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Date: 30/11/23


I may be tempting fate - in that there are still a few hours left of it as I write this - but I think that I've managed to survive November.

To begin at the beginning (of the month): after the failure to proceed with the cardioversion, I was plunged into a gloom which was not in any way helped by the letter I had (actually two near-identical letters dated just one day apart) which both told me that I had to attend hospital for an MRI scan on 28th November. Moreover, this would be at Broad Green Hospital in Liverpool rather than in Manchester as my two previous encounters with the tumble-driers had been.

At least in this case the appointment was at a less inconvenient time than either of my Manchester assignations, being at 1230 rather than sometime shortly after ten in the morning (which had entailed ridiculously early starts). Moreover, my niece had offered to take me, but this was subject to a medical appointment of her own not clashing with it. As a precaution, I checked the train timetables for the route. I found a journey which would mean my having to set out from home on the 0825 bus (to make sure I got to Wrexham station in good time, the bus services' timekeeping being almost random at present) and would get me (two changes of trains later, once at Chester, once at Liverpool Lime Street) to Broad Green almost an hour before my appointed time, allowing for the half-mile walk from Broad Green station. The return journey would mean I would get home sometime after five o'clock.

Either way, provisional plans were set.

In between times, I had to go for my COVID booster and 'flu jabs. These were to be dispensed at the Catrin Finch Centre which is part of what used to be called 'Glyndŵr University', but which is now called 'Wrexham University' because the over-remunerated minds who run the place claimed that it was better 'branding' to attract international attention.

(The flimsiness of their argument can be attested by the fact that everyone has heard of Harvard, Yale and Brown despite Cambridge, New Haven and Providence not being part of those institutions' names; to me, it's just yet another colonialist erasure of our identity, but then the place - like all of 'our' universities - is run almost entirely by colonialists anyway).

So on the 10th I got my immunity duly enhanced, encountering in the process two of my former team-mates from the pickle factory who were doing the record-keeping and adminstration of the process, so it was nice to catch up after such a long time.

Now all that was left to twist my melon was the MRI. It should go without saying that my insomnia was worse even than usual in the run-up to the event; I slept no more than about two and a half hours on each of the two preceding nights. I had visions of my dozing off in the machine (which might not have been a bad idea in principle anyway).

Finally my niece - having picked up a hire car (her elderly jalopy being less than reliable of late), fuelled up and arrived at Mental Towers shortly after 1030. Throwing my big bag onto the back seat, off we set.

(For the record, the big bag contained: my pyjamas, my .mp3 player and charging cable, my phone charger, my insulin pen and needles, my glasses case, two small bottles of water and some bacon sandwiches. I was leaving nothing to chance)

Despite Andrea having given specific instruction to her satnav to avoid toll roads, the wretched device nonetheless sent us over that new rope bridge they've slung across the Mersey at Runcorn; the one with the absurdly complicated on-line payment system which is of little help to anyone without a smartphone. Things like bridges used to be paid through general taxation once.

Anyway, we managed (after a certain amount of misunderstanding of - or by - the satnav) to arrive at Broad Green hospital shortly after 1300 hrs and went around the multi-storey car park trying to find a space. One duly discovered, Andrea parked the hired Vauxhall Crossland - a very nice car; indeed the model which was her late father's last vehicle before he had to give up driving a few months before his death - and we headed to the hospital building itself. A map had been helpfully provided in the twofold bumf which I had received, and after following the Orange Route we found ourselves at the reception of the Scanner Suite, where I checked in and we took a seat in the rather small waiting area.

At about 1240, I was called through by an extremely Scouse nurse, who showed me the changing room and handed me the key to a locker which stood just outside of it. I was presented with a gown which - confusingly, bearing in mind all my previous experiences - I was told to fasten at the front.

I went in and locked the door and duly divested myself of all bar my underwear and shoes. This also included the blood-glucose monitoring sensor on my arm (of which technology more on another occasion, perhaps), which would have been utterly verboten in the scanner. Emerging - and having stashed my bag and street garments in the locker - I was taken through to Magnetic Emission Control to meet my latest nemesis. I clambered up onto the bed, where a man who, in my imposed state of myopia, looked like a younger Saddam Hussein, placed a number of stickers on my chest (and for once, no chest hairs were harmed in the performance of this operation), and a plastron-like item placed over them. A cushion was placed under my calves, supposedly to prevent back strain, and I was slid slowly into the Machine. The radiographer and nurse fled the scene, and there I was once again, alone.

I'd been given headphones as well, of course. The first MRI I'd had, I was given a choice between music and silence. The second time I was given no choice; it was some crappy commercial radio station. I had no choice on this occasion either, but this time it was silence or...well...silence. I didn't mind.

This set-up was more like the first time than the second in another sense, in that this was a small-bore device, with the top of the chamber scarcely three inches from my nose. This was somewhat disconcerting given how I had nearly freaked out on that earlier occasion; but you can get used to anything, and I had been given a panic button (actually a rubber bulb effort) to squeeze if crisis overcame me. Nor were there special mirrored glasses to enable viewing of soothing landscapes on the back of the chamber. So I just concentrated on the small black dot (or was it a hole?), about four millimetres in diameter, which was initially level with my eyes.

What followed was predictable enough. The voice came through: "Breathe in...breathe out...hold it there...don't breathe" (at which point the whirring, whining and clanking would emanate from the scanner). Then, "Breathe normally". After a few seconds, the instructions - which I realised after a few moments were pre-recorded (unless they employ a voice actor who is so remarkably talented and controlled that he could provide exactly the same timing, timbre and text dozens of times over and over) - would repeat, with variations on the soundtrack of a ZX Spectrum game circa 1989. I lay there (having absolutely no choice in that regard unless I wanted to knacker things up and trigger a restart) and tried to make tunes in my mind from them. Well, it was something to do. Occasionally I would be slid forwards, giving me the hopefui sense of being near to the end of the ordeal; but then I would go back inwards, which dashed my optimism.

Finally, and having come to know that small, black hole (or was it a dot?) with unparalleled familiarity, I felt the bed sliding out of the scanner and all was roomy again. The nurse and a younger radiographer helped me upright, I was told that I'd been in there for about forty minutes, and the nurse then said something really helpful.

Dr Jenkins had told me back in October that she wanted not merely an MRI, but a CT scan as well, but there had been no mention of the latter in the letter. The nurse said that she had noticed that I was due for a CT as well, and that it had been scheduled for 6th December, i.e., just over a week later. Would I prefer them to do it now? I gently assured her that you bet I would! I asked how long it would take, and was assured that it wouldn't be anywhere near as long as the MRI. I was then taken - still begowned and squinting - through to a room where a large lad called Dave was waiting to prep me. He explained that they would inject a special dye into me so that they could see the pulmonary arteries more clearly on the scan.

Yes, inject. Oh goody! Here comes another fucking cannula! This Dave fitted in the crook of my right elbow, and I was taken through to another room, where squatted another scanner. I was placed on the bed, slid through so that I was coming out of the back aperture (an action which seemed terribly appropriate) and was then required to hold both my arms up. The line was inserted to the cannula and I was then myself re-inserted into the machine. I then heard a nurse's voice saying, "Here comes the injection!".

Now, I had been advised by the male nurse as I lay there initially that the dye would cause a feeling of heat inside me. For all the warning, I didn't quite expect what actually happened. It was a most peculiar sensation which I can only describe as being what a central-heating radiator would feel when the pump was switched on. Quite unnerving it was, but passed quite quickly. Until the second such injection, which wasn't so severe, presumably because it wasn't starting from scratch.

After about ten minutes or so, during which time something was clearly whirling round and around at some speed behind the inner surface of the scanner, I was slid out and guided to a small waiting area for the cannula to be removed before I could get dressed. While I was sitting there, yet another nurse came over and said that she had found that the letter inviting me for the CT scan had been produced that day, and that she would go and see if she could stop it from being sent out and causing even further confusion. A few moments later, she returned in triumph to tell me that her mission had succeeded. A different nurse again then came to take out the cannula, but left me there for fifteen minutes or so just to make sure that there was no issues.

Once she had finally declared herself satisfied with my condition, I was returned to the changing room to gather myself, my clothing, my effects and what remained of my wits (roughly in that order), emerging after about ten minutes in full fig to find Andrea - never one to flap - concernedly asking yet another nurse what had become of her uncle. We ambled our way out of the hospital, fed the parking machine, found the Crossland and headed home. This time we avoided tolls altogether, going substantially eastwards along the M62 then down the M6 and M56 until we were back in our own manor.

So, what now? Waiting is. They were never going to tell me anything there and then, instead analysing the scans and sending them on to my consultants. When they get them, I hope they keep it to themselves until after the Festering Season, because I don't need yet another source of gloomy prospects before then. In the meantime, I have an appointment with the cardiology nurse at Wrexham next week, when no doubt the issue of the cardioversion will be the main subject, and then we'll see from there.