You can always tell the CAT scan candidates in the radiology waiting room. They’re the ones groping for the bathrooms. Today’s scanners are faster and better. The first one took forever. Now you’re in the machine for 10 to 15 minutes. Still, it’s a different experience. The only constant is the Redi-Cat, two large bottles of barium sulfite suspension you must chug at home. The flavor is, I don’t know, musty orange.

You can always tell the CAT scan candidates in the radiology waiting room. They’re the ones groping for the bathrooms.

Today’s scanners are faster and better. The first one took forever. Now you’re in the machine for 10 to 15 minutes. Still, it’s a different experience.

The only constant is the Redi-Cat, two large bottles of barium sulfite suspension you must chug at home. The flavor is, I don’t know, musty orange.

This is called “contrast.” It gets into your tissues and reflects the X-rays, producing a much brighter and detailed image. That’s important for finding little things that eventually will be big things. Believe me, these devices save more lives than anything.

On the Redi-Cat label is a graphic of a stomach with some plumbing underneath that I haven’t seen since I installed a toilet in our upstairs.

This is the why CAT scan patients scan for bathrooms in the waiting room, the hallways, the corridor to the parking deck and gas stations on the trip home (gas station in more than one sense).

Your stomach growls. Hang on. You know what comes next.

Just about everybody eventually will get a scan, so I’m preparing you for the inevitable.

The drill in the exam room is to get an IV for one final blast of contrast while you’re at the machine. This time, it causes your insides to heat up.

The machine looks like a big plastic doughnut with a Ferris wheel on the inside. It sounds like a roller coaster.

Still, it’s patient friendly. A nice guy with a radio voice intones over the speaker, “breathe deep, hold your breath.” Stomach growls. Sir, that’s not the only thing I’m holding.

A Pac-Man type computer face blinks and his mouth closes, for those like me who need visual prodding. Then you slide into the machine, the roller coaster starts and you watch the 12-second countdown. The last time I held my breath for 12 seconds, I was blackening catfish on the grill.

Then Pac-Man blinks again and opens his mouth. The radio guy says “breathe,” and you want to find him and kiss his hand.

CAT scans are lifesavers. I’ve seen the films, and they look like fillet slices of your insides. They call it “computerized axial tomography.” That’s the CAT thing.

The profession attracts nice people. Their skill erases any ambient terror you may have around plastic doughnuts and cartoon characters.

“We’re finished,” she says, pulling the IV, “and the bathroom is down the hall.”

“Thank you,” I say, pulling up my pants as I fly out the door.

Jim Hillibish writes for The Repository in Canton, Ohio. Contact him at jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com.