That Friday Feeling
I'm lying on my back, trousers around my ankles inside a hulking and grey machine that is humming menacingly to itself, seemingly impatient to get on with things, self-important in its personal bland and grey room. But no muzac and I thank God for small mercies. A technician bustles around hooking up my cannula to the automatic intravenous pump, asks me if everything is alright then disappears into a shielded room behind me. I can't see anyone beyond the silvered two way mirror that forms half the wall.
I'm alone, poised at the mouth of the beast, about to be devoured. An internal warmth begins to flood my body, moving up along my arm to my head and down my neck as the iodine begins to flow through my veins. I wonder if this is something like the last feeling that condemned men feel as they're pumped with poison. Then the machine begins to drag me into its heart and a mechanical voice demands that I 'BREATHE IN and HOLD'.
I do exactly as I'm told.
A few minutes earlier I'd felt embarrassed at jumping the small cue of people sitting in the CAT Scan reception. I'd arrived ten minutes earlier expecting to be seen anytime in the next several hours, such is the over-worked nature of the British National Health Service. The two receptionists at the desk initially exchanged confused glances when they couldn't find my appointment, leading me to expect a bureaucratic cock-up.
'Ah, oh, I see, you've been called in this morning haven't you? That's why you're not on my list, take a seat please and fill in this form,' one of the girls said, a little too brightly for comfort.
I dutifully sat and filled in the consent form, handed it back and reached for a magazine to pass the coming hours. But I had only reached the opening page before my name was called by what appeared to be an impossibly young man in a crisp white technicians uniform.
'Hello, my name's George,' the seemingly barely post-pubescent boy says, before confirming my identity.
I follow the kid to a side room where I'm asked to sit as he prepared to insert a cannula into my arm. Now, my veins aren't the easiest to find, and this fresh-faced youngster didn't look as if he could drive a car, and he was preparing to skewer me.
'How old are you?'
'Nineteen,' he says brightly.
I start talking to him to avoid thinking about what he's about to do. I hate needles. But I'm relieved to discover he's genuinely interested in radiotherapy and a career in medicine. I tell him that, though many probably don't say it to his face, what he is doing is appreciated and makes a real difference to peoples lives and is work to be proud of.
'Oh, yeah, some people do say so, and that's really nice to hear but a lot don't. I even got punched in the privates last week by a patient. He was a bit loopy mind. Right, this might sting.'
It did, but manfully I didn't flinch.
'Ah, I'm not sure I'm actually in the vein. Let me pump some saline in to check'.
My wrist above the cannula instantly ballooned.
'Ah, obviously not. Let me try higher up your arm. A little scratch... yes, there we are. You ok?'
'Yup, fine, no problem,' I said heroically.
But I really hate being stuck with needles and must have looked slightly green. With one arm now doing an impression of Popeye, I was led to a seat to wait an audience with the Great Machine.
I do as I'm told and the machine spits me out.
'All done.' a returning Tech says appearing at my shoulder. He's another young man a little older and slightly less enthusiastic than young George. He unplugs me, helps me up and I get dressed. I avoid the sudden urge to moon and wave at the unseen techs behind the two-way glass wall.
Then I'm outside the room of the Great Machine and directly behind my back the unseen technicians are examining the three-dimensional computer display of my innards. Whatever the machine has told them, they now know and I don't. And won't until Tuesday. I walk out, say goodbye in passing to George who already has the next victim in his hands and on his way to feed the machine. This particular Friday feeling is unlike any other I've experienced.