The Day My Life Changed – Part 10: MRI

If you missed how I got a recommendation to get an MRI yesterday, you can check that out in Part 9.

I called my aunt’s clinic and identified myself. The receptionist said, “I’ve been expecting your call,” and put me on hold. When I spoke with my aunt, she explained that she was really busy and that she was going to put me on with her scheduler. Her scheduler said they could work me in that afternoon at five.

“After close?” I asked.

“Well, yeah,” she said, “but it’s okay.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t want to keep a rad tech late on my account. They should get home to their families, and I want their A-game for my health.”

So, I got an appointment later that week. At the imaging clinic, they have changing rooms. The magnet that powers an MRI is powerful enough that you can’t have anything metallic in the room. Contrary to popular belief, it won’t rip black ink out of your tattoo or tear the braces off a kid’s teeth, but metallic objects will affect imaging negatively. Put something ferrous enough in the vicinity and it will move stuff. I’ve heard rumored anecdotes of poorly planned MRI rooms that were sucking cars from parking spaces in basement parking and pulling oxygen bottles through walls. I don’t know how true any of that is, but we’re talking major magnetic power. So, I stripped down, put on their one-size-fits-all-and-so-fits-none-scrubs, left my jewelry and everything, and went in to get my MRI. The tech put a pillow around my head to keep me still and a Hannibal Lecter cage over my face.

“Are you claustrophobic?” she asked me.

I answered, “only extremely.”

Then she asked, “should I give you a Valium?”

“No, thank you,” I said, “no drugs, please.”

“Are you sure?”

“Very,” I said, “I’ll tough it out. I’ll be okay.”

She stuffed some ear plugs in my ears and cranked me into the scanner. They tell you to lay still in an MRI. I always thought that meant that you had to keep the part of your body that you are getting scanned still. Not so! Apparently, any movement in the room can screw up the imaging process. When scanning my head, I couldn’t wiggle my toes or it was messing up the scan. Who knew?!? She explained to me over the intercom that they were doing a battery of scans that would each be up to twenty minutes long, and asked if it would help if she told me when we were between scans.

“Yes! Good grief, yes! I’m a wiggly, squirmy dude. If I can have a break to stretch out between scans, we can make this easier for both of us!”

I understand that even a 1.5-Tesla machine is loud. The 3.0 is downright deafening. It sounds like this: “UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH click UNGH click UNGH click UNGH click UNGH click VEEEEEEEOOOOOOOHHHHHH UNGH click UNGH click UNGH click UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH” So on, and so forth. Finally, she used the winch to pull me back out of the machine. While I was still strapped in, Hannibal-style, she said she needed to give me the contrast fluid for round two.

“If you feel up to it,” she said.

“Um,” I said, “do I have a choice?” strapped down, at her mercy.

“Of course you do,” she said.

“I just had a CT scan with contrast. They dumped a Home Depot caulk gun of silicone into me for that.”

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “yeah, that takes a lot! This is different.”

From under my Hannibal mask, I raised an eyebrow, “how much?”

“What do you weigh?” she asked.

“135.”

I could see her doing the math in her head. I was thinking that I could pretty easily bust through the restraints and make a run for the door. Yeah, I’d miss my jewelry, and those are pretty nice jeans I left in the changing room, but you know, I’m getting tired of all of this. When she told me what the dosage was it was like 5cc or less. I don’t remember the exact number.

“Let’s do this thing,” I said.

She pulled the syringe and drew the contrast fluid. That didn’t look so bad.

“you know,” I commented, trying to keep it conversational, “not only am I claustrophobic, and I hate to be still, but I also have a deep hatred for needles.”

She was sweet. She offered, “we can stop if you want.”

“I’ve come this far,” I said, “I may as well see it through.”

So, I turned my head, as best as I could within the restraints, and got a needle in the arm again. For the record, the scarring has healed and I no longer look like a heroin addict. She pushed the button and conveyor-belted me into the belly of the giant magnet again. “UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH chick chock chick chock UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH UNGH” It occurred to me that I have some really comfy pajama pants at home; not the used-a-million-times-by-strangers scrubs in a size XX-huge, but they have a drawstring, but Oakly-branded fuzzy pants that fit nicely. But, I was about done, so moot point. Side note: I’m also sensitive to magnetic fields. I know that the point was to align the molecules in my head so they could capture a 3D image of my brain, but that much focused magnetic field screws with my head. But anyway, round two was only like fifteen minutes, to my great joy!

“You made it!” she said as she reeled me out of my prison and started removing my restraints, “I’m so proud of you!”

I smiled at her and said, “that was the worst Nine Inch Nails concert I’ve ever been to!”

The look on her face told me she didn’t get the joke. Damn. Not only was that a good one, but when will I ever get a chance to deliver it again?

She asked when I was to see Doc Neuro again, “do I need to make sure he gets the scans, or can I just burn a disk for you to take with you?”

Jennifer and I looked at each other conspiratorially and said in unison, “burn a disk.”

Next week, this series will come to a close, starting on Monday, when there will be yet more radiation exposure in Part 11.

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