Thursday, April 11, 2013

What it's like having an MRI.

I don't know why I had built this up as something to worry about. It was just a scan, I don't get the results for a few weeks so it seems silly now to have been quite so apprehensive.

Lots of people have asked what it's like, and I remember thinking the first one wasn't at all how I expected, so I thought it might be worth explaining how I find it.

The first time, I was already in hospital so I didn't really have to think about it - I was just wheeled down on my hospital bed, in my pyjamas. Luckily my pyjamas don't have any metal in them so I just had to wrestle with my toe ring (no mean feat after wearing it solid for 10 years, apparently my toe has grown in circumference), and the preparation was done.

This time, I had to plan my outfit as I didn't want to have to get changed into a hospital gown. No metal is actually quite difficult. No bra underwiring, no studs in jeans, no poppers, no shoes with eye holes. And obviously no jewelry. I wore leggings and a dress and some kind of sporty underwear (don't ask). It was worth thinking about as it meant I could just be in and out, no delays. They have lockers I think for you to leave things in, but I took my mum who held on to my toe ring for me. Which was beyond the call of duty really.

The staff, as always, were very friendly and approachable. They were quite busy yesterday but saw me quickly, and still made the effort to make me feel at ease. They really do make things so much easier.

Paperwork in the form of explaining whether I had metal implanted in me through a welding incident or a heart operation (neither, thankfully) gave me the all clear the first time, and in I went. I had a cannula in my arm already through which they injected some contrast half way through in order to see things better. This time, things were bit more complicated given the metal clips in my head and the fact I'm pregnant, but they just needed to know details in advance.

The machine is just a big plastic thing with a hole in the middle - like a massive polo mint - and a bed poking out of it. My scans have all been at the neuroscience department so maybe they only do head scans there. You put your head in a comfy bit at the end of the bed (nearest the machine) and they give you some ear plugs. They pack sponge type things against your ears too - I think this is to minimise movement as it is quite a snug fit after that.

Finally they put a kind of mask over your face. I wasn't expecting this and it was a bit of a shock the first time. I remember thinking it was a bit like the mask Hannibal Lecter wears in Silence of the lambs, but after yesterday's scan I realised that my imagination had run a bit wild in the time gap. It's just a frame really, and it's about an inch away from your face. A bit claustrophobic, but if you close your eyes then you can pretend it isn't there.

The you get an alarm button in your hand and the bed is pushed into the hole. Then the fun starts. Everyone leaves to go into a room with a glass screen but they can still talk to you through an intercom. You have to try not to move and inevitable get an itchy nose immediately. Then you need to swallow, and your eyes won't stay comfortably closed - they flicker and you twitch. It's hard to relax and in the middle you find your shoulders are tense but you can't relax them as that might make you move...

It's a series of tests of varying lengths. Starting with ten seconds, and my longest one was 4 and a half minutes. The noises vary, some are like a washing machine whirring - this was what I was kind of expecting - but most of them are different to that. I was surprised by the electronic musical nature of the noise. It was like a cross between a rhythmic bass line to an eighties song and an annoying person repeatedly pressing the same key on an electronic keyboard - at top volume. There is clicking in there too, but it's very regular sounding, not random noises, so I find myself kind of counting along with it. Counting makes it go faster.

I didn't have contrast this time due to being pregnant, which made the scan much shorter. It made me feel a bit strange the first time but not as bad as the contrast for the CT scan. I wonder if they're the same and that was just in my head. Ha, in my head. Anyway, it isn't particularly pleasant but it isn't that bad and the benefits are obviously huge.

And that's it. Then they come and pull you out, remove earplugs and off you go. I really am not sure what I was making such a fuss about. Next stop - results.

Sleeping. Or, more accurately, not.

Warning: this post is a self indulgent rant. Formulated in my head over night and possibly (definitely) contributing to my inability to sleep.

I've always suffered from bouts of insomnia so this is nothing new. But since going back to work I need much more sleep than I did before surgery in order to function and concentrate properly. The effects of not sleeping are much worse now.

I found a great term in a trashy magazine at the hospital yesterday. It was an article about surviving 50 years of marriage, and mentioned "night rage" (as in, don't have it). I love this, my definition: irrational rage in the middle of the night aimed at any number of inanimate objects and / or unfortunate husband or cat. Something I could really learn from.

Last night was particularly bad and I found myself raging away. It isn't productive as I end up actively searching for things keeping me awake to add to the list. Plus the adrenaline caused by the outrage puts falling asleep into the realms of impossibility.

So my plan is to treat this as I would a work project. By exploring all the things that give me night rage, I can identify the ones I can do something about. Then do it. Then get some sleep.

Ok, let's go.

  1. Lack of curtains. Easily fixed you might think, but requiring decisions. Difficult ones! We have a huge bay window with shutters on the bottom half. The curtain pole we inherited was never fixed on properly when we moved in, and finally gave up the ghost about a month ago, so we took it off completely.

    The question is though, blinds or curtains? Or both? The other question is, curtain pole or rail? And the other one is, fix the curtain pole (or rail) to the wooden frame or to the wall? And how much would it need to stick out in order to allow the curtains to fit over the shutters? And how to measure it properly, given the bends needed for the bay? Also - what colour curtains?

    I am paralysed by indecision. And awake.

    In other news, there's a street light ideally positioned just outside to shine directly in ones face at a certain point in the bed And if you move to avoid it, then it reflects in the wardrobe door - directly into ones face. Also, the sun has a habit of coming up each morning, and since British pretend summer time started recently I think that's probably going to get worse.

  2. The bloody cat. In an attempt to find out if Oliver is allergic to said cat, she is no longer allowed in the bedroom. Plus, sometimes she makes this horrendous smell, which I won't go into. Not impressed by this turn of events, she has taken to scratching the bedroom door repeatedly in the dead of night. She even adds dramatic pause for effect, then starts up again. She has amazing stamina actually.

  3. The radiators. Since the new boiler incident about two months ago, the radiators make a clicking, groaning, straining, hitting-self-with-spanner kind of noise every morning. It's really irritating. I'm always just waiting for the next click.

  4. Being pregnant. Weeing. Or specifically thinking I need to wee when I know that I actually don't need to. Also, not being able to sleep on my front (preferred sleeping position for over 30 years) or back (in case of aorta-squashing). This results in major paranoia about whether I'm harming unborn child in my sleep, by depriving it of blood whilst merrily dreaming away. Ha. And another thing - heartburn. Sigh.

  5. People breathing. And turning over. How dare they? Actually I'm adding this in for effect as Oliver is away this week so he really can't be held to account. I can't hear him breathing from Germany.

  6. The bin men. Rudely awakening me (I know - I've used this already, and it isn't Wednesday). We have single glazed sash windows, which are lovely but not very good at sound proofing. Despite initial concern when we moved in about the level of outside noise, mostly it's fine. If an argument does happen to take place just outside our window, I generally find it quite easy to drop off to sleep again (plus it's quite entertaining).

    The bin men on the other hand, Jeez Louise. Do you have to make such a song and dance about it? Will that bin lorry rev any louder? Can you make more of a crashing sound with each bin, getting closer and closer with each crash and shout... then sloooooowly, further away down the street? Maybe if you dropped the bins from a bit higher up you could get more volume going on the crash, but frankly I doubt it.

    And what - is every day bin day now?

  7. The car alarm. I'm not sure it is a car actually, maybe a building somewhere opposite, but it goes off with alarming (ha ha) frequency. Only at night. See previous post when just out of hospital.

  8. This blog post. Gah. I've been composing this all night in my head, which has inevitably been keeping me awake. It's now almost time to get up. The radiators have stopped clicking, the cat has given up scratching, the husband isn't here, the car alarm isn't screeching and the bin men are long gone. Even the street light has gone out - although it is broad daylight.

    Perhaps my time would be better spent getting a doze in instead of ranting on my iPhone.