/ / / On Taphophobia*

On Taphophobia*

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“It’s a bit like being buried” said my brother, helpful as always. “I absolutely hated it”!

Brilliant, just brilliant.

And so it was that I found myself in a large tube with the ‘roof’ of said tube not more than six inches from the end of my nose, strapped down and with my shoulder wedged into probably the most uncomfortable position in the known universe. Not only that, but I was dressed in a most fetching hospital gown which gaped at the front and which, despite my best efforts, managed to slide off as I levered myself onto the bed revealing legs in need of a good defurring and much more besides…

Having an MRI scan is nothing like Holby City let me tell you. I’m sure that in all the years (from the very beginning if I’m being honest) that I’ve been watching, the scanning tube at Holby has acres of room inside. Well this is entirely not true in reality and should you be of a nervous or claustrophobic disposition, it should be avoided at all costs. Just for the record and in case anyone was fretting, I have a busted shoulder. This injury occurred during what is known as a ‘prat fall’ during a stage show. You know the sort of thing; man lowers women in his arms, goes in for the kiss, becomes distracted by a thought and drops her unceremonially behind the sofa. It’s the stuff of Only Fools and Horses where Del Boy falls through the bar and the sort of thing that clowns and Mrs Brown are rather good at. In my case I clearly needed further rehearsal. It worked beautifully up until the final performance and then as I hit the deck on the last night I fell awkwardly and my shoulder ended up further round the back that it should have. The consultant at the hospital thought this explanation of injury received was most amusing.

Anyway, once I’d got over the initial heart pounding and remembered that breathing is always a good idea, I was under instruction not to move whilst the MRI was underway. This is far more difficult than you might think as the magnetic field gives you involuntary twitches, but I had been told just to listen to the lovely classical music that would be played and I’d be fine. To say that the music was funereal is no exaggeration. It was exactly how I’d imagine my eventual demise to be and it was not a pleasant sensation at all. Between the music and the feeling of being in a tube with the roof, as I said, not six inches away from my nose, my mind began to wander and I found myself writing eulogies and choosing hymns. I had pretty much written the whole service, invited the mourners and sorted out the wake when another thought struck me and that was how clever the whole thing actually is. Let me explain. As the ad says “Now here’s the science”.

Our bodies are made up of water molecules which are hydrogen and water atoms. At the centre of each hydrogen atom is a tiny particle called a proton which is like a very tiny magnet and is sensitive to magnetic fields. When you have an MRI the protons line up in the same direction and the radio waves are sent to the area being scanned which knock the protons out of alignment. When the radio waves are turned off, the protons line up once more and send out radio signals which are picked up by receivers. These signals from all of the millions of protons are combined to give a detailed image of the inside of the body. Clever, eh? I should also mention the noise that all this creates – think someone digging up the road with a jack hammer but live in your head and you’ll just about have it.

Technology is amazing, isn’t it? And this is what I finally pondered on during my forty minutes in the chamber when I’d got over the being buried and “what if there was a fire” thing. My injury is very minor in comparison to other folks (although the way I go on about it you’d think my arm had dropped off) and the MRI can be used for a whole host of diagnostic uses. It hasn’t been around for all that long in its present form and there is quite some argy-bargy about who did in fact invent it and hissy fits all over the place, but I for one am very grateful for its existence. To be able to see inside the body without surgery or intrusive treatment is astonishing and far less distressing for the patient. Back in the dark ages a bad shoulder would have involved a drop of brandy and a saw no doubt but thankfully those days are long behind us. The world moves forward at an unbelievable pace and there are new and improved techniques being invented and researched every minute of the day. Thank goodness there are people who concentrated in physics and maths and chemistry and biology at school and didn’t let themselves get distracted by boys (or was that just me?) because without them we’d still be at the brandy and saw stage. It’s not something I’d go and have again in a hurry but if needs be I could and would. Thank you concentrators in class. Thank you.

*The fear of being buried alive

Find more from Amber at www.amberlife.wordpress.com

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