Friday, 30 March 2012

The Mysterious MRIs

So last night I headed back to the hospital for an MRI scan. As my appointment was at 7pm at night, I was unimpressed - not only because I didn't particularly want to spend my evening at the hospital, but also because I feared that if delays accumulated during the day, there would be an epic backlog of people waiting to be scanned.  Happily, my fears proved to be little more than paranoid ravings. Firstly my good friend Havana, who is a medical student, stayed late at the hospital to meet me and cooked a delicious chilli for us to share. And secondly, the entire MRI department was eerily deserted and I was ushered straight through for my scan.

Locating the department was the first problem, even though I have been there once before. Fortunately the signage was fairly good - although I was amused to discover that, despite having been a student at the hospital for a couple of years, Havana hadn't realised that the signs referred to the MRI department and not a mysterious organisation known only by the acronym M.R.I.S.

As we went along I realised that I had unwittingly committed a terrible libel against the hospital on this blog by accusing them in a previous post of keeping their MRI scanning service tucked away in a terrifying basement full of doors with signs saying things like "DO NOT ENTER: DANGER OF DEATH" and "COWER NOW, BRIEF MORTALS". This is not in fact the case. The MRI department is located in a pleasant and airy wing on the ground floor. It's actually the bone density unit that's in the terrifying basement.

But you can see how I might get confused; in the past two years I've been to quite a startling variety of different departments at the hospital, including:

Accident & Emergency (Good crisps in the vending machine)
Bone Density Unit (Terrifying basement)
Cardiology (I was the youngest patient by about half a century)
Endocrinology (TVs in the waiting area are always playing The Jeremy Kyle Show)
MRI Dept. (Easily confused with Bone Density Unit)
MRI/CT Dept. (Never actually had my CT scan in the end, so it was more of a day trip)
Neurosurgery (Why do they assume everyone having brain surgery wants to read Country Life?)
Opthalmology (Seething with human life; not enough seating)
Phlebotomy (Offer you tea if you nearly pass out)

So you can see how I get confused. Anyway: I was called in, took off all my metal and bundled it into a locker, then had to answer a set of questions designed to flag up any random bits of metal that might feasibly in my body. Almost a year after my operation, it still feels weird that the answer to the question "Have you had any form of brain or head surgery" is actually now "yes". I signed the consent form indicating that I'd not lied about my non-bionic status, and we went in.

I went in, took my shoes off and realised I'd made a terrible mistake. I was wearing slightly aged socks with holes in them.* Ladies and gentlemen, when you are going for an MRI scan it is imperative to wear good socks. They are the only part of you that is visible outside the machine. When the nurse comes in to give you an injection of contrast dye, they will judge you not on the content of your character, but by the colour of your socks. So wear nice ones.

Anyhow, I put in my earplugs, lay on the table and had the padding put in the MRI helmet and rolled backwards into the machine. I didn't feel at all claustrophobic this time, and I found it a lot easier to lie still, probably because I now have (hopefully) much lower levels of thyroid hormone sloshing around my body; previously I couldn't even keep my hands steady normally and was ultra jumpy, so expecting me to be able to lie completely still while sudden loud noises went off all around me was a vain hope indeed. That's probably one of the reasons that the scan went so quickly, it was over in about twenty minutes or even less.

The injection of the contrast dye is really weird, it feels really cold as it's going into your arm, which is pretty freaky - add to that the fact that your head is trapped in a cage while they're giving you the inkection and you're worried that the nurse is judging your poor choice of socks, and it's a disconcerting experience.

One of the things that occurred to me in there was - what the hell does the back of an MRI machine look like? I've had three scans and seen plenty of classic hospital drama, but I only know what they look like from the front. For all I know, behind each machine is a large gnome smashing bits of metal together to make the noises.

*Although admittedly pretty much all my socks have holes in them.


  1. ah yes MRI's - they warned me the contrast injection may make my extremities feel warm, but nobody told me it would make you feel like I had wet my pants !

    It's great the way your blog words remind of the little things - like being asked "Have you had any form of brain or head surgery" - and I have to remind my self that I have !

    1. That's weird, so your contrast dye made you feel warm but mine made my arm feel cold! I wonder if they use different kinds of contrast injection for different types of pituitary tumour?