The Hospital’s Eerie Chamber

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An MRI can be a dreadful claustrophobic experience

By Jyotsna Pandit

X-ray is passe, ultrasound rather pedestrian. It is the requisition for an MRI image that bestows class on your ailment. You gloat at being at the focus of everyone’s attention. But that cosy feeling melts into anxiety if it is your first encounter with the magical machine that can see right through you. As you find yourself lying flat on a platform trying to come to terms with the ‘no unnecessary movement’ diktat, it gently starts sliding into the machine’s chamber for your solitary confinement. The image of a dead body sliding into the red-hot chamber of an electric crematorium comes alive. The depressing imagery gets jolted by the resonating thuds that soon start piercing the deathly silence of the chamber. Gradually, the thuds reach a crescendo. Just when you start wondering if they are emanating from the last nails being hammered into your coffin, they stop. An eerie silence prevails. Time itself seems to have come to a grinding halt.

The MRI machine may not be as rich in musical instruments as the New York Philharmonic Orchestra but it sure conducts a unique fusion of man-made and natural sounds. The performance may appear sonorous and cheerful or cacophonous and fearful, depending upon your frame of mind. If you feel comforted by the operator’s assurance that he may be alerted in the event of a distress by pressing the bell push near your palm, you might enjoy the next round of exotic noises as the machine weaves a web of some strange and familiar sounds. The fusion of natural and man-made sounds begins. The thuds stop and a steam engine can now be heard chugging along a distant railroad. Interrupting the rhythmic noise of the approaching train, the chugging suddenly turns into a loud khadak-khadak-khadak as if the train just entered a bridge. The noise gets frightening as you remain tied to the very rails on which the train seems to be approaching. Being enclosed in a very tight space you cannot even cringe. But relief comes unexpectedly as if the steam engine were shown a red signal. Without any squeaking of the wheels as the breaks are applied, the steam engine stops as suddenly as it had come into motion. This time the brief interlude ends with furious raindrops falling on the roof of the chamber. While you wonder if the chamber’s roof will leak and the raindrops will soak you inside, dozens of frogs start croaking to welcome the rain. Their harsh song soon gives way to chirping of crickets in unison. But no sound lasts very long in this orchestra. As the chirping crickets calm down, tension builds inside in anticipation of the next unknown. But this time, the platform bearing your body starts sliding backward. The light gets brighter and there’s relief when the operator says, “It is over sir.” As he helps you rise and move outside, you remain undecided whether the orchestra was cheerful or fearful. (INAV)

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