Friday, March 4, 2011

Zen and the Art of CT Scan Investigation

"Because we put emphasis on some particular point, we always have trouble. We should accept things just as they are". (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind p. 120)

Yesterday I described my "plan" for learning first hand about the digital imaging equipment I have been studying for one of my projects. My plan turned out to be easier said than done - this was definitely not Grey's Anatomy. The staff were politely but determinedly cycling people in and out of the CT room as fast as they possibly could. Before I even had my bag picked up off the counter and had found my necklace they had wheeled the next guy in.

My attempts to be politely inquisitive met with only modest success. I started with a simple question "Is it blue?" Ok, probably not quite so inane (I hope), but the idea was to ask a very friendly and innocent sounding question (although a real question) about whether or not the contrast IV liquid was colored. How else might one get contrast? I was imagining all these colorful images on the imaging machines, because I have seen so many of them in my research. Very high resolution pictures of multicolored body parts with swoops and curves. Sometimes rotatable in 3D and able to be zoomed in and out and entered and exited in fly-by mode. So I figured blue was a likely color, not occurring naturally in the body - at least as far as I know.

The tech looked at me like I was a bit loony and I had to explain that I wanted to know how this liquid was going to provide the contrast to enable the CT scan to better read my head. I said I had an interest in digital imaging equipment in medicine - now trying another approach. She still wasn't interested in my line of inquiry. Eventually I managed to get the information that no, it was not colored, it worked by expanding the blood vessels so that they would stand out better. By the time I had gotten that far I had been jabbed and was being injected and she was out of there. So much for asking about the CT machine. It was 4:45 pm on a Friday and they probably just wanted to go home.

When I first walked in the room I had realized the people (at least 3) sitting behind the glass wall were back there to protect themselves from the radiation I was about to get blasted with and it was going to be impossible to ask them about their viewing equipment and software or to ask to see my scan. Rats. Foiled again.

However, another opportunity presented itself. Shortly after the first tech left, another one came in and said he was there to check the IV because sometimes it didn't ... do something or other right. Whatever it was, it sounded a bit fishy to me. Anyway, he was a bit more talkative and didn't give me any funny looks. He stood there for a minute or two seeming to stare at nothing much and suddenly ...  I started getting really warm and it felt like liquid was flowing all over starting at shoulder level and migrating all the way down to my toes. Not only that, it felt like a lot of liquid was pooling in all sorts of strange places. So I said "What is it doing?" And he asked if I was getting warm, said that was normal, did I feel ok otherwise and that's all he said. He continued staring calmly at apparently nothing for another few moments. So I  contemplated warmness and expanding blood vessels and wondered if I'd soon be leaking out of previously unknown pores. Then they told me (for the second time) I had to close my eyes. Darn it. No more watching what was going on.

Not long after, a bit of whirring and movement later, we were finished. The second guy came back and told me he had also been out there to make sure I didn't start vomiting! Now that explained all the questions about food and drug allergies and the "no eating for 4 hours prior" requirement and why he had so quietly stood there and asked me ever so casually if I felt ok!

"When we inhale the air comes into the inner world, when we exhale the air goes to the outer world...actually there is just one world...our throat is like a swinging door" (p. 29)

So while I felt like I might be developing new porousness I also concentrated on not moving my head because I had been told that if I moved my head or opened my eyes we'd have to do it all over again (meaning I get zapped with lots more x-rays). This was a hard task being the patient/researcher!

More so because I have a head cold and my sinuses are blocked and my nose wants to run and I periodically want to sneeze know...all those things that go with having a nasty head cold and are exaggerated when lying on your back where it can all congeal into one gloppy spot in your head.

So I not not worry about what is going on in your nose.... or the back of your zen. Getting into the zen of it all. Or as Spock would have said "I became one with the CT machine". In goes the breath, out goes the breath.

I do have one clear success to report from the original "plan". It was very very easy to ask for a copy of my scan. Back at the front desk I checked off about 3 boxes on a sheet of paper and was told I could either wait 30 minutes or they'd mail it to me. Figuring it would be more than 30 minutes I opted for the mail route. They said it would go out Monday! No one batted an eye at my request! So, hopefully soon, I will have my own digital copy of my head scan.

Wait a minute. Not "hopefully".

"Perhaps". Non-attachment.

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