That Brain Scan

I had the MRI brain scan yesterday and survived the experience.

It was my second one – the first occurred quite soon after my brain haemorrhage so I was a bit confused about the details to say the least. This time round I was prepared and, I believe, fully conscious.

MRI means Magnetic Resonance Imaging and the machine is really a giant magnet shaped like a cylinder with enough space inside for a human being. You lie down on a bed which is then pushed into the heart of the machine with the ceiling inches above your head. So if you suffer from claustrophia you should try to control your panic or ask your doctor for some nice relaxing tablets.

When you are lying comfortably inside the steel cylinder, radio waves up to 30,000 stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field are sent through your body. There is a lot of noise – bumping and banging – and folk sensitive to magnetic fields can definitely feel that odd feeling which is a bit like being in front of the computer for too long.

The science, which I cannot pretend to understand totally, is about forcing the nuclei of the body’s atoms into a new position so when they return to their normal place they send out their own radio waves. These waves are picked up by the computer, such clever things computers, and turned into images. Impressive stuff.

I received written instructions from the hospital about what I could and couldn’t wear. No hair gel, eye make-up or metal jewellry. They obviouly thought I was a pierced Elvis imitator.

The woman ahead of me in the queue was having her ankle examined – something that would have sent Victorian gentlemen wild. She was not in there for long and I would imagine that this was a perfectly neutral experience for her.

I was next and I was already feeling the magnetic field going through my head like static electricity.

Lying down was the usual painful event – my fractured spine and the pulled torso muscles that I sustained during the brain haemorrhage still make movement uncomfortable. I was then inside the machine wearing ear plugs which took the edge off the noise.

I used a meditation technique that I practise in more comfortable surroundings to remove me from the scene but there was no avoiding the effects of the radio waves on my already disorientated and sensitive brain.

I know it is supposed to be painfree and harmless but, for folks with brain injuries, the combination of the radio waves and the vibrating sounds does link in with the already unpleasant side effects of brain haemorrhage.

Afterwards, hoping it was all over, I was surprised by how weak and giddy I felt. I had to sit down for a bit in the waiting room before making my wobbly way to a relatives’ flat which was fortunately nearby.

In all honestly it did take the rest of the day to recover and this was not something I expected. Maybe I am just an hysteric but I did feel pretty disorientated by the experience.

Don’t be put off though because it is a brilliant invention, the MRI produces images of the brain that are so much clearer than any other form of scan and it also avoids the possible dangers of radiation from X-rays.

I want to get a copy of my brain pictures for my wall – especially the one where you can see the whole of your brain and two very recognisable ears sticking out on both sides….and of course that spectacular star burst that was my brain haemorrhage.

So I now wait for the results – will they tell me that the haemorrhage has healed – it is now eight weeks since it happened – or will they have to take further action? I guess if I don’t hear from the doctors next week, I will be able to feel optimistic.

Next Saturday I shall have another scan. This time the EEG – Electroencephalogram – where I will wear an elegant skull cap covered with electrodes which will test me for epilepsy which, apparently, I could now suffer from after the haemorrhage. No hair gel for that either.

Heigh-ho! January should see the main diagnoses of my condition coming in to place…if I feel impatient, depressed or frustrated by the long recovery time, I should think of all those who do not survive this experience. Today, for instance, we are all thinking of John Travolta who lost his teenage son to the same thing.

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