My Experience with an MRI
I’ll be writing separately about the appointments I had last week. I finally have health insurance again, so there’s a lot of catching up to do, particularly with the new symptoms I’m experiencing (numbness and tingling on my left side which may or may not be lingering effects from the two hemiplegic migraines I had in the fall). I saw my neurologist on Thursday, which was not a great appointment, but after asking twice and loudly reminding him as he was hurrying out the door, I was able to get him to order an MRI of my brain.
Wanting to know about my memory loss
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging and tends to be a dreaded experience for many people, myself included, but the neurologists at the clinic where I had my clinical trials suggested I get a new one. I really don’t expect anything to be there. I had wanted one previously for years as I was concerned about the white lesions said to be left behind by years of chronic migraine. My big deal headache specialist told me that the lesions are not important and there was no reason to be concerned about them at all. But I wanted to know if I had them anyway because I’d been experiencing memory loss. I just wanted to know. But she wouldn’t order the test.
When I ended up leaving that practice and started searching for a new neurologist, I had an appointment with one who was a headache specialist and didn’t want to take me on because I was “too complicated.” However, he did order an MRI. I never received any information about it other than that it was “clear.” That was in 2014.
Nerves before the MRI
At my no-longer-new neurologist’s office, I filled out the form for the test. No metal implants. Yes claustrophobic. I now am lucky enough to have a tiny prescription for anti-anxiety medication, so the receptionist said I was to take it before going to the hospital. They were able to get me in the following week, January 31, today. Between then and now, I had a terrible ER visit, and I started to get really nervous about the test and asked my mom to accompany me so that I could take extra sedating medication.
I decided that I would write a detailed article about the MRI itself while it’s still fresh in my mind, for anyone who is facing getting one for the first time, or for the first time in ages.
Prepping for an MRI
The appointment was at 10:30. Of course, I woke up with a migraine so John agreed to take Zo to school. I took some meds and started removing all of my fourteen piercings, this time being smart enough to put them on a sheet of paper labeling which one goes where. My right tragus piercing hasn’t been able to come out for years so I attempted to cut the metal bar with my jewelry snips, basically wire cutters, and it wouldn’t cut so I did some googling. Apparently, the only metal that can’t go in the MRI machine is metal containing iron, which would include rivets on jeans and cheap basic metal. Cheap jewelry. All mine is stainless steel or precious metals, so I decided to not worry about the last piercing.
I had thought I would lie down some more and nurse my migraine, but I really didn’t have time. I dressed comfortably and drank some water to plump up my veins for the contrast. I took double my usual daily dose of my anti-anxiety medication (my prescription is for a very low dose). If you don’t have your own sedating medication, your doctor’s office will usually prescribe you something for one-time use. If you DO have your own, do not do what I did without talking to your physician.
Happily, I felt plenty relaxed when my mom pulled into the driveway. We were early, and I filled out more paperwork (“Did you remove all metal from your body?”) and waited for my coaster-shaped square to light up and vibrate. It looks just like the kind they used to give you at the Olive Garden when you were waiting for your table.
Getting as comfortable as possible for the MRI
When I went through the doors to radiology the nurse talked to me again about metal and had me change into a gown but leave my leggings and elastic-waist skirt on. I let them know I was ready and I walked into the big room with the long table and big round new-age looking circular thing. They immediately had me lie down with my head resting in the pillow-like circular rest and placed another pillow under my knees. I asked if I could leave my Salonpas patch on my forehead for my migraine, and they said absolutely as long as there was no foil in it, and asked if I wanted a washcloth for my eyes. I gratefully said yes – I could pretend I was somewhere else more easily that way.
Then they even asked if I wanted a blanket and again I said yes. They explained the contrast would be injected later and snapped some cushioned ear covers – like big old fashioned headphones – on my head. Some kind of plastic brace was snapped down over my forehead. I couldn’t really feel it and definitely couldn’t see it, but I knew it was there, and I couldn’t move my head. I suddenly remembered that for my last MRI I had brought my own CD to listen to.
The table made sort of a rattling lurch and slid back into the circular tube thing, though all I saw was the white of the washcloth. I felt my heart accelerating and reminded myself to take deep breaths. They’d given me a call button, which was reassuring. I heard a voice through the earphones/ear covers asking about music and I was relieved. I tried to think of something both easy and familiar to me, and reassuring, and the voice said they had satellite radio. “The Beatles,” I said. Definitely up there with my favorite comfort music since the year 1983. When it came on I felt better.
Clanking and rattling and then it was over
So, here we go, I thought. The clanking began and the table vibrated. It was louder than I remembered. There were long, protracted humming noises, and then pauses and then a different, louder noise would start. Clanking, rattling. It all went on longer than I thought it would. I heard “I’m So Tired,” “Hello Goodbye,” and I actually don’t remember what else. It wasn’t horrible, it wasn’t great. I am definitely glad I was sedated. At one point I actually jumped a little (probably more like a twitch) because there had been a longish pause and then it sounded like a bunch of huge rocks were being tumbled right around my head.
Then it was over and they slid me out and told me they were going to use a butterfly needle for the contrast. I was nervous about that because although I have no problem with needles or IVs I don’t like the idea of dye running through my veins. I felt the what was similar to the feeling of fluids being flushed, saline, but first colder and then warmer, and my tongue felt kind of thick. But it wasn’t too bad. And then more hums and clanks and vibrations and quite quickly they said I was done, and the table glided out. They told me to take all the time I needed. I sat up and saw that there wasn’t an IV in my arm, they’d just injected the stuff. So, I went and changed, and they walked me out and mom and I left.
And then I took a nap. And now I am still trying to get all my facial and ear jewelry back in.
If anyone would like to share their MRI experience, or ask any further questions about mine, feel free to do so in the comments.