What It’s Like To Have A Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan
So, as you may or may not know, I have Multiple Sclerosis and have done for about fifteen years. I've been pretty lucky. I've been on a good medication that has an assistance program so I can actually afford it (without, it would cost about ten grand a year). It's easy to take and the medicine is working, because I haven't had what they call an "exacerbation" in years. But every now and then, you have to have one of these things done, to monitor your progress.
They're expensive, even with insurance.
Anyway, here's what it's like, if you've ever been curious. First of all, if you're not going at like 5 in the morning, what are you even doing? Go before the sun comes up. Make sure you use your GPS, because you're not going to the same place to have it twice. When you get there, take your best guess as to which building you need to go into and park up. Make sure to stop at the attendant's kiosk on the way in, so he can say "Good Morning" to you and nothing else. You need a moment to wonder what he's there for, after all.
When you get in, you'll immediately be lost and have no idea where to go. So what you should do is stand and look at the different colored elevator codes for about five minutes until a nice elderly volunteer points you where you should go. Check in with the nice lady with the scraggly hands and she'll know everything about your life in about two seconds. Then you get a nice sticker sheet and a fancy little plastic bracelet.
Now it's time to go upstairs to radiology. They told you to be there at 6:30 a.m., and it's 6:20 right now, so of course nobody's there yet. Take a few minutes to find the light switch and settle in, maybe you can play a game on your phone. Since you're the first one there, when the lady gets there, be sure to startle her with just your existence. After a few minutes, she'll take you back down some winding hallways you would never be able to navigate on your own while making awkward small talk about the weather. Then, it's time for a different waiting room!
Taking a few minutes to enjoy the generic nature photos on the wall will help prepare you. You can probably kill a little time by reading a comic on your phone. The nurse will come and take you back even further into the hospital catacombs, making you wonder if you could ever find your way around this place. At this point, you get a fun little locker to put your stuff in. Time to go in!
The nice nurse lady will put you on a little white table thingy, and ask you what kind of music you want to listen to. It doesn't matter what you choose because you won't be able to hear it. She'll get you a nice pillow thing for under your knees, some comically large headphones, and a special little cage for your neck and face. You're not supposed to move, so make sure you get the wiggles out now.
Here's the fun part. Now, you're going to go inside a big white machine and be surrounded by what feels like a large tube. She'll turn on music, but you'll barely hear it. If you're lucky, you'll hear Ariana Grande songs twice (the ones where she "samples" The Sound of Music and Nsync). The sound of the machine is.... somewhat difficult to describe. It's loud. It's a pulsing sound. Almost like a power drill. It'll be so loud, you'll feel the table shake. You'll do that for about a half an hour, so if you don't like being in enclosed spaces, tough luck. Although, they do give you a little ball thing you can squeeze if you need to get out or communicate. But really, the best thing to do is just close your eyes and try to relax.
When that part of it is done, you'll get ready for a contrast. What that is is an IV/Injection (not sure what it's called) they put in your arm so they can see the images better in your head and neck. It'll give you a taste in your mouth that's kind of like sucking on a nickel. After another eight minutes of the machine noise, you're done!
It's a little disorienting to get out of the machine, so be sure to nearly fall and embarrass yourself. The nurse lady will take you through the neverending halls again, back to the receptionist. She'll tell you someone will contact you in three days* or so and wishes you well. Now, it's time to go home.
So that's what it's like to have an MRI scan done. Or at least that's how it was with me. Have you ever had to have one done? What was it like for you?
*It was actually just a few hours later, Doc says everything is looking good.