May 1, 2017: MRI

May 1st, 2017. MRI day at Duke. Finally.

I’ve promised an upswing a dozen or so times. And one is coming (an amazing, unbelievable, full 180 upswing) but not today. Because what I learned, on May 1st, and countless times before, is that a MRI is useless without a doctor to read the scan. The MRI is only step one. Step two is more waiting. Hours and minutes that tick by in eternities while you sit and pace and watch the doctor go into every exam room but yours.

The waiting is exponentially worse when the MRI won’t be read until the next day, which is what happened on May 1st. Matt’s MRI was scheduled for 8:45 at night. The doctor wouldn’t see him until 8:30 the next morning. A full twelve hours, an entire rotation around the clock.

I didn’t go with Matt to North Carolina this time. That need assessment I made all the way back in the beginning of April, when the doctors told us that they didn’t expect to see any changes in the MRI after the first month so I decided to stay with the kids and run H’s school event, came back to haunt me.

I called Matt after he landed because texting was still an issue for him. He didn’t sound too bad on the phone, somewhat clearheaded, somewhat logical, not at all the way he’d left me that morning.

A few posts ago, I mentioned how those who encountered Matt in social settings would comment on how good he seemed to be doing, and how those comments would send me into self-doubt spirals if he was in the middle of a down cycle. Well, as it turned out, I wasn’t innocent of making the same type of statement. On the phone with Matt, I commented on how good he sounded and those self-doubts began to creep in again, self-inflicted this time. Maybe I’d been too hard on him and making a bigger deal of his symptoms than I should have.

Then Matt’s mom sent this text: I heard how good he sounded on the phone but he had a terrible day with words and with his right side. Even had trouble walking for a while. Couldn’t figure out boarding pass or where the gate was. He asked people for help but wasn’t making sense.

I read this text and the memory of the guilt from that day floods in. Guilt that I wasn’t there for Matt, guilt that I’d left his mother alone with him (not because she couldn’t take care of him, but because no mother should see her son in that state), and guilt that I let myself feel just the tiniest bit relieved that I didn’t have to witness those moments. I owe his story honesty, right?

In the grand scheme of all the regrets I carry, it’s a small one, but even a paper cut can draw blood.

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