For many, an MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging scan can be a very new experience if you’ve never had one before. For people with Multiple Sclerosis or MS, it is crucial to have an MRI scan often to check on the lesions in your brain and spinal cord to see whether treatments are effective at […]
For many, an MRI or Magnetic resonance imaging scan can be a very new experience if you’ve never had one before. For people with multiple sclerosis or MS, it is crucial to have an MRI scan often to check on the lesions in your brain and spinal cord to see whether treatments are effective at reducing them. This is supposed to help our neurologists decide how best to care for us.
During my time in the hospital during diagnosis, I was fed into various boisterous, buzzing, machine monsters that I’d only ever seen on hospital dramas like Grey’s Anatomy. I had no idea what they were and the hospital staff didn’t exactly calm my nerves.
I remember the first MRI I had like it was yesterday. The MRI scanner was in the car park (yes, you read that right – the car park!) and I was wheeled down there by a porter who looked younger than I was (I was 22 at the time). Seeing the scanner was a strange first experience and my anxiety was through the roof just walking through the door.
Read about how MRI scans are used to monitor multiple sclerosis here.
I remember lying down on the bed about to be fed into the scanner. The radiology team placed a high cushion under my knees, a squeezy ball thing in my hand and covered my ears with headphones. The radio was on and playing my favorite song – nice! Then it got a little weird. They slotted my head (with headphones still attached to my ears) between two pieces of stiff foam and placed a cage over my face. ‘Ok?’ I thought. I was super confused with what was happening but trusted they knew what they were doing.
I have to say I’d never felt so claustrophobic in all my life. I shut my eyes. Tight.
“We just need to inject you with some contrast so we can see what’s happening.” The nurse who placed the headphones on me mumbled. I’ve had contrast a few times now and only ever had one bad experience when a nurse didn’t inject it properly.
“There will be some loud noises, don’t worry, squeeze the ball if you need us at any point.” They grumbled through the headphones sounding bored as if they’d already said it 1,000 times that day.
I felt the bed drift backward as it was fed into the machine. Low rumblings started to begin. I focussed so hard on the music playing through those headphones. My eyes still tightly shut. A feeling of electric-type pain started shooting through my limbs as I grew more stressed. That was one of my symptoms at the time – no pain from the machine.
This angry machine monster groaned and jutted. It was like being in the engine of a jet plane. It was so loud – even with the headphones. Every, so often I’d hear. ‘Two minutes for the next one’. ‘This one will be 10 minutes’. ‘Another 3 minutes’. ‘How long is this going to go on for?!’ I wondered. For the first one, I think I was in there nearly two whole hours.
I’ve never wanted to scratch my nose more in all my life. When you suddenly have access taken away or you’re told to not move, it’s amazing how much you want to scratch your nose or cough or sneeze. I almost always have some kind of muscle tremor causing me to jilt ever so slightly.
‘Sorry, I think you moved on that one we’ll have to do it again.’
‘Dammit,’ I thought with a sigh and an eye roll (under my still closed eyes).
I kept telling myself, ‘focus on the music, count the sounds, it’s not for forever’.
Do you do that too? Count the sounds I mean? I know a lot of people who do. It really helps to calm your nerves.
When it’s finally over they pull you back out and take everything off of you; The cage, the headphones, the cushions. Your eyes blink repeatedly to adjust to the bright lights. Every time I think it would be so nice to come out of an MRI scanner and be greeted by a pina colada. Hasn’t happened yet though. Fingers crossed for next time.
They’ll never tell you the results there and then. They’ll instead send them to your neurologist to have a look at and either call you about them or discusses them with you in your next appointment.
At the end of an MRI, I like to give myself a treat. Most often it involves picking up a pizza on the way home. My favorite.
Do you have a favorite treat for after appointments?
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