the journey I had the brightly lit carriage all to myself. I felt very solemn: it was getting real, now.

It was raining in the city when I arrived. I pulled the hood of my top over my head and trudged towards the hospital. Nearing it, I looked up and thought, there are people being healed in there, and people dying.

I went to the same place as when I had my MRI. I waited for about 20 minutes before being called and led to a room. There I took off my jeans and replaced them with blue hospital trousers. I lay on the bed and a nurse fixed a needle in my arm. I was told to take it easy. About 20 minutes later another nurse came in and fixed a drip to the needle. This was a glucose solution for the PET scan. I waited another 20 minutes.

I’d been there a bit more than an hour before I was showed into the PET scan room. There was a long, impressive machine, the chute where the patient would lie, and the curved tunnel into which he would be slid and scanned.

I lay down. I crossed my arms on instruction and was belted into place. A white blanket was placed on me to keep me warm. How long will this take, I asked? 27 minutes he said.

I suppose I must have fallen asleep because it didn’t seem that long, and my memory of the experience is fractured. I remember being slid backwards and forwards and the hum of the machine. It wasn’t unpleasant, but nor was it something I’d hurry to do again.

At the end, I was led back to the room, and then to another part of the hospital for a CT scan. This was the same as before. Then I was taken back, changed back into my civvies, and headed home through the cold misery of a winters day.

I was there for about 4 hours all up. In between times I looked at my iPad or read a book. I watched things around me. I felt uncomfortable.

I think my biggest challenge will be entering into this huge medical machine where identity and agency are somewhere lost. It felt incongruous that I was there, a healthy, well-rounded man, tall and strong, with all my wits about me. I watched other patients being wheeled by on gurneys and thought I never want that to be me.

I understand in a hospitable system how you become another patient – though every staff member is kind and considerate. It’s the consideration that I’ll be reduced to the status of patient that concerns me. I fear that when the full scale of the operation is revealed to me that I will tremble knowing how little I have become.

This is my biggest challenge. I don’t like feeling helpless or useless. I don’t want to be acted upon. It’s my sense of individuality I fear for. I’ve always been bad with hospitals.

I was famished when I left and craved a coffee, though I’ve still not had one. I felt disturbed, and grabbed a packet of chips at Parliament station waiting for the train home, relieved to be back in my own garb. I’m tired and slightly nauseous from the different things they pumped into me today.

Tomorrow I have free and must hurry to pack-up. On Thursday I discover the results of the tests today.

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