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MARTHA SEZ: Human capacity for affection, even for a tiny camera

Ah, the human capacity for affection!

People love not only one another but also their dogs and cats, and sometimes they love their dogs and cats better. People can love little mammals, even rodents, and I’ve heard — although it is difficult to credit –that some form emotional attachments to creatures that are anything but warm and fuzzy, like giant snakes, or lizards.

My friend Tom used to give a bearded dragon the run of his New York City apartment, where it kept down the cockroach population somewhat. I am not certain, however, that there was any love lost between Tom and the lizard, which became more like a bad roommate than a pet.

The dragon, which Tom described as large and spiny, was insectivorous and nocturnal. The only time they met up was at night, when Tom was returning home from carousing with friends. Both would be startled. The dragon would open its mouth and puff itself up in a menacing manner. Tom would clutch his heart and the dragon would scuttle away.

They resided together for some time in this way until one day Tom came home to find the lizard’s lifeless body on the bathroom floor. An exterminator had been in the building, and probably the dragon had eaten a poisoned cockroach. Tom was sorry then to lose his friend, even though they had never been really close.

Still, some people apparently love their reptilian pets, while someone else might form an attachment to a house plant or a particular tree. People even grow fond of inanimate objects for sentimental reasons or simply because the objects are familiar, part of their everyday lives. A person may go so far as to cling to an old recliner reviled by the rest of the family or name a favorite car and refuse to give it up, even when the vehicle is rusting out and falling apart.

Maybe, then, it is not so very strange that I felt a personal affection for the PillCam, a camera so tiny a leprechaun might long for it, a camera I swallowed before a thieving leprechaun could get his tiny hands on it.

This little light of mine — what a good little journalist photographer the PillCam was! In a medical procedure known as a capsule endoscopy, it documented its journey with high-quality imaging, lighting its own way.

According to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, “the PillCam has a miniature video camera, a light source, batteries, a radio transmitter and antenna. After it is swallowed, the PillCam … transmits approximately 50,000 images over the course of an eight hour period to a DataRecorder fixed to a belt worn around the patient’s waist.”

For eight hours, a little blue light flashed on the recorder over my stomach, letting me know that the PillCam was making its way unimpeded through my innards.

I told my neighbor Frank about it.

Me: “It’s making a video! Maybe we’ll make popcorn and we can all watch it together afterward.”

Frank: “Will it have sound?”

PillCam images are surprisingly clear, the nurse told me, although I haven’t been able to see my own. The doctor was mainly interested in the small intestine. After eight hours the endoscopy was over, but even after I took off the monitoring equipment and returned it to the ambulatory surgery center the tiny leprechaun camera continued its journey, much like Paddle-to-the- Sea, in Holling C. Holling’s classic children’s book. Paddle-to-the-Sea was a little wooden canoe carved by a First Nation boy that traveled through all five Great Lakes to finally arrive at the Atlantic Ocean. While the PillCam described here had a shorter and perhaps less arduous journey — certainly not on so grand a scale. I was entranced by its steadfastness and endurance.

Yes, the little capsule did very well, and, its job now done, it passed out of the gastrointestinal system and was gone. Kind of sad. Glad as I was to be done with the procedure and to be allowed once again to drink and eat, I had grown fond of the tiny voyageur. For a while it was still inside of me, recording away, only nobody cared anymore.

The results, when reported to me by my doctor, were not alarming. No surprising or dreadful news was disclosed, for which I am grateful. Luckily, while I admit I became fond of the little foreign object, its presence in my body was transient, too brief for me to form a true attachment.

Have a good week.