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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

MRI: Aligning Your Molecules

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI, to most of us) is a way to use your own body composition to analyze what’s going on inside you. A strong magnetic field aligns the hydrogen protons in your body and then radio waves knock them out of their aligned position. I’m not ashamed to admit that knowing my molecules are being messed with kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies.

MRIs are a great diagnostic tool and a way to detect cancer or the brain damage from dementia. When Jim had an MRI, they had to sedate him because of his claustrophobia. In fact, during one test, he pushed the panic button, and they took him out of the machine. It was the results of an MRI that let us know that Jim had brain atrophy.

I recently had an MRI to determine the cause of numbness in my fingers and pain in my arm. Based on the data gained from the tests the neurologist ran, the culprit seemed to be in my spine. The best way to look at it—an MRI. Surely, that couldn’t be as bad as needles poked into me at random places.

This was my second MRI. The first was about two years ago. I suffer from occasional bouts of vertigo that causes severe vomiting for the first day or two. I can’t walk without help because I feel like I’m on a ship caught in the middle of a hurricane. I went to the emergency room, where they performed an MRI to rule out a brain tumor. Thankfully, the MRI was negative—or as I described it to my family, “negatory” on the brain.

I don’t remember much about that MRI since I was a little out of it. It was a blur. I did remember the part about not having any metal, so in preparation for the latest MRI, I carefully removed my earrings and my rings before I left home. When I looked at my hands, I noticed my glittery metallic nail polish. Could the polish have enough metal in it to make a difference?  I was unsure, so to be on the safe side, I removed it. The bad thing was the ruby color came off, but I could still see metallic sparkles on my nails. Suddenly, I became obsessed with removing it. I did another round of polish remover, but the sparkles just seemed to shine brighter.

Okay, now what? I have a super-duper nail buffer that will remove anything. The trouble was, I wasn’t sure where to find it. It wasn’t in the tray where I keep my polish and other nail paraphernalia. So the hunt was on. Harold suggested it might be in my travel bag. Sure enough there it was! With a good buffing, all the metallic glitter was gone.

At the hospital I changed into a gown and they got me as comfy as possible on the narrow hard bed as they readied me to slide me in the tube. “What kind of music do you like?” the tech asked me.

“Soft rock,” I replied. They plugged my ears, put a thick cloth over my eyes, and placed the headphones on. They placed a “panic button” in my hand in case I needed to get someone’s attention.

“Would you like a warm blanket?” she asked.

“Sure,” I replied.

After I was all situated, they slid me into the machine and the clanking began. I knew to hold perfectly still because that was important. I forgot to ask how long it was going to take. I thought maybe ten or fifteen minutes. I listened to song after song as the machine clanked and hissed.

Suddenly, I noticed the hair on my head seemed to be moving. Even my eyelashes were being pulled. I thought about freaking out when my cheeks felt like they were being lifted, but I held out pretty well until my nose started itching. It can’t be much longer, I thought, as another song began. Just then, the machine sounded different. Whew, must be winding down. But no, it just seemed to start all over again.

Finally, by the time they pulled me out, I had stopped being hopeful when the machine quieted down. I didn’t realize I was out of the machine until they removed the headphones and took the cloth off my eyes.

“How long did that take?” I asked.

“Oh, about twenty-five or thirty minutes.” Sometimes it’s better if you don’t know how long something is going to last.

And to make matters even better for me, I never read about how my water molecules would be used to create a signal that would be processed to form an image of my innards. The magnetic coils are turned on and off which creates the noise of an MRI. The sound of the machine can be equivalent to a jet engine at take-off, hence the ear protection.

I guess MRI’s are pretty miraculous and it’s a whole lot better than the exploratory surgery they used to do to find out what was going on inside. But still, it’s a pretty weird experience and not one I’d want to do again soon.

Copyright © by L.S. Fisher Dec 2014

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