Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How to Survive 20 MRIs

Last month, if my count is correct, I had my 20th MRI. And in those 20 MRIs, I’ve learned some valuable lessons that I feel I absolutely must share—lessons that will comfort you on your next tube adventure. Or lessons that will rattle you to the very core and make you shudder in anticipation of your next trip inside The Tunnel of Doom. You never imagine something is going to go wrong. Until it does. Oh, Geez.

Now I know what you are probably thinking: Dave is going to tell a story about how he once accidentally forgot to remove his barbell-style tongue stud and for 45 minutes his tongue, literally, was glued to the sidewall of the 3-Tesla machine (featuring a powerful open-bore magnet) rendering him speechless for the first time in his 47 years. And how it took three medical techs to extricate Mr. Bexfield’s tongue from said magnet by using a plastic knife and a pair of sporks from someone’s well-timed Burger King takeout. Ah, you’d be wrong. But close.

As an MRI aficionado—and one can call oneself an aficionado after shooting the tube nearly two dozen times—I’ve amassed an impressive MRI resume. I’ve experienced short MRIs (20 minutes) and long MRIs (1.5 hours). I’ve been in open MRIs and closed MRIs, weak MRIs and strong MRIs, and portable MRIs and permanent MRIs. I’ve gotten MRIs with contrast and MRIs without contrast. I’ve had spine MRIs and brain MRIs. But nothing prepared me for one fateful afternoon with Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong.

Now, there has always been one reliable constant during every imaging session: that telltale MRI siren call, a racket akin to a cross between whales mating, a symphony of jackhammers, and a pig stuck in a well. Chk, chk, chk, EEE, EEE, EEE, UHH, UHH, UHH, D’OH, D’OH, D’OH. Fortunately, some MRI facilities offer entertainment to keep your mind off all the incessant whale/jackhammer/pig clattering, usually in the form of music (I’ve even watched several feature-length films, how trick is that?!, but that’s not typical).

For one of my MRIs, I made the decision to select a Dido CD, Life for Rent. It seemed like a genius choice at the time—soothing, but not too soothing, with enough defiance to resonate with someone who has multiple sclerosis. The first track: White Flag, a song about not surrendering, not giving up. Perfect… until 30 seconds in, when disaster struck, my own personal tongue-stud catastrophe. Yup. The CD started to skip.

I had a choice between two terrible options. I could squeeze the “emergency” bulb to signal the MRI tech that there was a problem, potentially triggering an urgent rush to aid a patient in distress, shutting down the MRI, and delaying every poor individual after me—all over a skipping CD. Or I could suck it up for 20 minutes. You don’t all need to call me a hero, but I wasn’t going to raise that white flag. Oh, hell no. I bravely took one for the team.

After my harrowing experience, I was presented with the Dido CD. It hasn’t skipped since.
Now if you are reading this post because you really wanted practical MRI advice for someone with MS, I actually do have a few good tips. Pee first (but not too early, wait until you’ve been called back), make sure you are hydrated (enough) if you need to get poked for contrast, don’t wear anything metal (rings, earrings, glasses, tongue studs), be as still as possible (well, duh), close your eyes (unless you can watch a movie), mentally chillax if you are claustrophobic (there may be some pharma solutions), and smile when you think of this post. Oh, and be thankful Dido isn’t starting the same song over 1,832 times.

21 comments:

Unknown said...

Made me smile Dave! So many of us can relate to your MRI experiences, but you got me with the CD. 😊

Dave Bexfield said...

Smiles make me happy. And to avoid skipping CDs, these days I go with Pandora.

MadisonSKS said...

Very funny! I was told during my first MRI ages ago not to swallow. Since once of my early MS symptoms was an inability to swallow my own spit, no problem. Hah! Total freakout moment.

At one point I used MRI time to nap - now they do them too fast. 😞

I practice math facts.😇

Dave Bexfield said...

Madison, math facts without swallowing?! You must be a superhero.

Sarah said...

OMG, the bathroom advice is necessary... I can tell a horror story about that... And pharma options are brilliant!!! Love my meds... But the swallowing thing has put me in to major panic mode...

Dave Bexfield said...

Ha, Sarah, I've never been told to not swallow in all 20 of my MRIs. I wouldn't worry about it. Or worry about endlessly, OMG! ;)

Susannah said...

This is funny! I never open my eyes - from the minute I lay down on the chute to the minute they pull me out of the machine. I did my first 15 or so MRIs sans drugs. "Gave in" and took Xanax for the past few years - best decision I've ever made, now I sleep thru the whole thing!

Dave Bexfield said...

Susannah, once I asked for a cloth to put over my eyes just so I wouldn't accidentally open them and see that I was inches away from the machine. It worked!

debbie said...

I've had probably 12 MRIs in the past 4 years, and I'm so claustrophobic I did the panic button thing for the first few of them. Now I make sure to drug myself out on 10mg of valium haha! Even then, I have to keep my eyes shut the ENTIRE time or I start to freak out. Mine are pretty long--always over an hour--but pharma definitely helps me. My worst relapse left the right side of my body almost paralyzed for a couple weeks, and my scalp was so numb/tingly that it was itching like CRAZY. Like as if I had chicken pox through my hair. I had no idea how I'd get through a long MRI with my head as itchy as it was, so I looked up solutions and found the most random one ever--vick's vapor rub. I tried it and it totally worked. I slathered my head and neck in it and it made the itch go away. I'm sure I disgusted the techs with all the menthol, but whatever, I was able to get through the MRI haha!

Dave Bexfield said...

Debbie, I can only imagine what the techs were thinking when they got a whiff of your Vick's. Clever trick!

MadisonSKS said...

I should clarify in case I've panicked anyone, they no longer tell you not to swallow during an MRI - or, at least no one has said that to me again after the first one.

And, Debbie, thanks for the Vick's tip! I've got intense itching on the right side of my scalp and the outside of my upper right arm - keep thinking I have lice or shingles or plain old hives but there is nothing there. I've got Vick's on order! Thank you!

Steve Berlin said...

Ahh, the MRI. Always a good time to catch a nap. Last time I got one, wasn't too bad. Got to listen to a Nats game!

Dave Bexfield said...

Steve, if that happened it me, I might prefer to be stuck in the tube. Hate to miss a good Nats game. But what's up with Harp? Probably thinking too much. I've never done that, noooo.

Stevo said...

I just had maybe my 20th mri in the last 10 years. This one was a neck and spine taking 1.5 hours. They don't have the option of music or anything. I wish! They told me I absolutely cannot swallow during each scan of 3-10 minutes or they have to start over. That's not usually a problem for me but when they told me I can't suddenly I need to!
Relaxing was hardest part and I realized my whole body was tense until I tried practicing this relaxation technique someone told me about long ago. Relaxing one body part at a time - my foot, leg, arm, back, focusing just on that part and I found that could actually dose off for a while. It still wasn't easy but at least survivable. Drugs weren't an option cause I had a 3 hour drive to get home afterward. Music would be awesome.

Dave Bexfield said...

Stevo, that swallowing thing is just strange (old school tech, maybe?). But good relaxation technique suggestion. I'll try that next time!

KeniA said...

Pharma has been nixed as an option for me. Sigh, apparently when given Valium my already questionable "edit" broke and I was a bit to opinionated and vocal in the waiting room. I remember entertaining most of the people in the waiting room, but alas my ride was unimpressed.

Jeanne Novello said...

I once had a 4 hour MRI. I will never do that again. I had to stop and go to the bathroom in the middle.

Dave Bexfield said...

Oh no, KeniA. And double oh no, Jeanne! Four hours?! Yikes. That sets a record in my book.

Kacey said...

Thanks for making me smile at work today. I’ve been in a few MRI's, myself. I’ll keep this story in mind in the future. In my last MRI, I was able to choose a radio station to listen to. I chose classical to relax. I didn't realize until the MRI started that they’re in the middle of a fund-raising drive.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I think I've had about 14 MRIs so far, and I feel like I am becoming the MRI expert. ;) Lately, I've been getting brain and cervical spine MRIs, and I can get them both done in about an hour. Here's what works for me...
1) I make sure the tech tells me how long each sequence is going to last. This way I know for how long I have to lie completely still, and when I can finally wiggle my toes again or move my arm. The more you move, the more re-takes they'll have to make and the longer you'll be in the scanner. The tech checks in with me over the speaker after each sequence.
2) I ask for a warm blanket. It can get pretty cold in the machine, and a warm blanket keeps me warm and helps me to RELAX... and sometimes fall asleep. :)
3) A couple of times I was able to have music, but at the radiology center I frequent, they only give me ear plugs. Not entertaining, but at least they "help" to drown out the loud clicking and banging.
4) I ask for pillows for under my knees. Helps with lower back pain.
5) Only during the last scan was I told not to swallow. (Maybe old school tech?) It turns out that they don't want you to swallow while they are doing your cervical spine (only). If the tech tells you when he/she is scanning your neck and how long each sequence is going to last, this shouldn't be too much of a problem. (Assuming you don't have difficulties with swallowing.)
6) The center offers free water bottles and I make sure I get at least 2 to flush out all the contrast after the scan.
7) I ask for copies of all my scans while I'm there. Harder to get them after the scan.
** All these tips aren't from a person being high maintenance! ;) I learned that they offer all of this stuff - you just need to know that it's available. And honestly, they will help you get in and out as quickly as possible. The last tech was so glad that he didn't have to do any re-takes and was able to go home early. So was I! :)

Dave Bexfield said...

Great tips, Anon! I've never asked for my scans while at the facility, but that is a fantastic idea...