Stories from the Sugar High

Yesterday was the first day of my Mayo Clinic “retreat.” Ann and I arrived at my hotel shortly after noon. It brought back memories of the dorm rooms at UWSP, not bad and it provided a good, not too expensive place to sleep. Ann wanted to get back before rush hour in the Twin Cities and I couldn’t eat lunch because of my PET scan in the afternoon so she left and I took the opportunity for a much needed nap.

After my nap I walked to the Mayo campus and, with the guidance of some good Mayo workers, found my way to Charlton North and the area where my test would take place. It was my first PET scan, I think. I’ve done MRIs before. Sometimes I am fine. Sometimes I find the tube and all that it entails just a little crushing, not to the point that I need sedation, but just to that point where I need to remind myself that yes I can breathe, it will be okay, it’s almost done. Yesterday though was very smooth, an interesting journey through my mind.

I don’t quite understand how the PET-MRI works, but for those who haven’t experienced it here’s what happens. With a PET scan you get an injection of fludeoxyglucose more simply known as an F 18 injection. It’s a radioactive sugar injection. Yes, I got to mainline sugar! Then you sit in a dimly lit room for about a half hour not doing anything, but waiting for the F 18 to just work its way through your body. It’s a nice opportunity for those who meditate and those who keep an internal radio station of all their favorite songs. I do wonder how more antsy people especially kids handle it though?

Then, the staff walk you to the room with the scanner. It’s a long tube. They help you put in ear plugs and lay down. Then they gently make things comfortable, sort of packing you in like a holiday gift. You can’t move while the scan is happening because it will mess with the pictures. Once you’re all packed in they hand you a ball to squeeze if you need anything and the fun begins. They go to their control room, turn on the scanner, and slide you into the machine.

I closed my eyes as I entered the machine. I wanted to keep myself centered and not to see how small the space was around me. The noise of the machine was loud. It began with a frequency that felt like woodpeckers just outside doing their work, moved to sirens, and to other sounds, came back to the woodpeckers only they’d moved to the left or the right. The sounds kept changing. Then came vibrations. At one point it almost felt like a the tremors surrounding an earthquake. The interesting thing though was what was happening in my mind.

As the test started I tried to think calming thoughts, but I quickly realized that as the sounds and vibrations changed so did what was happening in my mind. Soon I just opted to go with the film that was playing for me in my head. It was a great show. Much was going through pictures of my life. There were a lot of little things; remembering the front steps where I used to sit as a child, the glasses with the wild animals painted on them in my parents’ liquor cabinet that we used for social gatherings, my first communion, just a whole array of generally happy and comforting things from my life.

Then, late in the scan, we came to a point where it changed. It didn’t get scary or anything, but the memories went away and in their place came colors, mostly blues and yellows I think. They were more vibrant than any I’d ever seen seen before. They shifted and changed, a sort of flowing cloud I suppose. It made me think a couple of things. First, I thought “wow, this is what psychedelics are like!” Then, I thought “yep, left front temporal region, I think they just found where my seizures are located.”

I’ll be interested in finding out if what I saw in my mind really matches what they found in the scan. Our brains are incredible things. This has been a fascinating journey so far. I am hoping for mellow day today with blood and COVID tests and a visit to the allergist.

Be well!

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