Sunday, February 17, 2008

February 14, 2008 - Hearts and CT Scans

Today I go to Ocean Medical Center for my 3-month CT scan. As I walk into the room where the scan will take place, I immediately notice that the large, fiberglass-covered donut of the scanner is covered with red paper hearts, stuck up there with pieces of surgical tape.

It’s Valentine’s Day, of course, and the radiology staff of the hospital is trying to make the place look festive. I give them an “A” for effort, even if the decorations look a bit haphazard.

It’s a reminder, to me, of what medicine is all about – or, at least, what it ought to be all about. Here’s a CT scanner, one of the highest of high-tech pieces of diagnostic equipment. Its purpose is to analyze the human body, breaking the complex reality that is a human life into constituent parts that can be expressed numerically. When I lie down on that sliding platform, and the whirring engine slides me slowly through the hole in the donut, the CT scanner will render my physical existence into images, that will tell my doctors what’s going on inside me. It’s a technological wonder.

Yet, as adept as the CT scanner is at depicting what I am, it’s absolutely blind to who I am. What are my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams, my fears? The scanner knows nothing of such things.

That’s where the paper hearts come in. They look incongruous, there, on the side of the scanner. But I’m glad to see them. They tell me the hospital staff cares about more than just numbers.

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