Adventures in Magnetic Resonance

My hospital was recently revealed to have the lowest staff morale of any medical facility in the whole National Health Service and therefore, we may safely assume, the entire world. Imagine that.

On the other hand, if you go into an MRI scanning room with keys or coins in your pocket, they will immediately accelerate to fifty miles per hour and ping about the place like machine gun fire. That, surely, is pretty exciting. There are no statistics available on what happens if you take an actual machine gun in, but a couple of years ago a gun rights activist helped his mother into an MRI room in, I think, Brazil, and the magnetic pull was so strong that it caused a concealed firearm he was carrying to discharge through his lower intestine, fatally injuring him. Closer to home, on Level 2 of the East Block of what we now know is the most depressed hospital on the planet, I am shortly to be let loose in our own MRI room. Leaving aside the fact that our MRI room is the most dangerous part of the most depressed hospital on the planet, it sounds like quite a larf. On my first day I’m going to wheel a shopping trolley in and watch it bounce about like a pinball because I’ll still be supernumerary – or, as I shall insist upon being called, ‘superluminary’ – and can’t get in trouble.

The change from being someone whose main function is to get things out of cupboards and, slightly later, put them back again to herding people into the MRI scanner has come about as part of my recent and improbable elevation within the medical world. Crucially, it also gets me onto a science-based career path, away from general healthcare, which means I never have to be a nurse. As discussed in previous entries, you never see a happy nurse – and rightly so, because it is an awful job. Nonetheless, I was surprised to find our entire hospital was so gloomy. Be that as it may, for those of us about to undertake an epic journey to being radiographers, then radiologists, then radionauts, these are giddy times indeed. There’s a lot of training ahead, and it’s possible that our natural lifespans might end before our studies do, but Radiology is one of the few parts of healthcare I want anything to do with, so I am chuffed to be able to progress within it. As I am fond of saying, it’s nice to still have a career in front of you and, no matter how dismal the rest of the hospital may be, I am grateful for the opportunity.

That said, there was a great deal of dicking about beforehand. This mainly concerned taking Functional Skills classes in English and Maths to replace required GCSE certificates which no longer exist. I was supposed to take the Maths exam this morning in fact, but I had to cancel it because I had an online lecture to attend. As it turns out, I subsequently forgot to attend the lecture anyway because, as the UK’s only baseball fan, I was watching the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks on the opening day of the new season, but still. My new post doesn’t officially start until the end of May, and in the intervening time we’re just being ‘gently felt up’, to borrow a curious metaphor from a fellow student, so it doesn’t really matter.

I took the English Functional Skills exam last week, and am awaiting the result. Incidentally, ‘Functional Skills’ means that you have proved yourself to have the lowest measurable grasp of the English language, but sitting the exam was stressful nonetheless. As I demonstrated that I knew the plural form of ‘tooth’ was ‘teeth’ and ‘river’ was ‘rivers’, I was aware of how slowly I write with a pen these days. For years, I habitually wrote with a fountain pen because I am a bit of a ponce like that, so perhaps it was because I was wrestling with a biro. Anyway, fingers crossed that I pass.

Touchingly, the fact that I had to do it at all caused outrage among my fellow cannon fodder, whom I shall miss when I become the hip new kid on the MRI block. This is because, equally touchingly, I am seen as something of an academic, largely on account of owning a Kindle and habitually reading things on it, even though I’ve told them it’s an Etch-A-Sketch. Indeed, with the typically direct vernacular of NHS workers in the lower pay bands, one of my colleagues pointed at me during a team meeting and said, ‘It comes to something when a brain box cunt like that has to prove he can read’. Admittedly, there is little in the way of finesse about this remark but I do not often have cause to blush over compliments these days, so I was grateful for the opportunity to do that, too.


Main: My hospital finally gets on the map.

Top: Setting up for some procedure or other.

Lower: These sponges are used to paint iodine on the patient when in theatre, but I also like to use them to signal the patient’s overall well-being to the guys in the control room.

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