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Featured Column
Week of 8.29.2005
"Dot me, brother, dot me!"
          It started on a Tuesday morning. I felt as though I was coming down with a cold. The ever-present “Cugh! Cugh! cough, the stuffy feeling, the growing pressure in my sinuses. I had slept fitfully and by Wednesday morning little doubt remained – I had a cold and some stuffed up sinuses.
          Wednesday was spent drinking copious amounts of liquids, walking around the house in a cold-tablet-driven-mental-fog and going “Cugh! Cugh!” every few minutes. 
          By Thursday even my hair ached. My sinuses felt as though they were going to explode and the cold tablets were having a negligible effect – other than making me feel sleepy and droopy.
          By Friday I felt as though my sinuses were carrying 55 pounds of air pressure, the same as in my car tires. I couldn’t hear and my eyes were tearing a puddle an hour. It was time to go to the doctor and get some relief before my face exploded.
          First came the 30-minute wait in the reception room, which was filled with adults and children coughing, sneezing, hacking and filling every cubic inch of air in the room with bacteria and viruses.
          Then the bored nurse calls my name, sits me in her cubicle and takes my temperature and blood pressure. Then I’m lead into the inner sanctum – the examination room, where I wait 20-minutes for the doctor.
           A weak knock on the door, announcing the doctor’s arrival and I’m asked, “Hello, what can I do for you?” My answer is, “I hab dis tewible cowd an my siduses aw goin’ to expwode.” After three tries I communicated my self analysis to the doctor.
          She pokes around, pushes here and there, peers into my throat and says, “Well, what we have here is a bad cold and some awfully stuffed sinuses.” Then came the surprise. “Mr. Cruger, I’m going to send you down to the M.R.I. Center so we can check out your sinuses. Then she explained that it’s standard procedure, “Just to make sure that there’s nothing serious going on in your head.” I nodded my understanding and said, “Ture, ah, unndertand.”
          A half hour later I entered the M.R.I. Center (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The technician welcomed me and said, “Well, Mr. Cruger, I understand you’re having some problems with your head!” I nodded agreement.
           “Have you ever had an M.R.I. done before?” I answered, “Dope.” The technician gave me a “what the hell” look. I explained, “Dope, I’b neber hab one before.”
          Then I got the explanation of how the M.R.I. procedure works. “Mr. Cruger, we’ll have you lay down on this comfortable slab, then we’ll put these light straps on your head to keep it still and then we press this little button and the little slab you’re laying on will go down these tracks, through the little tunnel you see and approximately 40-minutes later you’ll come out the other end of the tunnel.” Then the white frock clad technician said, “You’re not claustrophobic, are you?” In between a series of ugly sneezes I replied, “I nebber hab been, but I dunno.”
           It’s required that all metal objects be removed from your person, as the M.R.I. machine consists of some powerful magnets that, under certain circumstances, can remove the fillings in one’s teeth and pluck anything metal from your body in a nanosecond.
          I changed into one of those embarrassing “rear end open” gowns and lowered myself into the movable slab as the technician strapped my head to an immobile position.
At this point a strange and uncomfortable feeling filled my heart and my head.
          Al, the friendly M.R.I. technician, then instructed me, “We’re going to put this electric line in your hand, it has a button attachment and if you feel uncomfortable at any time you just press the button and I will come in and talk with you, understand?” He finished with, “Are you ready to begin?”
          “I dess so.”
          “Al yelled, “What?”
          “Dess, I’b ready.” 
          Here I was, laying flat on my back, my head strapped down, about to enter a narrow tunnel just wide enough to fit my shoulders – and I’m due to lay here, still and quiet for 40-minutes. I haven’t been in this position since I was born!
          Just before he threw the switch for my trip through the tunnel Al said, “Oh, yes, as you go through the machine you’ll hear a very loud banging right above your head every few moments – that’s the machine taking the pictures. Don’t let the noise bother you.”
          My knuckles were already white, my heart was beating wildly and a feeling of impending doom filled my every thought. Perspiration was causing my white gown to stick to my skin.
          Al patted my arm and walked behind the lead shielded wall. He pushed a button and the enormous machine cranked up. The gurney type sled I was on moved ahead slowly. It took 5 seconds for the top of my head to reach the inside of the tunnel.
          My right hand held the panic button and I pushed it.
          Al came in a hurry and asked, “What’s up, only the tip of your head was inside the machine?”
          “Ge me outta here. I’b done. I debber knew I hab claustrophobia.”
         “What are you talking about, you didn’t even get inside the machine but 2 inches.”
         “Dat’s as far as I’b getting, I can’t do it. Now, prease but dis ding in reverse and untie by head, we be done.”
          “But, but, Mr. Cruger…”
          Al put the gurney in reverse and untied my head straps. I stood up and looked back at one of modern medicines newest miracles and thought, “Dot me, brother, dot me, nebber again.”
          Three days later my cold was gone, my sinuses cleared and all that remained of my trip to the M.R.I. machine was the knowledge that I had claustrophobia and that nobody could ever get me in that “Tube of death” again.
Escape from the M.R.I.
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
     
Ron Cruger