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First MRI (grumbling about trifles)

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Oct. 9th, 2008 | 10:26 am

Well, that was interesting. 

My MRI was scheduled for 6:45 am, so the sky was just beginning to turn from black to deep indigo as I made the short (15 minutes - aren't I lucky?) drive to the hospital where they have the MRI center.  A cloudless sky, and what a beautiful color.  When I started to notice the vision loss in my right eye two years ago, my first terrified thought was that I was going blind.  But so far my left eye hasn't been affected, and indeed the first eye doctor told me that vision in that eye has actually improved since my last eye exam three or four years ago.  So hopefully whatever else is going on, I'm not going completely blind.  At least not right now.

I wanted to keep this illness, whatever it is, completely a secret, but I just haven't been able to.  I did tell my best friend.  I really didn't want anybody to know.  I'm a little sorry that I told my friend.  She's been great, but I sort of wish I could go back to her not knowing.  I don't know why I couldn't keep it entirely between me and my doctors, but I just couldn't.  Just weighed too much on my mind to keep it to myself, I guess. 

Then I spilled a little of it to one of my friends at work.  She's had to have a few MRI's after she had a mini-stroke last year.  I asked her not to tell anybody, and then I told her I was having an MRI, and asked her what I could expect.  (I didn't tell her what the MRI was for.  She asked, but I kept my answer vague.  "They saw something they didn't like in my eye exam" I told her.)  She told me that they place where she goes lets you keep your street clothes on.  Oh good, I thought in relief.  At least I won't have to wear one of those horrible ridiculous infantalizing humiliating drafty hospital gowns.  

I know you can't wear anything metal.  I don't wear jewelry, not even a watch, so that wouldn't be an issue.  I made sure I wore a bra that's all elastic: there's no metal at all, no hooks, no snaps, nothing.  I wore a t-shirt with not so much as a button.  I didn't wear a belt.  My pants had a zipper, but I read about people getting MRI's wearing regular pants with zippers and only having to take their belts off, so I thought that would be okay.

Then I met my technician.  "Have you had an MRI before?" he asked.  "No, this is my first time" I told him.  "Okay, I'm going to have you take off all your clothes except your underpants and put on these" and he handed me a pair of (men's?) hospital pants with a drawstring waist and an open fly and a hospital gown with a torn shoulder seam.  At least the gown was long enough to cover the open fly, and it had a flap to wrap around the back so you weren't all exposed and drafty back there.  But why were they making me wear this stupid crap?  I was nervous enough already - why did I have to wear an outlandish and uncomfortable get-up that seemed expressly designed to make people feel even more vulnerable?  And why did I have to wear this when my friend didn't have to?  The drawstring was tied in a knot, and I had a hard time getting it untangled.  It was taking me longer that my technician expected.  "Are you all right in there?" he asked.  "It's these ridiculous clothes!" I blurted out in frustration.  I finally came out, grumpy and ill-tempered, swathed in a grotesque outfit that seemed to be made of warped paper towels.  My technician seemed taken aback, almost as if I'd hurt his feelings.  What, nobody has ever complained about this before?  Or are the patients just not supposed to complain at all about anything?  "Why don't they just make the pants with an elastic waistband?"  I asked him mildly.  "I don't know" he said. 

The MRI itself was actually kind of interesting.  I knew it made what I'd read described as "loud thrumming sounds", but I didn't know that it made all kinds of different sounds throughout, almost as if it were having some kind of electronic music - science-fictiony conversation with itself.  Sometimes it even harmonized.  I hate needles, so I was a little concerned about the injection, but I barely felt it.  I'm not claustrophobic in the least, so lying inside a tube didn't bother me.  I had a good-sized pillow for under my knees, so I was comfortable, and holding still wasn't a problem either. 

I was just nervous thinking about what might be wrong with me, and what pictures the MRI was making of the inside of my head.  I found myself willing it to be a thyroid problem.  "Thyroid, thyroid, thyroid" I kept hoping.  Something is constricting the back of my left eyeball and preventing it from normal rotation.  Something has choked off the optic nerve and caused it to atrophy.  At least that's my understanding of it.  Hey, no worries, relax, it's just something with my thyroid, I thought again hopefully.  I directed what I hoped was healing energy at my thyroid.  I don't even know where my thyroid is, but I sent it good healing thoughts anyway.   I thought about the muscles at the back of my eye, and I tried to tell them to relax too.  "Ev-er-y-thing, is gonna be all right, rockaby, rockabye-eye-eye" I soundlessly hummed inside my head.  I found myself doing deep soothing belly breathing.  Oh no, I worried, this is gonna make my head move, I'm supposed to be holding it still.  I tried to breathe more shallowly, but once I started on the belly breathing, I couldn't stop.  Oh well.  If my head moves, my head moves.  He'll let me know.

I guess my head didn't move, because soon it was over and he told me I did "just great".  I was sorry I'd thrown him off with my comment about the hospital clothes, so I complimented him on his needle technique.  "Oh, thank you" he said warmly.  "We do try - we use the smallest needles -" he said.  "But have you ever had to wear this get-up?" I asked him.  He looked startled, and didn't answer me directly.  "It's because you can't wear any metal" he said.  "But I specifically wore a bra that's all elastic, it doesn't have any metal at all" I said a little peevishly.   "Oh, well, the zipper in your pants" he floundered.  "Next time if you want to wear sweats, something without a zipper, you won't have to change" he said, trying to be helpful. 

Oh, fer cryin' out loud!  NOW you tell me!!!  Why can't they let newbies know ahead of time?  You're going for an MRI, you don't know what's wrong with you, you've never had one before, maybe you are claustrophobic and had to have sedatives in order to get through it at all, you're nervous and uncomfortable under the best of circumstances - don't you think it might help people feel a teensy little bit more at ease if they could wear their own comfy clothes and not some backless, crotchless horror that only emphasizes their helplessness and vulnerability?  Don't you think it would be helpful to let first-time patients know so that they could come dressed appropriately?  Don't you think it would be helpful to sick and/or nervous people to give them a choice over which they can exert some measure of control?  I mean, DUHHH!!!!!! 

I'm sure this sounds so trivial as to be not worth bothering about, and that's why it hasn't been seen to.  But having to wear that awful outfit was ridiculously distressing to me.  Something as simple as wearing sweats (or having had the presence of mind to object and start asking questions when I was told to take off my non-metal-containing top when as it turns out I really didn't have to) would have made a big difference to me.

The nice thing is, they do care about the quality of your experience there.  They give you a feedback form with about twenty questions and a space at the bottom for more comments.  So I suggested that they let people know about the clothes thing so they won't have to wear hospital issue if they dress appropriately coming in.  Just two lines in writing at the bottom of the rest of the info they give you, that's all it would take.  Such a small effort to make such a big difference to nit-picky over-sensitive excessively modest wimps like me.              

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from: befers
date: Oct. 9th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)

I obsessed about seemingly trivial things, too, when I was first going thorugh MRIs and getting my diagnosis. I think it's our mind's way of not focusing on what's really bugging it, which is the fact that there could be something seriously wrong.

On this day, especially, may you be written into the book of life.

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from: polyannna
date: Oct. 10th, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)

your comment moved me to tears.

thank you,

may you also be inscribed in the book of life.

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