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Brain Imaging Study Day One: NYU

I was to present at NYU at 9:00 AM sharp.

Somebody call a cab?
Somebody call a cab?

As I checked out of the hotel I wanted to ask the woman at the desk how to get a cab (I’m not much of a city girl and definitely had a lack of experience in this arena), but was too embarrassed to do so.

So I reached back – way back – to my ‘Sex in the City’ addiction days, rolled out the front doors to the edge of the street and threw my arm up with as much confidence as I could muster. I was so nervous I didn’t even look to see if there was a cab to hail…but in NYC, it’s as though taxi cabs almost outnumber human beings, and within moments I had a ride.

A quick five dollar ride later I’m crossing the street to One Park Avenue – I have arrived. I’m trying to stay calm, and go with the flow.

This part of the city is bustling with even more people than the block I just came from. I am certainly out of my element, and feeling a bit self-conscious, especially as I try to navigate my carry-on through the revolving doors and into the building.

I stand in the front lobby for a few seconds, lost and starting to panic as I try to retrieve the information I spent my entire breakfast trying to memorize. No luck.

Ok, stop…breathe. No worries, I have the paper with me because I knew there was a good chance this would happen – so what does the paper say. Oh, right! Go to the security desk, tell them you’re here for research, show ID, they’ll give you a pass and you’ll go up to the right floor.

NYU LogoI finally get it figured out and make it on the elevator. I make it up and get checked in, ten minutes early, to my immense relief. The waiting room is spotless and perfect, but best of all it’s whisper quiet and cool.

I sit down on one of the padded benches and focus on trying to settle down. Trying to look relaxed.

I’m scared, but I don’t want anyone to see that. Be strong.

I close my eyes and breathe. I’m coming down, feeling better, cooling off. I tuck my right hand between my knees so it won’t seem so cold when I have to shake hands.

Before I know it, I’m being escorted back to the room where I’ll be spending most of the next five hours. I spent the day with Jordan, the Research Assistant who conducted the initial phone interview. She greeted me with a smile and gentle handshake – thanking me for coming, asking how I was doing, and if I needed anything.

I was surprised to see the tattoos that wrapped down her arm, and loved the idea of being able to be yourself without being a stereotype. After I told her how much my oldest daughter would love her tattoos, she laughed as she said that her Mom doesn’t feel the same way.

As I sat down at the plain gray office desk I could see it had been prepared for me – a bottle of water and a couple of granola bars and some pencils laid out neatly on one end. I tried to pay attention as Jordan explained what we would be doing that day – and it was difficult.

I did the best I could to look normal and calm, even though I was going out of my mind.

First things first: pee in a cup. As expected, no drugs, no pregnancy. I was good to go.

I took test after test. Well, perhaps better described as evaluations, not tests. I soon stopped trying to figure out the “right” answers, as it quickly became apparent to me that there were no right answers.

After another verbal interview with Jordan about past traumatic events, my reactions to certain situations, and so on, Dr. Neumeister came in to speak with me.

I was surprised at how relaxed he was – there seemed to be no rush in the time he was willing to spend explaining things to me. He was taller than I had thought he might be, with an open smile and an Austrian accent that was strong but concise. He was very respectful of my space, and non-threatening. No sudden movements, no unexpected or unnecessary touching. I’m not sure if this was a conscious effort on his part, or if it just came from working with people like me for so long. Regardless – it was a relief.

Things like complete transparency of information, privacy of personal information, and how I could stop my participation at any time for any reason were reinforced. They were very conscientious in making sure that I knew I was in control of my own level of participation, and respectful of my boundaries and comfort level. It was very reassuring.

Towards the end of the visit, I also met Stefani. Our encounter was brief. I could tell she was busy – but she too took her time explaining things and asking if I had any questions.

Finally after a few blood samples were drawn and an ECG was completed, I was off to New Haven, Connecticut for the second part of the study which was to be completed at Yale: MRI and PET imaging.

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