My knee (specifically, the inner right joint) is still being an asshole, so I got an MRI on Monday. This was my first ever MRI. Aside from bouts of childhood bronchitis and, later, periodic eczema that always seemed to sprout up during times of stress (it was worst in my 20s, almost nonexistent now), I have always been pretty healthy. I have never broken a bone, had surgery, been hospitalized, or had a major disease (unless you count bronchitis). I’ve also never worn glasses, smoked a cigarette, had an addiction problem, or been pregnant. When I go to the doctor, I always feel like they’re secretly disappointed I’m so boring.
So everything I knew about MRIs I knew from movies and TV and books. I think Walter White had one. I read a book about a guy who trained dogs to sit in MRI machines so scientists could study their brains. I knew you had to lie on a slab and stay very, very still as the slab was slid into a big tube-shaped machine that had an invisible laser thing that was like an x-ray, only different.
Unlike every fictional character who’s ever had an MRI, only my knee needed scanning. So I went in feet-first with my head sticking just outside of the tunnel, which was nice because it was less claustrophobic that way. I still had to strip practically naked and put on a gown that tied in front. Not sure why I couldn’t wear a dang t-shirt while getting an MRI on my knee, but again, I know nothing about the rules and regulations of MRIs. If I’d been told to prance around the room completely naked with my eyes closed while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in a German accent there’s a very good chance I would have explicitly followed directions.
They asked me what music I wanted to listen to, which was a nice surprise. I had been listening to one of my Spotify playlists on the way there: a collection of mostly acoustic, folk-pop songs by gentle male singer/songwriters – men who, I imagine, carefully place spiders found in the house outside instead of killing them – so I asked for one of my favorite artists, Greg Laswell. They gave me big gauze-covered headphones and I settled in to relax and listen to some tunes for the next 22 minutes.
Only I heard maybe 7 seconds of actual tunes, because the sound the MRI machine made for about 98% of the time I was in it COMPLETELY OVERPOWERED THE MUSIC. Imagine going to see an intimate performance of your favorite singer at a small café. Now imagine a construction worker using a jackhammer inside of that café six inches to your right while you try to enjoy the show. And you cannot move a muscle.
It was like that.
The hardest part wasn’t even the sound. It was the not moving. Holy hell, this was hard. I didn’t even want to bend a toe for fear of negating the entire scan and having to start over. As a result, literally ALL of my energy went toward the thought of not moving. I could not let my brain relax for even a second – if I did, I might involuntarily twitch. In fact, even with constant awareness and monitoring, my left leg did slightly twitch a few times. I think this was because my right leg (the one being scanned) was propped up a bit and more comfortable, while my left was flat on the slab. Every time my left leg twitched, I prayed my right wouldn’t follow suit.
I’d also never been more aware that I have a mild addiction to cracking my toes (okay maybe I do have an addiction problem), because all I wanted to do for those 22 minutes was crack a toe. But I didn’t dare. I just lay there, stone frozen, with my hands clasped over my chest like a body on display at an open casket funeral. The machine manufacturing label was right above my head, so at least I had something to look at. MADE IN 2008. What was I doing in 2008? I thought. Wow, I’ve come a long way since then. NO, don’t let your mind wander. Don’t move don’t move don’t move. I want to crack a toe. Don’t move. 2008. Don’t move. Toe. Ten years. Don’t move. That was pretty much how it went for 22 minutes.
When it was finally over and I could safely twitch again, I remarked how hard it was not to move and the guy said “Yeah, you’re a runner. Runners have a hard time not moving.” Which I thought was strange, but also made perfect sense. Doesn’t everyone have a hard time not moving? Maybe I am weird. Or just a runner.
So that’s my MRI story. The results should be in today, so I am waiting in anticipation for word from my orthopedist’s office. I want to run again. I need to run again. But first I need to figure out what the hell is up with my asshole knee.