Friday, October 4, 2013

My first MRI experience...

During a recent annual physical, my physician asked me if I had any issues I wanted to mention. I said I have been getting headaches and a stiff neck for several months. She checked my neck and found the area on the let side swollen and tender. She recommended I have an x-ray taken of my cervical spine. I went later that day. It went well, but the weirdest shot was when I had to keep my mouth open to have an x-ray taken through my mouth to get the back of the neck.
  When the results were in a few days later, the doc said it looked like I may have some degeneration and maybe arthritis,but they wanted to know the full extent of it, so she suggested an MRI of the area. I have heard of people having MRIs done. My husband has done service on a few, but I had no idea what it was really like. That changed a week later. I was first offered a chance to have an open MRI done, which is good for those who are claustrophobic because it has on open side. I haven't had those tendencies, so I opted for a full scan to get a better picture of the area.
  My husband coached me what to do before and during the procedure. He had one done before, so he knew what to expect. I already knew not to wear any metal of any kind, due to the magnet. The entire machine is a huge magnet, hence the name, Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
  He said the machine was very noisy and clanged a lot,but I had to stay very still during the procedure or the scan would blur and we would have to re do the whole thing.
  I went in the waiting area, they asked me if I had any metal implants or pace maker,or any chance of metal being in my eyes. I answered no to each. I wore sweat pants without metal to avoid having to put on a jonny. An older man  called me from the desk, and asked me if I had any metal on. They are very overly cautious about this matter because it can be extremely dangerous if anyone did bring metal in the MRI room.
  He led me down a few halls and in to an area that looked like a loading dock. We stepped onto a large metal industrial size lift,like an elevator,which brought us up to the room before the MRI. I was surprised they allowed me to wear my sneakers that far,and to see metal objects in that area. I was getting nervous,but kept taking deep breaths. They explained what would happen during the MRI and that I needed to stay still. Also, I could let them know at any time if I needed to stop.
How I felt at the exam.
We walked into the room,it was quieter than I expected,but I wasn't in it, yet. They asked me what type of music I like, and offered a few options. I chose acoustic guitar. The machine was large,but I could only see the front part. I think there was a plexi glass window they could watch from. They showed me how to lie down, head first toward the tunnel. They placed a bolster under my knees and a blanket on my legs,by request. This was when I took my husband's excellent advice and closed my eyes. They placed a light weight on my chest to help me stay still and placed the MRI receiver over my head,but I didn't look at it until the end of the procedure.
 The table slid into the magnet and the technician asked me if I was ok. yes, I was as Ok as I was going to be at this point. They had given me a button to hold in case I needed to stop at any time.
 She said the first scan would be two minutes. The sound was loud,but not not deafening, but it did drown out the calming guitar sounds. I tried breathing normally,but not move. Challenging,but not impossible. I was trying to think of ways to distract my mind from thinking of having to stay still.
I still kept my eyes closed and envisioned my happy place,currently a fishing spot along the Connecticut River in NH. The noise disrupted my thoughts as a large power boat sped by,creating an awful wake.
 The grinding noise stopped and she said I could relax a minute before the next round. I listened to calming sounds of guitar playing over the speaker. She asked if I was ok, I was 'fine'. lol.
She said the next scan would be about four minutes. The soothing guitar strumming was over powered by sounds of loud beeps and other unknown sounds. Nothing moved, just a lot of sound. This time, I thought about the guitar music and imagined watching it being played in a remote, quiet place.
It was about this time my feet got restless. My feet like being free to move and shift and wiggle. This was not a good time for them to dance. At the end of four minutes,I asked if I could move them a little, the said ok,just don't move my neck or upper body. I shifted my knees a little and wiggled my feet, just enough to tell them to be still now.
 When I said I was set, she said the next scan would be about five minutes. I breathed deeply,tried to just stay calm and keep my eyes closed.It sounded as though I were in the back seat of a car in an auto body shop. Lots of sounds, but I knew I was safe. I decided to distract my mind by thinking of characteristics of God, by the alphabet. A= He is awesome, all powerful, amen, all present B= He is beloved, brilliant, etc. all the way to z. It didn't take all five minutes, so I did it a second time.
  When the five minutes were done, my legs were tired from trying to keep still. My knees kept wanting to shift the entire time, but I didn't want to start the procedure all over again.
 She again asked if I was ok, I said yes. And was 'rewarded' with her telling me this last set would take about seven minutes. Oh, great! The last set, but seven minutes seemed like fifteen this time. It still sounded as though I were in an auto body shop,with air tools whirring and motors running. Just the smell of oil and fuel was missing. My mind wandered and I tried staying as relaxed as possible, keeping my knees and feet still and my eyes closed. I added the time I was in there. 7+5+4+2=18 ,plus a minute or so between,= about 21 or so minutes.
 When the last scan was done, I opened my eyes. The receiver over my head looked like a small tent, not too close to my face. I could have had my eyes opened and not have had any problems, but I guess it was ok in  the end. My ears were so thankful, as well as my legs and feet. Yay, they could finally move!
 The technician said the results would be sent to my physician. The old guy brought me back to the waiting room to get my belongings out of the locker, and I was on my way.
 I called my physician a week later and was told the same results as the x-rays. There are signs of early arthritis and degeneration, but nothing major. Great,I went through all that for nothing? well, at least I can know what people are talking about when they roll their eyes when discussing having an MRI. It isn't painful, but is not something I want to do again any time soon.
  I went to a PT to find out what I can do to relieve the pain, and he gave me a simple exercise of rolling a towel behind my cervical spine and put it in different places along my back to loosen the spine. Not a very elaborate or difficult solution, but he said it would help alleviate some of the pain in my body.
  Have you had an MRI? What do you do when waiting for extended periods of time?
Feel free to leave a comment.
Grace and blessings,
Lori LC