Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Yesterday was the long-awaited day for my MRI.

I'm not going to tell you about the more unpleasant parts because I don't think such stories are helpful. I heard all sorts of MRI-stories during the last few months and none of them did a lick of good; they were either single anecdotes of things gone wrong or alarmist stories about extremely rare complications, neither of which improved my mindset at all.

The only pre-MRI lessons that WERE useful were the ones that said that getting dye injected into a joint is not a pleasant experience. They were right, and I'm glad I knew this so I could mentally prepare myself; if I'd gone in expecting a painless procedure I would have been terribly shocked.

As for the MRI itself, I imagine that everybody has a different experience. It was an absolute nightmare for me, but that's because my arm needed to be positioned in exactly the way it CAN'T go: twisted around with its palm facing upward. They even put a sandbag on my elbow to keep it that way. Thirty minutes later, staring up at the ceiling just two inches above my nose, every second that passed was another second to seriously consider pressing the emergency "stop" button; it felt like somebody had stuck a fork into my shoulder and was twisting it out of sheer vindictiveness. I'm still paying for the forcible relocation of my joints that was necessary for the procedure.

One thing that kept me going through both the injection and the scanning was the realization that as bad and endless as all this was, it probably wasn't HALF as painful or interminable as childbirth...and what's more, the end result of childbirth is the ultimate punishment of actually being PRESENTED with a child. At least I'd get something GOOD out of the procedure. My mother confirmed this but still meted out some much-appreciated sympathy on the way home.

I feel sorry for the doctors, nurses, technicians, and volunteers. During these procedures their jobs are to put you through varying degrees of unpleasantness. I felt like a dog going to the veterinarian, the unthinking dog part of me screaming "No, no, just stop it!" and the owner part of me saying "It's necessary and it will be over soon."

Again, everybody's experience is different. Mine was so bad because of the nature of my injury, apparently.

I did in fact wear a blue hospital gown that was open in the back. I spent some time chatting with a wonderful volunteer whose primary role is to calm people down; volunteers, you are golden. The old man ahead of me whose hip was being evaluated was a particularly good sport: he referred to his walker as his "Cadillac," and when the pretty nurse told him to take his trousers off, he said "You've got a wonderful technique, haven't you?"

As an aside: Why is it charming when feeble old men say sexual things to young ladies? I think it's because there is absolutely no hint of threat in their comments -- if this guy had tried to actually cop a feel the nurse could have simply pushed him over -- and also because we assume these men are impotent, and that -- therefore -- their comments are largely self-deprecating. When an old man says such a thing he is REALLY saying "Ahhh, I'm beyond all that now." And somehow that's cute, and we feel sorry for them.

Anyway, my MRI is done and I hope it shows something useful. In the meantime, if YOU are going to get an MRI which involves a dye injection, simply be aware that it WILL hurt a lot, and that it WILL end, and that going through a couple days of pain is better than a lifetime of reduced mobility.

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