I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t a confronting, exposing and frightening experience at the hands of someone called Gavin.
Walking through the dim corridors was not a promising start. Nor was being the youngest person in the waiting room by a good 30 years. (As Bette Davis said, getting old is not for sissies.) The magazines were dog-eared and mostly about fishing and boating. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait long before I heard my name and looked up to see G man.
“Hello Samantha, I’m Gavin.”
“Hi Gavin.” My eyes strayed to his name badge, pinned to a reasonably priced shirt. The ‘n’ was a bit worn. “Don’t you work in accounts?” I wanted to ask, but of course I didn’t. Instead I was the model of complicity, stripping down as instructed and putting my possessions in the shopping basket before donning the surgical gown. I forgot to remove the gold chain I wear every day, so Gavin did the honours with his chilly, chubby fingers.
Next, a little bit of comedy as he attempted to insert the needle through which a dye gets injected half way through the thirty minute procedure. He had the serious shakes. Luckily he got in to the vein first go.
I was ready. In through the door with one of those scary yellow and black signs on the door. Gavin gives the instructions. I’m to lie on my stomach with my hands over my head and put my breasts in the holes provided. “Like I’m sunbathing.”
“Yes.” he said, not warmly. “Ladies tell me the pressure on the sternum is uncomfortable. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about that.”
“The most important thing is to stay very, very still. If you don’t..” he peers ominously over his thin-rimmed specs “You may have to come back.” He handed me a rubber bulb. “Now here’s what I call the panic button. Press it only if you really need to. ”
“Okay!” Suddenly he’s cheerful, just as my hand involuntarily puts pressure on the bulb. “Pop these on and I’ll come in half way through to administer the dye injection.”
Through the headphones, I heard a big door close. Fortunately (small mercies) because of my position (feet first, tummy down) I couldn’t see the machine but I was about to become sensorily unnerved in every other way.
“That’s noisy!” was my first thought. But the machine was just warming up. It was like a washing machine full of ball bearings and if I thought the agitating was bad, I needed to wait til the spin cycle.
I was breathing quite heavily, but trying trying trying not to so I didn’t have to come back. A cool breeze up my surgical gown. A mental picture of myself. Tears course down my nose onto the putty coloured plastic. Panic surging and retreating as the machine roars and quietens.
After five or so minutes of Alex out of A Clockwork Orange‘s torture, I remembered to surrender. I let it go. Let it all go.
Still I was pathetically grateful when I heard Gavin’s encouragement through the speakers “You’re doing really well. I’m going to come and inject the dye now, then you just need to stay still for 12 more minutes.”
A slight pull. An icy sensation up my arm. Old-school internet squeals and pips.
And then it was over.
I was in shock when I came out, and think I still am.
I’ve just glanced at the back of my hand, with the plaster shakily administered by Gavin. I realise this is not the last indignity my hand, and the rest of me, is going to go through in the next month.
And now I’m crying again.