My youth was full of doctors. I won’t bore you with medical details because what’s the point?
The point is that post- the most significant part of my medical past, I endured an extended-followup that lasted from age 5 through age 22, when I stopped going. Every year, I submitted to either an X-ray or a fluoroscope, and one of two sets of blood tests. The classic “1 from Column A and 1 from Column B” choice. Except I didn’t make the choice. If the choice had been mine, I would have gone out for Italian.
The X-rays weren’t so bad. Sure the glass plate was cold, and I had to lie on it in whatever uncomfortable position the X-ray technician told me to lie just before he aimed the ray gun and ran off in his lead-lined blacksmith’s apron to hide behind a lead-lined door, peering into the room through what I now assume was 24% lead crystal, to hit the button that triggered the x-rays that left an image on the glass plate.
We all know now that X-rays are BAD for us. Seems the doctors always knew.
The fluoroscope is kind of like a video x-ray (not to be confused with an x-rated video), but without the video. The doctor just stood (or sat) in front of the screen and watched. The set up looked a lot like this:
The worst part was having to swallow the Barium first. It tasted like chalk and was thicker than exterior wall paint. It smelled like that, too, but cut with milk of magnesia. Yum.
In even years, after the x-ray, I had blood drawn by a finger prick (this is not meant to insult the person who did the pricking — I think pricker was the technical term), to be dripped on glass slides or sucked by magic into the thinnest possible glass tubes. (I think the blood set aside in those was for weaning teeny-tiny baby vampire bats.) They would have made delicate drinking straws for Barbie. Now, only the nanotube is thinner.
In odd years, after the fluoroscope-con-barium, I rode the elevator to the basement for a series of blood tests requiring gallons and gallons of blood to be drawn from the crook of my elbow through a quarter-inch-in-diameter needle attached to a garden hose that emptied my blood into an oak barrel once used to age wine. I may or may not be exaggerating. I hated that kind of blood draw. I had to prepare myself mentally well in advance.
Except for that one even year when someone higher up, I suspect Dracula himself, decreed I should go to the basement where one of his minions, a lobotomized phlebotomist vampire with a rubber hose dangling from his mouth, I kid you not, sat framed in a 2’x2′ walk up window cut out of the wall at the end of a long dark hallway. It was straight out of a Twilight Zone episode. That was the moment I understood how my blood would be leaving my body. Thirty seconds wasn’t advance enough to prepare. Thirty minutes would have been better.
I was 13, and my mother was with me. Good thing, or I would have turned tail for the elevator. I remember looking up at her, pleading with my eyes not to make me do this, as my stomach sank to my ankle socks. I believe I whimpered. I felt like crying. Or fainting. Or both.
But I did neither, and I survived. I was learning just how strong I really was.
When have you surprised yourself with your own strength? Any kind of strength. Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual? What changes could you see in yourself afterward?