What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What the Computer Screen Said

Went through the MRI yesterday afternoon. I spent a total of about 35 minutes crammed into the orifice of the machine. Even though it was the open MRI, there wasn't all that much space (mostly open on the sides, not so much top to bottom). First you have to answer lots of questions to determine if you have any metal in or on your body that may cause the machine to spark or do damage as the magnets go thumping around you. And then you remove anything that a strong magnet might effect, like credit cards and such. Fortunately we had a proto MRI when I was going to Akron, in the basement of our computer department. Several times a month they would fire that puppy up and anybody walking by the room was liable to have their watch fried. I knew to leave all of that stuff out in the car.

Then you lay on a slab, only slightly more comfortable than a metal table. They do have a pillow for your head. A small pillow. That doesn't really compensate for putting your head between a harness, which they add an extra chin piece after you're down. They did provide earphones and a choice of two radio stations. Because they were imaging my upper spine, the operator put a foam wedge under my legs which helped with the comfort. Then they give you a squeeze ball in case you panic. The operator reminds you that you're supposed to lay as still as possible, although normal breathing and swallowing is acceptable. And then they slide you in. That's when I closed my eyes and thought of England.

Well, no, I lie. Once the slab had stopped moving I did sneak a peak. The grey plastic roof was right there in front of me. No, really, probably not more than six inches away (and I think closer). Then we went through a series of starting moves. I selected which station I wanted to listen to (oldies rock, 'natch). And then a preliminary scan of about 30 seconds, so I could get use to the noise the machine makes.

And the machine makes noise. It makes several different kinds of noises. There's clanking and banging like someone is moving furniture, heavy furniture, just above your head. Then there's the ak-ak noise. This is like an AK-47 being fired just in front of you. That's not the loudest noise it makes, but it's the one I had to keep myself from flinching. I'm sure I lay there with little more movement than my breathing, but I swear each time that noise happened I must have squirmed a little. And finally, there's the noise like someone jackhammering right above you. No matter how loud I had them crank the music, it didn't block out those noises.

In the middle of it I did start panicking. I didn't squeeze the bulb, though. I worked through some mental imaging techniques. In my minds eye I convinced myself that the ceiling wasn't a few inches away, that I was surrounded by three feet of open space. It also helps that there's a speaker and mic nearby and the operator, or at least mine, would tell me just where we were in the sequence and what would happen next.

The longest scan duration was five and a half minutes. That one was almost all jackhammer sounds. The noise was so loud I could feel the pulses. Most scans sequences were two to four minutes.

In the end, I did open my eyes as the slab slid out of the machine. I didn't want not to do that. Because I knew I was moving out of the machine I did much better than I expected. Getting off the slab was the hardest part. Having lain on a hard surface that long, my shoulder didn't want to move. Much of my body didn't want to move and I had to convince it into motion.

Once out, they handed me a disk with the scan images and I headed home. I called my chiropractor to see if he wanted me to drop off the disk on my way home. He had the faxed report by then. There's some disk bulging, some reduced space between the C4-C7 area, and a few other things that slipped out of my head. As he said, no real red flags. He expects the orthopedic doctor to prescribe some industrial anti-inflammatories and that'll be it. Given what was on the fax, there wasn't anything unusual for someone my age.

How I'm going to hate that phrase, "for your age." When we had the x-ray, there were a few things, some spurs, some deterioration, etc. They were more progressed than normal, but within the acceptable range, "for my age." Sigh.

So here's hoping this pain goes away with the anti-inflammatory. Next I'll see what I can do to recondition my neck. There's probably not much, but I'm going to ask. I do not want to go through this again.

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