This morning we drove to the other side of town while it was still foggy out; I had an appointment for an upper abdominal ultrasound. After many years on methotrexate, my blood work began reflecting elevated liver enzymes last summer, and my new-as-of-last-week rheumatologist wanted a closer look.
A very nice technician took me back into the depths of the outpatient center and began the study.
“Take a deep breath, as deep as you can … Hold onto it … … … … Breathe. Excellent!”
I found the repetition reassuring. While I cannot control the medical “grade” I receive, at least I know that from a behavioral point of view, I cooperated to the best of my ability, held my breath as long as asked, and over and over received the affirmation, “Excellent!” A+, right?
It was a complete upper abdominal ultrasound, so it took a while. Just when I was feeling more relaxed, the technician had to press a little harder to get her angle, and I coughed. And coughed. And coughed. The student observing was sent for a cup of water. I half-sat up, awkward, in dishabille. The technician never lost her calm, good-natured expression. We began again, and I was asked to roll toward her.
That’s when she asked what work I do. When I answered, her face flashed recognition; she said, “I’ve heard you preach, at Saint Thingummy’s! I remember that sermon; it might be the only sermon I’ve ever remembered. It was about the ocean.”
I tried to remember the sermon while maintaining focus on breath held and released. “Excellent!”
She asked if I would allow the student to take some extra pictures, as part of her training. Of course, I said. “She has beautiful kidneys,” said the technician to the student. “Why don’t you get me xyz measurements?” She left us alone.
Beautiful kidneys. I guess that’s something.
The technician returned to walk with me out to the waiting room. “Was it,” I asked, “about being knocked over by the waves?”
“Yes,” she said, “my husband remembers it, too. You have a way with words.”
So do you, excellent technician. So do you.