Friday, September 26, 2014

MRI: Important Diagnostic Machine or Torture Chamber?

I have mixed feelings about MRIs. Actually, that’s not quite true. I have several strong feelings about MRIs, mostly fear and loathing.

At a rational level, I understand that some nice, technologically advanced MRI identified my brain tumor and enabled all the wonderful follow-on treatments I received.

Emotionally, though, I still get the heebie jeebies before and during every MRI. 

For starters, every time my sixth month MRI check-up pops up on the calendar, it reminds me that, yes, I still have some unreachable and un-removable brain tumor remnants left in my head. And, those remnants might just decide to wake up some day and wreak havoc with the rest of my brain.

When I climb into a MRI machine and am locked in, I somehow get the foreboding notion that this is what it feels like to be in a coffin and have the lid nailed shut. 

And when I get especially paranoid, I wonder if the medical technicians aren’t experimenting with one of those new combination coffin maker-grave digger gadgets. If I remember correctly, those machines dig their own holes and fill the dirt back in automatically – putting lots of scary-looking grave diggers out of work and saving funeral homes lots of time, money and effort.

If, of course, you have some strange thought of trying to calm your nerves during the ordeal by meditating during the MRI, you must be completely deaf or live in Colorado and be smoking some newly legal marijuana, because the noises inside the MRI should wake up the dead, let alone distract anybody trying to meditate. I say "should" because I haven't seen any zombies walking around in the nuclear medicine department ...although I haven't looked all that closely at all the technicians.

I described the cornucopia of reactions I had to my first MRI in Chief Complaint, Brain Tumor - - and have excerpted it here:

“... the doctor recommended that I have a magnetic resonance imaging (“MRI”) test. For the uninitiated, MRI tests are normally scheduled for folks who have something lousy going on inside.

To take an MRI, you go to a lab hidden deep in some medical facility where they store the really high-powered medical equipment. Over in a corner you’ll probably see a lab technician peering at a backlit green screen that reminds you of the sonar technology they must use on a nuclear submarine.

You are instructed to take off all your jewelry (this took about a nanosecond) as the technician asks you questions like, “Do you have any metal in your body?” “Have you ever had a joint replacement using metal?” “Does being enclosed in very small space and having abnormally loud sounds clang and bang around your head drive you berserk?”

While I may be wrong, I think that no matter what your answer is, you are then told to lie down on a cloth-covered surfboard at a perpendicular angle to the MRI. It’s so the technicians can easily slide you into the machine and bombard you with x-rays. I’m just guessing on the kind of rays, they could be beta rays for all I know. (Actually, I was hoping that they weren’t beta rays because, as everybody who’s ever worked in software knows, the “beta” version is pretty iffy stuff.) After you lie down, the technicians strap you down and quickly run out of the room. 

No, it isn’t reassuring.

The machine started and the vibrations reminded me of some large ship leaving port. It began as a low hum that pulsed and shook. Abruptly, the promised clanging and banging commenced at erratic and irregular intervals. It felt as if something was really wrong with the machine, like maybe they forgot to add oil during the last seventy-five-thousand-mile overhaul or the thing needed new brake pads.

While I half-expected the MRI to explode or shoot me out the front like torpedo, it didn’t.

And I walked away thinking, “Boy, I’ll bet I won’t have to do that again.” Little did I know that I should’ve quickly joined the MRI frequent scanner club for the “points.”

Copyright: <a href=''>leventkonuk / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Copyright: <a href=''>fergregory / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


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