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Yale School of Medicine – Let the Scans Begin

The $176 million dollar Yale Anlyan Center, part of Yale's $1 billion investment for new and reconstructed biomedical research facilities over the next 10 years.
The $176 million dollar Yale Anlyan Center, part of Yale’s $1 billion investment for new and reconstructed biomedical research facilities over the next 10 years.

I left the hotel in New Haven by 7:15AM the next day; my MRI was scheduled at the Yale research facility for 8AM. Just as I had to do in New York, I checked out of the hotel and carried my belongings along with me to the research facility.

I packed light – but not light enough. A single backpack would have been ideal, because I was never able to settle down in any one place for very long before it was time to move along again.

Congratulations! You're Number One!
Congratulations! You’re Number One!

As I entered the building it was empty except for the lone security guard at the front desk who was kind enough to outfit me with this cute visitor sticker.

Down the elevator, to the basement. Still the only soul in sight. I found the waiting room easily – it was large, bare, utilitarian. If it weren’t for some magazines scattered around and a few children’s toys and crayons, I would have thought it wasn’t even in use.

There was a reception desk, but no receptionist – only a small sign that read “Call to announce your arrival” sitting next to a phone. It didn’t say what number to call…so I just picked up the phone and dialed “0”. Just when I thought nobody was going to answer, I hear “Yeah hello?” on the other end.

My circuits were momentarily and I stuttered before saying “Oh…um…I’m here. Diane. Diane Ruffcorn.” There was a long pause before I heard “Oh ok, gotcha. Have yourself a seat.” Click.

She sounded nice enough, not rude, but brisk.

I had nothing to do and was too nervous to sit still, so I scouted the bulletin board and its many postings – some announcing events, some scouting for other research projects…but it was the crayon drawings that caught my eye.  It was actually nice – the calm of nothingness in the room. No loud posters screaming on the walls, no luxurious couches to sit on and pretend like you were somewhere else. It was real.

Fine art on the walls of Yale
Fine art on the walls of Yale

The chairs had been well used, nothing pretentious there. I would have liked to have known some of the stories of the people who had sat in them before me.

I was greeted by a pretty young woman who politely took me through another the mass of consent forms and information. She then escorted me back into the exam area where I deposited my belongings, then stepped into a changing room – I was allowed to keep all of my clothes on…even though my jeans had zippers and rivets – I only had to remove my bra (underwires not allowed).

They had scrub tops available in case anyone felt uncomfortable traipsing about sans bra – I didn’t want to look weird, so I didn’t wear one despite the fact that yes, I was a little uncomfortable nipping out at Yale.

I simply crossed my arms and all was well until I had to pass through an airport style metal detector – “Hold your arms out to the side, please.” Crap. I took a second to reassure myself that it wouldn’t be the first time this girl had seen the high beams on, I spread my arms wide and walked through that sucker free bird style…groaning in my head the entire time.

Then it was on to the MRI exam room for my scan. The MRI tech was, like so many others I had met with there, open and friendly. A perfect balance between no-nonsense and nice, and it was obvious it was she that I had first spoken to on the phone when I arrived.

She pointed at the girl who had brought me back from the waiting room: “You run her through the metal detector? You sure?”, then turns back to me: “You have any metal on you? In your pockets? Any implants? Pins, screws, any of that?” I again confirmed that nope, none of that, but then reminded her of my wedding ring – which I was allowed to keep on since it wasn’t plated metal.

You can't see me...but I'm in there, snoozing.
You can’t see me…but I’m in there, snoozing.

I asked the tech if I could take a picture of the machine, and she not only said yes but offered to take a picture of the machine with me in it – I could not believe just how awesome and laid-back the people were there. I kicked off my flip-flops and quickly put on my pink fuzzy socks so my feet wouldn’t get cold. After showing the tech how to take a picture with my phone, we entered the exam room.

I laid back on the platform and my head was secured into what looked like a plastic birdcage with a rearview mirror attached to it…the mirror allowed me to see out of the machine without moving. Soft foam blocks were wedged in between my head and the sides of the head support, ensuring that I wouldn’t be able to move it during the scan.

The tech covered me with a warmed blanket (HEAVEN), tucked me in, handed me a large soft button attached to a cord – then pointed at me and very seriously said “DO NOT move. I’m gonna slide you in this tunnel, and if you start to feel like you’re going to freak out or want to stop, all you gotta do is press this button. The machine will be loud, but I’ll be able to hear you, and you’ll be able to hear me. But DO NOT move. Ok?”

The earplugs went in, I was slid back into the tunnel up to my knees and the MRI started banging. I almost immediately fell asleep; it may have been 8am in Connecticut, but it was 5am in my home time zone. Prime sleep time for me. Next thing I knew I was being slid out and helped up.

One scan down…one to go. The girl and I said our quick goodbyes to the MRI tech, then it was on to the PET imaging center.

Although the center was in a different building, we never had to go outside – there is an underground labyrinth of hallways connecting the Yale research buildings together.-After walking for what seemed to be about ten minutes or so, we arrived at the PET center.

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