How the Radiologist Changed my Life

I was doing a session on a radiologist and couldn’t resist asking him about the many wondrous things he’d seen through MRI’s, etc.

I asked him, of everything he’d seen, what had he found most fascinating?

He said it was the first time he’d seen a spinal cord inside a living human being.

Now I’ve seen spinal cords in cadaver labs and, with the cranial fascia, it is wild.  It  looks just like a jelly fish with tentacles hanging down.  So I understood.

But he said no it wasn’t its appearance that was so interesting.

Then he said something that forever since has changed my entire picture of anatomy and physiology and therapy.

He said, “It looks like they’re dancing to the Rolling Stones!”

It turns out, since the spinal nerves are not pinned down and float freely in the cerebrospinal fluid, when the electricity passes through them they wave rhythmically in the canal.  Just so, electric wires in your house are nailed down, because otherwise when the electricity passed through them they would undulate and arc.

So in that one moment I learned what I had not fully visualized.  We are moving everywhere inside of us.  Of course two-dimensional anatomy books don’t convey this movement.  And we can fall into the habit of forgetting we are interacting with moving, fluid being everytime we touch the body.

As a matter of fact, since we, therapist and client, are both mostly water, when we touch, is it flesh touching flesh or, more accurately, water touching water.  Are we touching or swimming?

One thing for sure.

We are both dancing to the Rolling Stones.




2 thoughts on “How the Radiologist Changed my Life

  1. Ariana says:

    I love this.

    Reading it actually made me tear up a bit. It reminded me of an art installation I saw at a gallery here in town. My boyfriend and I went out with a group of 20 or so friends and they were going through the galleries somewhat quickly. I saw all of these anatomical charts from across the room which obviously piqued my curiosity so I broke from the group and ambled over…and it was a writers/visual artists collaborative – in which either an artist was given a poem or some prose that a local author had written, or vice versa and the other person had to either create a piece of art to complement the writing or write something to complement the art.

    It actually wasn’t the art that got me – I can’t even remember much about the anatomical chart…but this piece of writing just floored me. I mean, tears in my eyes, wrenched my guts, dilated pupils, made me feel alive in the most joyful, anguished aching way – just floored me.

    It was in the first person, and the narrator was a woman. It began(paraphrasing): The Doctors keep showing me their charts, this one means this and that one means that. They say I have a mass. They can see inside of me….but what the charts don’t show, and what they cannot see, is that there is an ocean in my chest, and every time my heart beats a wave crashes onto the beach…that there is a tree in my skull, where an old man sits idly beating a drum in time to the rhythm of life…”

    …and that is all I can remember. It was about two paragraphs and it is easily one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I read it just a month or two after my boyfriend’s father, whom we provided end of life care for in our home, passed away of melanoma. It brought up so many emotions – so much anger with the way he was treated by his healthcare providers. Such a feeling of peace washed over me as I thought about the ocean in his heart.

    I became totally lost in the crowd and finally caught up to my group an hour or so later. The installation was taken down the next day and not only was I never able to purchase the piece – I was never able to find out the name of the author.

    To this day, thinking of that piece, even though I can’t remember most of it – STILL warms my heart. I feel like it should be framed on the wall in every cancer clinic and radiologists office in the world. I wish I could find that author and hug them, thank them, and let them know how much it meant to me.

    1. davidl says:

      Hello. Thank you for sharing your very touching story. It reminded me of a poem I heard read at a memorial for a dear friend. And I don’t know who wrote it – ‘have never been able to find out.

      Grief is a walk over a bridge
      Back and forth.
      Forth, to where the other has gone
      And back to where one was with her.

      And this going back and forth is formative
      Because something has been torn –
      Memory fuses it together
      Again and again.

      Something has been lost.
      Memory searches….and finds it.
      Something has gone away from oneself.
      One needs it, one follows it,
      One must find it, in order to continue with life.

      One must wander through the land of the Past
      Back and forth
      Until the walk over that bridge
      Leads to a new path.

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