As I walked out of the MRI room at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, I heard the footsteps of a technician approaching me, and with his subtle voice asked me, “How was it being in the MRI room for the first time?” At first thought, I had too many words of excitement to throw at the technician, not wanting to seem too immature for this environment, I replied “Everything that I have been waiting, wanting and eager to do!” The way I expressed myself in the cheerful tone of confidence, made the technician smile and happy that I was more than interested in his field of work. Now, what the technician didn’t know was how informed I was about what the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, or MRI for short, does and how to properly operate it with the help of my own Father teaching me as a young child and passing his knowledge on to me.
Taking this story back to 1997, I was just about eight years old starting my second month of third grade and the teacher hands out a piece of paper that was going to forever instill my career path. On this piece of paper read, “Take your son/daughter to work,” in bold letters. The directions stated to hand the paper to my parent to see if they can get permission to allow me on the job site as school study. My dad gave a call to his work, then twenty minutes later gave me the okay to tell my teacher is was set up. I was so stoked to be apart of my father’s entire day instead of when he came home after work, except one thought that would make my mind run faster than a cheetah, “What does my father do for a living!?!? And the suspense of not knowing would keep me awake through the entire night till the morning.
Figure 1 Picture by Andrew Santiago
The day of the visit couldn’t come any sooner, as the suspense of finally knowing my father’s line of work and getting out of school for a day was coming to reality. As he badged into the employee parking lot I noticed we were at the same hospital I go to for my checkups, so I started to panic and thought it was a big trick pulled by the school and doctors. “We’re not going into the big building for my work Andrew,” reassuring my sweaty, scared-straight face that I’m not going to get shots today. This time was different, I was headed to a different building, not even a building, a single wide trailer. My dad opens the door to the trailer and the sounds of what a soda machines pouring multiple fountain drinks hits my ear drums and made the decibels in both our voices go higher than normal room talk. As I walk in I notice a door to my left, and above that door was a red light, that wasn’t lit mind you, but had works that you can read in the dark that read “Magnet On.” Now I was really confused with the matters of my dad’s occupation, as he saw my dumbfounded look he sat me down and told me all about what he does.
“A MRI technician?” my first question was to my father. “Yes,” he replies, “It stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging which is fancy for taking pictures with big magnets and loud noises.” He then went on to explain how these big magnets can take pictures of the inside of your body to see if something was wrong with the patient. I still didn’t get how a huge magnet fit inside this tube machine that has a perfectly cut out cylinder in the middle of it, up until he proved it. “Well Andrew,” he spoke as he walked over to his work station, “I might as well show, but first I have to know if you have any metal on you. Do You?’ I replied with a confirmed no, as he pushed a red and black button a beep went off, and that light that read, “Magnet On” was glowing a furious red alert. The whole rooms aura suddenly changed as if it was being pulled into this strong magnetic machine. Was my dad crazy enough to let this thing suck us in? Did he not head the red lights warning? As the questions are flowing through me, he walks over to the open door of where the machine stood, and he stopped to look at me.
Figure 2 Picture by Andrew Santiago
There he was, inside the eye of the magnet storm, with his sights locked on me. He reaches in his pockets, and with a tight grasp on it, pulls out his work keys on a lanyard and tells me “You can not see the magnet through the machine,” he suddenly lets go of the keys as the MRI machine sucks them in, at the last second he catches the end of the lanyard,
“but the magnets are there and they have a tremendous amount of power for what my job calls for.” At this moment I am seeing the impossible being done as I stood there thinking “my dad’s keys are floating towards the machine as if gravity didn’t exist!” As the machine shuts down and my lower jaw sticks to the floor I could only see this demonstration as my first lesson towards my newly found career. I regathered myself as another technician stepped inside and read my facial expression and asked my dad, “You showed him the trick with the keys and magnet, didn’t you?” My father laughed it off and started preparing for his routine. After taking this information in my dad’s coworker, the other technician who stepped in, put his hands on my shoulder and told me this. “The reason that man knows so much about the machine is because he is a pioneer in this field. And its because of his knowledge with this machine that he can get a perfect picture to help save billions of lives.” I could have never put words like that to describe my own father at the time, but hearing that from another technician was enough to fuel myself into believing that I can one day be just like my dad.
Figure 3 Courtesy of Kaiser of Riverside ’92
Shortly after, my dad came and sat me down on his own computer chair and started to explain what every key and button does for this machine. I was old enough to know what a keyboard was, but another keyboard with all symbols and no letters? And there is two of them?! Even the computer mouse was unique! It used a palm size ball that fully rotates to get every millimeter of your body. That’s smaller than the lead tip of your pencil! After he gave me my first MRI, he started to teach me how to manipulate the image and go through the human anatomy to find certain organs and different views of them. Since then, I was eager to learn about it I knew I would never forget it, and as of then I wanted to contribute back to society, help people and be proud of my career. With the knowledge and experience my father gave me that day I learned that this is my dream job. As the years went on, I had my own ambition to shadow my father’s work and to help volunteer around hospitals being able to be the “Button Pusher” (an X-ray technician who pushes a button to shoot the X-rays through the body) in the X-Ray department, or being behind the Radiology computer to view my own MRI films and to get to know the radiology technician’s program like the back of my hand.