THE AL GILKES COLUMN: Chemicals, terrorism and me
I am back in Barbados, safe and sound, but I have to tell you that for a while in Miami on Tuesday my mind was consumed with the possibility that I might end up in the detention centre for terrorists at the American military base at Guantanamo in Cuba.
Earlier this year one of my doctors recommended that at some future time I should visit Miami and undergo something called a PET scan, which is not available in Barbados and is a unique imaging test that shows how the organs and tissues inside the body are actually functioning.
As a result, last weekend I killed the two proverbial birds with one stone. I was going to Boston to check up on my son Alex and decided to also arrange to have the test done on Tuesday morning before flying home in the afternoon.
What I did not know was that the test involved having a small dose of a radioactive chemical injected into a vein of my arm, after which it would travel through my body to be absorbed by the organs and tissues.
Nevertheless, about an hour after the injection I was taken to a room where they put me to lie on a flat table.
After that, the radioactive chemical would have been metabolized by my body and emitted gamma rays, which the scanner would have picked up. Then a computer would have reassembled the signals into three-dimensional pictures, which would allow my doctor to look at cross-sectional images of my organs from any angle in order to detect any functional problems.
The dose of radiation used is so small that it does not affect the normal processes of the body and leaves the body tissues in just under two hours. However, because I was headed for Miami International afterwards I was given a note to inform airport officials of what I had undergone in the event that the security scanners picked up any residual chemical.
I was not particularly worried until I BBMed Alex and told him about the piece of paper I was carrying and he quipped: “You better pray nothing goes off at the airport because those people going to feel you are a terrorist and that you mussee swallow a bomb.”
We both had a hearty laugh at that but I stopped laughing when I looked at the piece of paper again and realized they had misspelt my name. Instead of Gilkes I had become Giljes. And in a split second I saw my possible immediate future flashing before me in the form of me trying to convince a jittery, heavily armed and protected anti-terrorist squad in a shutdown airport that I “Giljes” on the note and I “Gilkes” in my passport was one and the same person.
Fortunately, by the time I had checked in and made my way to the security line for the D1 gate, no trace of the radioactive chemical remained in my body to trigger any alarm when I passed through the scanner.