2. Down the rabbit hole …

For those of you who have never had an MRI scan it’s a rather curious experience. For a start there can’t be any metal inside which means no jewellery, bra, shoes, zips or even elastic hair bobbles which have a metal join. Rather than strip off into a hospital gown it was suggested to me that I wear leggings and a jumper so that I could just take off my bra and shoes and this seemed more comfortable somehow.

I had my first scan whilst my leg was still numb although the feeling had started to come back and it didn’t feel as awkward. Much to my relief I hadn’t had any episodes of incontinence and my lady bits were starting to feel normal.

The scanner itself was a huge ‘thing’ with a narrow rabbit tunnel in the middle, so narrow that I worried whether my bum would actually fit inside. It made really odd noises, clanging and banging and releasing air as if it was breathing. If I hadn’t known better I’d have thought it was broken. (I did make enquiries, just to double check, and apparently the ‘breathing’ is normal and simply the cooling mechanisms …)

I was required to lie down on a narrow stretcher which emerged from the depths of the tunnel. I was given a rubber ball attached to a wire that I could squeeze if I needed to come out quickly. I held this in my clammy hand, firm enough to keep hold of it just incase, but gently enough so as not to look like a total wimp by pressing it before it had even started. I was given headphones to wear -partly to block out the noise of the scanner, partly so the radiologist could talk to me and partly so that I could listen to the radio! My knees were propped up by a triangular shaped wedge and my head held still by padding around it. The worst bit by far was the plastic frame which was then clipped into place over my head and face to keep it still.

The radiologist then disappeared and emerged behind a glass window in the adjoining room.

The stretcher slowly moved until I was swallowed up by the depths of the contraption like Alice down the rabbit hole, before coming to an abrupt stop. It was then and only then I opened my eyes. The top of the tunnel was about 6 inches from my face and despite rolling my eyeballs in all directions all I could see was beige plastic. No inner workings, no radio waves, no flashing lights, not even a selection of doors and a rabbit wearing a pocket watch. I was secretly relieved that my bum had fitted in although it was the closest thing I can think of to being in a coffin. But perhaps without the peace and quiet.

I’ve had three of these scans now and whilst unpleasant they are actually not that bad once I learnt to relax despite the claustrophobia, terrible clanging noises and the dreadful local radio that is played through the headphones at full blast.

Each one I have had lasted for about 20 minutes inside the scanner although that has been made up of shorter periods of actual scanning.

The results of the scan are absolutely amazing. Like your body in shades of grey with the skin removed. Cross sections from each side and as if looking down from above.

Following my first scan I saw a consultant neurologist for the results. By this time the feeling in my leg was pretty much back although it felt, and still does, weird, numb and pins and needly when I got hot or cold particularly when exercising. It felt amazing in comparison to how it had been and so I wasn’t actually that bothered.

The consultant showed me the scan pictures on his computer screen and I was amazed at how clear they were and how detailed. As one friend later said to me in good humour, “Wow that’s amazing. They actually found your brain.”

He then pointed out two small patches on the top of my brain which were slightly lighter in colour, like it was smudged. And one lighter and clearer patch on the spinal cord towards the lower part of my back. He explained that this patch was the probable cause of the numbness in my leg. “Oh, and what causes that then?” I casually enquired, still amazed by my insides. “MS” came the reply, equally as casual ….

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