I’ll never forget that cold, raw Friday morning. It had been pouring all night and continued after I got up at 4am to get dressed and headed to the Charlestown MGH MRI Center for a 6AM appointment. It took about 40 minutes to get there as I drove slowly while the rain intermixing with ice pounded on my car windshield. I crossed the Tobin Bridge then followed the looping directions past the USS Constitution to the Center garage. I parked then walked over and took the elevator to the basement floor. The MGH staff member greeted me then showed me where to change before entering the MRI room. After doing so, I met him again then he showed me where to lay down. A nurse stood by and explained that she would be injecting a dye after awhile then I would take a few additional minutes to have an MRI with contrast.
The entire procedure went smoothly. I never had any anxietie4s about having MRIs done. I would close my eyes then imagine my father and I watching construction being done for the lower sections of a new skyscraper in Manhattan. Imagine a cluster of people looking through scattered wall openings as several bulldozers and dump trucks moved about like Tonka toys. The repetitious clatter of heavy metal was a meditational experience for many of these New Yorkers who worked there each day. What further comforted me was the image of holding my father’s hand when I sat along side him to pray in Temple as a young boy.
After the procedure was done and I got dressed, ye same staff member who greeted me asked if I wanted to meet the radiologist. “Of course!” I said. Why wait for a report when I can listen to it from the expert who observes it plus I can see it as well given I had some familiarity with MRI’s of the spine. The staff member walked me into a dark room behind the machines where I immediately saw an array of monitors showing multiple MRI scans. Behind them sat this Asian physician who introduced himself and asked me to sit next to him. He then told me he had already observed my scans but hadn’t written a report yet. “Would you like to see them?” “Absolutely!” He touched a few computer keys then brought up a series of scans with the first one showing the lumbar spine with the orange colored tone to it. “This is your L4-L5 area. The color indicates that you have severe stenosis at the L4-L5 level. (Dtenosos being a narrowing of the vertebrae against the spinal canal). “So that’s why I have had such pain!”, I said almost relieved to have a physical answer. “No!” the radiologist affirmed. “While this condition is giving you pain, there’s another factor that you should see!”. At this point, my throat went dry as the radiologist touched a few more computer keys and brought up a scan of my cervical area. It was bright red. On the scan, the C6 cervical vertebrae was pushing about one third of the way into my spinal cord. I stared at it, felt numb then wanted to faint