Regular readers of this column will have noticed that I have been anything but regular recently with my column, and for that I apologise. I’ve been getting to know the Spanish health system. Now it’s nothing to worry about, I’m not about to announce a terminal disease or a pregnancy but I have been coping with a new and unexpected development. I’ve become one of those people who has back problems, despite my indignant denial of the situation.
Which is how I found myself in Son Espases Hospital at 9.30am a couple of Sundays ago waiting for an MRI. There is a little known skill that a Britisher has to develop once they have moved to Spain: the ability to recognise their surname when a Spanish person pronounces it in a waiting room. You don’t want to jump up and cry “Ese soy yo!” and then be embarrassed to realise that they have in fact just called Senora Mendoza, crivens no, that wouldn’t do at all to draw attention to one’s self would it? On top of that there is the immense translation task which is the medical questionnaire, in Catalan. Back in 2004 when my husband and I moved to Mallorca we very quickly had to use what was then Son Dureta Hospital for a mystery illness (which turned out to be a very nasty bout of reactive arthritis) I had to cart around an enormous Spanish English dictionary with me in order to be understand, much to the amusement of the nurses. At least now I can use the Google Translate App on my phone, (if you haven’t got it, get it, it’s free and very handy for tricky vocabulary. I didn’t know the Catalan word “imant” meant “magnet” for example).
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have an MRI. Although I’d seen plenty of them on Casualty, I still turned to my Facebook mates in the group “I have a question” to find out what advice they had for me. “You have to stay still but don’t panic”, “make sure you go for a big wee beforehand”, “it’s quite noisy but it’s okay they give you earplugs”, and “I played an alphabet game in my head to distract me” were the four most key pieces of advice that played through my head (wishing I’d remembered the advice about the wee), as I lay down on the trolley and slowly slid into the tube. I fought off the temptation to have a panic attack when I realised that I was in an expensive coffin-like structure and started to write this column in my head. My friends were right, it is noisy, but the sounds themselves are very much like what you would expect to hear coming from a teenager’s bedroom: a repetitive twanging guitar sound, one note only, a stuck record (vinyl, remember them, even older than my massive dictionary) and a jack hammer. Well, depends on the type of teenagers you know I suppose.
I’ll be back next week. (See what I did there?).
Vicki McLeod 2014