Is It Safe?

Last Monday, I went to the Western General Hospital for a CT scan. In some ways, it was quite similar to going to Methodist in Brooklyn. The NHS has signs up informing patients of the same sort of stroke-related stuff that the American Stroke Association is always — quite rightly — banging on about.

Good knowledge.

There’s about the same amount of blood involved when sticking a patient. Like in the States, just enough to be glamorous, but not enough to suggest a home invasion gone wrong.

It’s just a scratch!

But there are differences. Given the continual running down of the NHS in the British media over the past 20+ years, I’ve been surprised to find that the examination and consulting rooms are much bigger than I’m used to in New York. Maybe this is just a function of the price of real estate and the amount of space in South Brooklyn, as opposed to across the road from Drylaw/Pilton/Muirhouse. Which is different again from the East Village/Gramercy area of NYC, where they have to put the MRI machine in a lorry in the street.

The CT scanner at WGH is in the centre of a large, open room. The operator is behind a window in a smaller room, off in the corner. Lying on the mechanical platform, one looks up at a dropped ceiling of large, lightweight tiles, among which fluorescent lights, subtly shaded in the modern style, are spaced at regular, geometric intervals.

And the scanner itself…. Now that is a proper piece of sci-fi MacGuffin kit.

It does this. Really.

The operator came in to see me again before starting the process. The question always seems to be:

Have you had one of these before?

I’m not sure why they ask, because one seems to get the whole spiel, regardless. Towards the beginning of this particular type of CT scan, a button will be pressed, and the contrast dye will flow into the body through the IV in one’s arm. Or in my case, the back of the hand — for someone working in Trainspottingland, my nurse made a bit of a hash of finding a vein.

Here, I’ll do it.

“Now, when ye get the dye, you’ll feel a warm flush. You’ll feel it in your arm first, but it moves through your body quite quickly. Ye’ll feel like you’ve wet yerself, but ye haven’t.”

And, you know, I did. Feel like I had. It was a lovely, warm sensation, but without the annoyance of being covered in my own urine. I’m going to try it again.

But not for another year. I know this because, by the time I’d had a wee sit down after the scan, and Beth and I had gone to the Royal Voluntary Service cafe for a couple of tomato and mozzarella paninis, the consultant had seen the images. It seems that, for now, my two aneurysms are the same size, give or take (well, give — you don’t take in this case). They’re still the shape of tiny Cheetos. What’s changed — it appears, subject to the consultants’ full, round table discussion — is that we’re going to start off with update scans once a year, rather than once every nine months, and that I may be a candidate for coiling, after all.

The first of these two updates was delivered in a slightly exasperated, “God, the Americans and their mammonistic healthcare system” fashion. I agree that the US healthcare system has been a disgrace for too many years, but I also have to admit that my (over $0.5MM, retail) care was excellent. I notice these days that I can be a bit defensive about the States. Sitting here contemplating our sandwich at the Western, I was hearing “tomAYto” and not “tomAHto” in my head, so I guess that’s understandable. And it is easy over here, I think, not to see the range of the States, and the variety of the people. After all, it has almost half of the population of the whole of Europe, and covers about the same area. Most Brits would say they’re not quite the same as the French, just across La Manche. And while most Yanks probably can’t point out Austria on a map of Europe, how many of our European readers could identify Nebraska?


But I’m not looking to get enraged or start a fight….

We went to see my old delict professor, Alexander McCall Smith, be interviewed at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Wednesday night. I’d never been inside the gates of the Charlotte Square gardens before, and that was exciting in itself. Outside, but within the Gardens, the results of generations of instilled politeness and inbred Guardian reading sat on well-constructed, wooden, outdoorsy furniture sipping their wine. On hour or so later, we left Sandy’s talk with a warm glow that was nothing to do with the Pinotage. The author read a passage concerning Bertie, the young boy featured in his 44 Scotland Street Series, and Bertie’s camping trip to Glencoe. The bulk of the piece was posted by McCall Smith on Facebook some time ago (here). I’d strongly encourage you to click through. The story, particularly in the reading, evinced a generosity of spirit that was very appealing.

Interestingly, this did not clash at all with the gleeful figure I remember relating absurd tales of criminal horror in lectures so many years ago. I think I know why this didn’t jar, but I’m still working on how to express it. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts ….

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8 thoughts on “Is It Safe?

  1. I totally had to guess the location of Nebraska. I guessed right, but still.

    Also…”lorry”? Is there a separate link to the American translation of this post?

    1. He says that being abroad makes one more patriotic. In his case, he’s much more Scottish over here. A lorry is a truck. He had an MRI in a truck parked on the street in Manhattan. Food apparently isn’t the only thing you can get out of a truck in NY.

      1. I secretly knew what a lorry is the entire time.

        As far as I’m concerned, having an MRI in a truck is a feature, not a bug. Us New Yorkers are busy and we can’t be traveling all over town just to get our brains scanned. If I can’t get the machine to come to me, I might as well move to…

        1. I want a caper movie incorporating an MRI truck, a couple of New Yorkers, a ferromagnetic aneurysm clip, glittery tattoos and a zany cross-country trip. I’d pay good money to see that.

    2. Sorry, Andy. No US version. If it’s helpful, you can refer to Beth’s new favourite site, “Gaelic For Punks”. Yes, it’s a real thing.

      And, if you use the site address with the “.me” domain extension, you’ll get the version of the site originating in Montenegro. Eh? Oh.

  2. Wow! I’ll never see a Cheeto the same again. Glad to hear there may be a chance for the coiling process. I know what a Lorry is Beth. That is the description in Germany as well

    See you soon!

    1. Hi, Ray. With respect to the cheese-flavoured, puffed cornmeal snacks, I think the way to look at them is as a opportunity to market the McCheeto. If the folks in the shop can figure out a way to heat treat ’em in lard, of course.

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