Tag Archives: MRI

Courage at Twilight: First-Generation MRI

MRI machines are everywhere today.  Not so in the early 1980s.  Johnson & Johnson, for which Dad worked as international legal counsel, owned the company that developed magnetic resonance imaging.  The technology opened up a new world of medical diagnosis and treatment.  But sale of the technology to other countries was severely restricted by the U.S. government, both to protect American technology from theft and to prevent abusive repurposing of American technology.  A Chinese medical institution approached J&J about purchasing an MRI machine for its hospital, and the question of whether J&J could do it came to Dad.  He consulted with U.S. customs and security officials, who determined the only way to safety (and legally) sell the MRI machine, even for a legitimate medical purpose, was to first dip the machine’s complex circuit boards in clear epoxy, allowing the machine to function but not be reverse engineered.  “Do you still want the machine, even encased in epoxy?” Dad inquired.  “If the machine malfunctions, it cannot be repaired.”  When the Chinese insisted, J&J prepared and delivered the machine, complete with its innards frozen in a block of plastic, with U.S. government approval.  With today’s ubiquitous MRI procedures, such measures may seem clumsy.  But industrial espionage was and remains a major economic and national security threat.  Hopefully that first-generation MRI machine helped the Chinese hospital and its doctors and patients for a good long time.


(Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay.)

Courage at Twilight: Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Roger to his neurologist ten years ago: “I had a brain MRI two years ago.”
Neurologist to Roger: “Really? What did it show?”
Roger: “Nothing.”
Neurologist: “Really?! Well, I’m sure it showed that you have a brain!”
Roger, soto voce, Oh, you are just so clever, aren’t you?

Mom describes her brain MRI as a horrifying experience, one of the worst experiences of her life. And this from a woman who had her childhood cavities filled without Novocain. Despite the standard-issue ear plugs, the rhythmic clanging banging of the MRI machine smashed past the plugs and into her cranium and rattled around tortuously. While I fell asleep during my last MRI, she did not know if she would survive hers. She was so spent and disoriented after the scan, she found walking implausible and opted for a wheelchair, and was never happier to be home in her recliner. I will see to it that her next MRI is preceded by a dose of valium.

Her MRI report has come in, with its “supratentorial” this and its “intraparenchymal” that, showing conditions “not unexpected for age” but otherwise “normal in appearance.” No signs of stroke. No tracks of tumor. No inklings of inflammation. Mom wanted to jump for joy, but settled for a grinning cheer and a shaking of upraised hands. She felt so relieved! So did I. But the mystery of fainting and abrupt general decline remains. Still, with nothing now to fear, Mom has resolved to resume exercising on the stationary bicycle and walking to the mailbox and back. Get well cards arriving by U.S. mail all look forward to her quick and total recovery. And her name is being uttered in many a fervent prayer.