Sunday, June 19, 2011

Getting an MRI or What it feels like being Abducted by Aliens!

Had some more tests done to help figure out the reason for my recent onset of sudden double vision and thus found myself at the curiously named Tyler Open MRI.

I should have known something was up when while quietly sitting there waiting, a lady came out clutching her elbow and whimpering. She looked shaken.

I was the only person in the waiting room and with about 30 chairs available she made a beeline for the chair next to me. As she sat down she proclaimed in a hoarse voice that she never, ever want to go through that again. Up until that point I have deliberately kept myself ignorant of what exactly getting an MRI entailed. I went from squinting at the ceiling to horrified in 3 seconds flat! WHAT THE HECK WERE THESE PEOPLE GOING TO DO TO ME.

Minutes later a gentleman, build like the proverbial brick outhouse, came calling me. This did not help at all. Why does he need so many muscles, why did that lady clutch her lame elbow… is bone breaking involved? Dammit, I should have done some research!

After a cursory, your clothes are fine, leave all metal things in that locker over there and follow me, we walked past the WC and he asked if I need to go potty... (WHY????) Up until now I desperately avoided eye contact but he must have caught my bewildered look as he gently told me it takes about 40 minutes as it was quite a thorough test.

We entered a cavernous room and I laid eyes on the MRI machine. It was HUGE.

After receiving some instructions and getting ear plugs I was told to lay down on the bed thingy. My head was placed in a cradle and foam wedges were stuffed around my head, effectively immobilizing it. I saw Mr. Muscles talking to me, but I heard nothing, my imagination got a head start. Then he closed the cradle over my face, the bed started sliding deeper into the machine and at the same time it lifted.

Fighting off a panic attack I started feeling heat on my stomach and realized that I am right up to the ceiling end of the machine. No matter how I squinted, all I saw were a blur, it all looked like the same plastic as the head cradle. Then the most bizarre sounds started. Forty minutes of clanking, beeping and whirring, intersped with deathly silence, just to start again.

I felt thoroughly alone.

Afterwards I read that Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is a technique used in radiology to visualize detailed internal structures. An MRI machine uses a powerful magnetic field to align the magnetization of some atoms in the body, and radio frequency fields to systematically alter the alignment of this magnetization. This causes the nuclei to produce a rotating magnetic field detectable by the scanner—and this information is recorded to construct an image of the scanned area of the body. MRI provides  contrast between the different soft tissues of the body, which make it especially useful in imaging the brain, compared with other medical imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) or X-rays.

The noise I kept hearing was from the switching of field graients which caused a change in the Lorentz force experienced by the gradient coils, producing minute expansions and contractions of the coil itself. As the switching is typically in the audible frequency range, the resulting vibration produces loud noises (clicking or beeping). This is most marked with high-field machines and rapid-imaging techniques in which sound intensity can reach 120 dB(A) (equivalent to a jet engine at take-off).

This is the closest I have ever come to experience what it must be like to be abducted by aliens. Fantastic sci-fi noises, being prodded and probed while being restrained… having needled inserted etc. Oh, that turned out to be the reason for the elbow clutching. They inject you with some kind of contrasting agent… ofcourse you don’t see any of this, just feel hands searching for a good vein and the ‘ugh, not a good one’ as you feel the desperate mopping up of blood. After three tries he seemed happy and back into the machine I went.

By now I had a massive headache, nausea rising and cramping muscles. Desperately trying NOT to accidently squeeze the panic button placed in my hand as I did not wanted to prolong the experience or possibly cheesing Mr. Muscles off.

Finally, after what felt like hours, it ended and after being told that getting the results will take three days, I was unceremoniously let out... From getting off the machine to being in my car in the blazing Texas sun in under three minutes. Not even offered a cookie to calm my nerves.

Well, I drove my shaking behind over to BJ’s and drank the strongest 9% beer (haha, called an Arrogant Bastard, the beer, not me), I went home.

What an experience.

source: wikipedia

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