Monday, December 12, 2005

November 10, 2005 - CT Scan

A CT Scan today, at Ocean Medical Center – my second ever. This one will focus on my chest and neck. Already I’m feeling like I know the routine.

The technician is low-key and efficient. Because I’ve been through it before, he doesn’t need to go through the exhaustive explanation I received the first time – all about the contrast agent that’s injected into my veins through an IV needle, and the possible (but rare) side effects to watch out for. Presumably, because I’ve just been through a similar test with no side effects, there is no longer any need for the background lecture.

Afterwards, the technician explains that I should have the results in a couple of days (depending, of course, on whether Dr. Lerner sees fit to phone me, or whether he decides to wait for our next office consultation). I am under no illusions that the technician will share anything of what the scan reveals. Very likely he knows nothing, anyway, because the radiologist must carefully scrutinize the pictures to determine what, if anything, is there. Do the technicians glance at the screen, ever, and silently register concern about anomalies they see? Surely they have seen enough of those pictures to know what is normal and what is not.

The technician treats me with courtesy, and I am grateful. This man sits at the controls of a high-tech wonder, that allows medical science to perform the equivalent of slicing through the breastbone, opening wide the ribcage, pushing aside the internal organs and allowing diagnostic light to shine into the darkest recesses of the human body – and all with no more discomfort than if the patient were sprawled out on the couch at home. Is this man ever awed by the mighty tool he has to work with, and what secrets it has power to reveal about life and death?

Humility. That’s the word. Along with the man’s civility, I detect a certain humility in him, concerning the role he has been chosen to fulfill. That's comforting. The patterns of light and darkness that flash across his computer monitor, when properly translated, change patients’ lives. And so, the story those images tell must be handled with respect.

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