Chick Wit: The MRI: Mother Mary in a tight spot

Posted: February 12, 2012

Mother Mary tells me on the phone that they're building giant red condominiums across the street from her house.

"Really?" I ask her, confused. Her street is a small, quiet backstreet, the last of its kind in South Beach.

"Yes," she answers. "I can see it outside the window. New red condos. They're ugly."

"But there's houses there. What about the houses? Did they tear them down?"

"I don't see them."

This makes no sense. "And the condos are red?"

"Bright red."

I don't like the sound of this, and suddenly I lose my sense of humor. "Put Frank on the phone, OK?"

So she does, and my brother picks up. "I know, right?" he says, and it's all he has to say, because he sounds worried, too.

"There's not really condos, are there?" I ask.

"No, and she thinks everything's red."

"You mean she's seeing red? Literally?"

"Yes."

It would be funny, if my sense of humor came back. Mother Mary has been seeing red her whole life.

So we're both worried she had some kind of mini-stroke, though I have no idea what kind of stroke causes you to see red condos. If I had a stroke, I'd see Bradley Cooper. And he can be whatever color he likes, because he's the new George Clooney.

So Frank takes Mother Mary to the doctor, who finds nothing wrong but schedules her for an MRI, and we know right away that this is a problem.

Mother Mary hates MRIs.

First, she hates small spaces. Second, she hates hospitals. Third, she hates most things.

She hasn't had an MRI for years, not since she was getting radiation for throat cancer. She beat the cancer, though it left her with some throat issues, but she still hated the trips to the hospital, and I don't really blame her, but I get her on the phone.

"Mom, you have to get an MRI. We have to see if something's wrong with you."

"No."

"You have to go. It's doctor's orders." Never mind that it was doctor's orders to use her oxygen, which she also ignored, and I'm wondering if this is why she's seeing red. "Please go, for me."

"No."

"What about for Frank?"

"Maybe," she answers, then laughs.

Long story short, my brother persuades her to get the MRI, and I call to see how it went.

Mother Mary answers, "I don't want to talk about it."

"What do you mean?" I ask, alarmed. "What happened?"

"I said, I don't want to talk about it."

I have no idea if this means something is really wrong, because nothing is drama-free with Mother Mary, especially not drama. "Put Frank on, OK?"

So she does, and he tells me she didn't have the MRI at all, because of what happened.

Drama. To wit:

He accompanies her into the MRI room while they slide her into the MRI machine. She lies down, and they give her a rubber ball to squeeze if she gets panicky. Frank hears her clear her throat a few times, then all of a sudden he sees the rubber ball fly across the room. The MRI technician doesn't see this. Frank starts yelling, and they slide her out of the machine, where she's choking from fluid that blocked her throat.

"What fluid?" I ask him, horrified.

"Since the radiation, when she lies down too long, fluid builds up in her throat."

"What about when she sleeps?"

"She moves around then, I guess."

"Why didn't she squeeze the ball, like they told her?"

"She did, but her grip wasn't strong enough for it to register. That's why she threw it."

I picture the scene, shaken. "So did she really almost choke?"

"Honestly, yes."

I feel awful for her. "She must have been terrified."

"To be real, she was pissed." Frank chuckles. "I think she was trying to throw the ball at the technician."

That sounds like her. "So now what?"

"They said she needs an upright MRI."

"Think she'll go?"

"We'll make her."

"How?"

"We'll do what we always do," Frank answers. "You nag her, and I'll use my feminine wiles."

I smile.

I love my brother, because he never loses his sense of humor, and for many other reasons.

God bless the caregivers, especially Mother Mary's.


Lisa Scottoline's new novel, "Come Home," will be published April 10. Lisa and Francesca Serritella's book, "Best Friends, Occasional Enemies: The Lighter Side of Life as a Mother and Daughter," is in bookstores now. Visit Lisa at scottoline.com.

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