There’s nothing quite like having a 4-inch needle stuck into your shoulder, and then having dye injected shortly thereafter. Actually, there is something like this, and it’s called an arthrogram MRI. And actually, there’s another thing just like this too; it’s often referred to as “owwwwwwwwwwwww (actual medical name).”
Before we get to “procedures,” let me describe the environment of the 21st-century imaging facility and waiting room. I arrive at the packed lobby; it’s 10 a.m. I glide (stumble) over to the check-in counter, and say that I’m here for an appointment. “What for?” the receptionist replied.
“For the pain I’m having on my left ass-cheek,” I said.
Just kidding; I didn’t say that, but I should have. Instead I told the truth, that I was up in this hot mess of a hell-hole for an MRI. While I was getting processed, I overheard some real gems. The man to my right was complaining about computers and Obamacare. The man to my left had a tracheostomy and sounded a bit like Darth Vader. The woman behind me had a Nokia phone with the volume set to “Level 10: Deafening.”
I finished my paperwork and sat down right under the TV. Rachel Ray was on. The worst part was that the TV was being watched.
Carrying on, I sat in the first waiting room for 20 minutes, and then in some other random waiting room for another 10 minutes, and then in some dressing room for another 15 minutes, which is where I got to put on this haute couture:
I crossed my legs because that was the regal thing to do, and that dressing room was my palace, goddamnit. Then finally, some guy knocks on the door and escorts me to the Table of Terror (TOT), the origin of the arthrogram injection(s).
Once at the TOT, a doctor starts telling me how great this is all going to be. And I know that’s impossible, because I completely fucking hate needles. “Let’s just get it over with,” I say.
First up, local anesthesia to the shoulder area, which kinda hurts. Next, a little more anesthesia, and then, El Doctor sticks the 4-inch needle in my shoulder, which is basically brushing up against my joint. I am recoiling. The Dr. asks if it hurts. I say, “yes Mr. President.” And he hits me with some more Local A. Then he stabs me with the needle again. Whammy, I can’t feel it now.
There are other people in the room; they probably think I’m crazy at this point, but one of them is working an x-ray machine. The x-ray machine is used to get the needle properly placed at the glenohumeral joint (I Googled that). From what I can tell, the needle placement looks great, and I’m ready for the ink! Coach (the Dr.) tells me that I’m going to feel some pressure when he injects the contrast dye. I take a look at the size of the injection tube — not too bad– and I noticed that the ink was clear. For some reason, I was expecting blue — not sure why.
I look at my shoulder, and there’s a needle hanging out of it (awesome). At that moment, I wonder why anyone would ever do heroin. Then Coach goes for it and pumps me full of lead. It is hard to describe the feeling. I suspect it feels pretty shitty without the local anesthesia. I would describe it as an immense amount of pressure that you want to escape, but can’t go anywhere. It’s like a balloon being inflated, but it doesn’t have anywhere to go. And that was that (except for the part where I turned into Captain America).
From the TOT, I was on my merry way to the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, a.k.a, I was on my way back to the future. I was passed off to some sweet gal from God-knows-where (because I suck at picking out accents, even when people have a strong one, like she did) hits me with the details:
- Don’t move.
- Don’t move.
- It’s kinda loud.
- Don’t move.
- It’s only 35 minutes.
I acknowledge that I understand her and stand there awkwardly in my sexy blue gown, waiting for the next orders. She hands me some ear plugs, and I decide to put them in my ears. Next, she has me lay down on narrow gangplank, and then she walks to the other room. Then, the gangplank starts moving into the narrow tube of the MRI machine. “Claustrophobia, here I come,” I thought. Moments later, the machine starts clicking, and zinging, and banging, and making all sorts of noises, so many that I started thinking the whole damn Chinese National Ping Pong Team had an exclusive reservation to play their sport, right inside my head. I closed my eyes.
“PING! PING! PING! PING! PING! ZZZZZN! ZZZZZN! ZZZZZN! ZZZZZN! PING! BANG! CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!”
When the sounds finally stopped, the MRI was complete, and thirty-five minutes had elapsed.
And in that glorious silence, it became clear to me after remaining physically still for those many musical minutes that The Chinese National Ping Pong Team is actually a well-versed team of terrorizing torturers. (And I will probably think twice before playing ping pong again.)
After I left the imaging center, I walked right over to the Union Square market and got a brownie — just like the other 6-year-olds do after leaving the doctor’s office. I am twenty-seven years old.
P.S. Skip to 1:28 of this video if you want to see what the procedure is like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPg_6bvpZfw