My grandfather rode into Missouri in a covered wagon. During his lifetime he owned several vehicles, had a color television set, and flew to California on an airplane - where he was able to fulfill a lifetime dream of wading in the Pacific Ocean. Granddad saw a lot of change in his lifetime, and, as I am beginning to realize, so have I.
I remember sitting around the family radio listening to shows when I was just a little tyke. Our family got its first television, a large black and white, when I was just starting to school, and by the time I was in junior high we had a color set and were the envy of the neighborhood. (We got ours early because my dad sold appliances and televisions for a living.) By the time I was twenty-five or so I had a college degree and had been on three continents. And then came the dawning of the computer age.
I thought of all that last Tuesday morning as I climbed onto a narrow plank and was slid into a long narrow tube that resembled a very small version of a modern airliner cabin. I was about to undergo my first Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
My shoulder has been aching for a long time now, but a couple of months ago it began to get increasingly worse - hurting so much that some nights it was difficult, or even impossible, to get to sleep. I had a series of X-rays while I was living in Arizona, and the doctors who read them reported that there was nothing wrong with my neck or shoulder. (Of course, those particular doctors were so single-minded in their desire to undercut Obamacare with their patients, that they probably couldn't spare much time for the actual practice of medicine.)
My physician in West Plains referred me to physical therapy for eight weeks, and that seemed to help, but then a bit of over-exertion on my part reignited the pain. This time the doctor again placed me in physical therapy and also ordered a thorough set of X-rays. The X-rays revealed what the doctor termed "significant" arthritis in my neck. He then ordered a follow-up MRI to get a better picture of what was going on.
Hence, me being slid into a long tube.
When I heard about the pending MRI, I had visions of lying on a comfortable platform (it wasn't) and snoozing while the machine quietly hummed along and did its work. I knew that was probably not going to be the case when the attendant handed me a set of ear plugs and told me that the experience would be very noisy.
And was it ever noisy! The procedure lasted twenty-five long and fairly grueling minutes (grueling because the narrow plank caught me in the back right on the shoulder pain). During that time I was treated to what sounded like a spasmodic concert by a kitchen band that was pumped through amplifiers big enough to carry sound through Yankee Stadium. The kitchen band banged, and screeched, and whistled, and gonged, and made sounds of such variety and intensity as to defy description. It only took a moment or two before I knew for sure that there would be no napping in the tube.
When I was finally pulled out of the auditory torture chamber, and after I got the plugs out of my ears, I asked the attendant about the process. It was, I assumed, the sound bouncing off of my bones that created the image. Not exactly, she replied. The sound had been used to flip my protons, and from that process images were captured.
Granddad would have been astounded! Heck, I was astounded!
Twenty-five minutes of having my protons flipped - and I didn't even get a kiss!