Tag Archives: MRI

The MRI experience

16 Jun

Last Tuesday evening, I had my first, and I hope, only, MRI. Since this is the third time in the last 20 years that a doctor has recommended one, I figured I should go ahead and get it over with. It seems to be a rite of passage for all aging Americans with health insurance. The endocrinologist that I saw in May “ordered” it for my lumbar spine. He said he wanted to check on those possible calcifications on my spine that many XLH-ers tend to get on their bones. “I have one patient who is bedridden because of his calcifications!” he said. Gee, thanks for making my day…

Several years ago, a friend of mine had to get an MRI and she later warned me… “Banjogrrl, if you ever have to get one of these, be sure to wear earplugs! It was surprisingly loud.” I happened to recall that my friend had told me this, and I remembered to take my earplugs with me last Tuesday. We both work in a music profession that requires that we take very good care of our hearing. I’ve always done that anyway. When I was a teenager, I’d go to a concert and before getting in my seat, I would run to the bathroom and get toilet paper to stuff into my ears. I didn’t like loud music or noise.

I usually get a little anxious…just a little…before going to any medical appointments, but I was feeling pretty much like Jessie from Toy Story II. “No problem. I’ve got this under control!” Confidently optimistic. “Got my earplugs…I’m ready to go!”

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I know that in my first-ever post, I said that I needed to get in touch with my inner warrior, but there is also an inner cowgirl in me. Even as a child, I didn’t limit myself! (I wish I still had that holster and gun!)

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I sauntered, er, uh, strolled up to the check-in desk when I arrived to the MRI Depot, and, based on the amount of my co-pay, realized that this was not going to be a medical appointment but rather, a medical procedure. Yowza. I handed her my credit card.

Then the receptionist went through all the normal questions such as,

“Do you have a pacemaker?” No.

“Do you have any metal in your body?” No.

“Are you claustrophobic?” Yes.

“Are you pregnant?” Snort. No. That one always gets me. When I set up the appointment, I was asked that too. I guess these days, even an almost 52-year-old woman gets asked this question, since medical science has made it possible for women even older than I am to get pregnant, carry a baby to full term, then retire to rear their children on their social security checks.

Then I went to the back where I had to change clothes and be questioned by the assistant MRI technician. She had even more detailed questions to ask me. She used medical terms I had never even heard of, so I hope I answered them correctly. Then she said, “I guess there’s no chance you’re pregnant, is there?”

What I wanted to say was, “I did not have intimate relations with any man between the time that I arrived at the check-in desk across the hall 10 minutes ago and was asked this same question and this dressing room where we now stand.” But all I said was, “No chance!” She then pointed to the cotton drawstring britches that were custom made for Michael Jordan or any of his fellow basketball players and said, “Put those on and come out when you’re ready!” Awesome.

I carefully walked down the hallway, holding up my very long britches and headed towards the “open” MRI machine. It looked like a giant hamburger press to me. I sat on the table, stuffed in the earplugs (she agreed that some people seem to think that the machine is loud,) and she rolled me in, with that top part hovering very close to the tip of my nose. I was very glad I don’t have a long nose. The MRI assistant tech suggested that I turn my head to the side and look out the window, so I wouldn’t feel claustrophobic. She told me it would take 20 minutes. She left the room.

Then I heard a noise, like an Edgar Allen Poe story noise…a tap-tap-tapping. Silence. Then BAM! I jumped. I am pretty sure they did that on purpose so they could get all my nerves ready. They were now ready. Surely it wouldn’t get any louder than that. Then the tap-tap-tapping. Then BAM-A-LAM-A-LAM. And more BAM-A-LAM-A-LAM plus loud hums, etc. I found it to be…unpleasant. I think that Beaker from the Muppets best conveys my feelings at this point.

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Ever-so-slightly horrified. It was VERY loud. I could feel my ribcage vibrating. I tried to decide if it was unpleasantly interesting or interestingly unpleasant. How could something with magnets be so loud? I played with magnets as a kid. It was very quiet play.

I tried to imagine that I was listening to a very loud and very boring punk rock band warm up before a concert. Lots of bass guitar drones (on one note) and lots of drums. LOUD drums. That made me think of Animal, the drummer from the Muppets. Which sent me to my happy place, since I love Animal.

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Unfortunately, the “procedure” continued past the limits of my happy place. A few seconds of silence, then the tap-tap-tapping, (which I began to interpret as a warning of things to come) and then the extremely loud, monotoned rock band warm-up session. After 10 or 15 minutes my feet and calves started twitching and I thought, “Wonder what happens when someone goes into an all-out muscle spasm in one of these things? Hope I don’t find out.”

Finally, it was over. I put my better-fitting clothes back on, and walked into the waiting room where Professorgrrl was waiting for me.

“How was it?” she asked. I was still able to hear. That was a good sign.

“Root canal,” I said, “it ranks right up there with root canal in unpleasantness.”

“It hurt?”

“Of course it didn’t hurt! Root canals don’t hurt either if they’ve deadened your mouth enough, but they are highly unpleasant, with all the drill noise in your skull and keeping your mouth open for long periods of time. They are unpleasant. An MRI is unpleasant. And loud. Unbelievably loud.”

I found it ironic that not one single medical person mentioned to me beforehand that I should wear earplugs. I wondered if I should report them to the Audiology Police.

Through all of this, though, I had a song running through my head., which I credit for helping me to keep my sanity. I just recently downloaded the album by Adele called “21.” She is an incredible singer, and her music is so soulful and intense and heart-breaking. I had been listening to her album during the day on Tuesday while I drove out of town for my job. So, one song in particular was stuck in my head. I don’t know how, really, since I can scarcely understand her lyrics, but the intensity, the beat, the emotion, the tune was running through my head while the rock band drums of the MRI were beating in my ears. Adele got me through those 20 minutes of aural unpleasantness. When we got home, I looked up the song, since I didn’t know the name of it (and seriously, could only understand only about half the lyrics) and it’s called, “Set Fire to the Rain.” Hmm. That title is a paradox, really. Sort of like NOT telling your patient who makes her living by using her ears that you’re getting ready to expose them to dangerous levels of noise in a confined space.

I’m just going to step up on my soapbox and say that it is well documented that MRI’s can cause hearing damage. I can’t believe that not one single medical person or technician or ANYONE who was involved with my appointment mentioned to me that I should wear hearing protection, and of a noise reduction rating of at least 29 decibels. In fact, I should not even have to bring my own, but they should provide every single patient with ear protection for their MRI’s. Some places do this. Apparently the place where I went did not. Some websites even said that the noise is also loud enough to cause a person with an anxiety disorder to have an anxiety attack. I had actually thought to myself as I was lying there… “Wow…glad I don’t have an anxiety disorder.”

Okay. Stepping down off my soapbox. Back to Adele and her album, “21. ” It is REALLY good. I like to play it in my car while driving, with the volume turned WAY up.

© S. G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017