Hospital appointments are a bit like buses. You wait ages for one and then three come at once. I have four lined up in September. Two are scans, one is a chat about the scans and the other is a chat about my mouth.
I had the first one this week which was an MRI of my head and neck. I have this every six months, so I know the drill. I guess the only thing I could compare it to is that it feels like is if you are a frequent flyer. You go through all the pre-flight security and checks first. Then you are immobilised for forty-five minutes to an hour. You wake up and are on your merry way. The only exception is that with flying, the stewardess doesn’t wake you up midway and inject you with dye. That would make flying a bit more interesting.
There are two hospitals in Nottingham and I have had MRI’s in both. In the larger of the hospitals, the Queen’s Medical Centre or QMC, the MRI scanner is enclosed. It feels like you are being rolled into a dark tunnel with your nose only centimetres away from the top. At the other hospital in Nottingham, City Hospital, you are enclosed, but it’s light and airy. You can take deep breathes and dream away.
My appointment was at City and according to the letter, it was in a temporary unit outside the maternity department. Mmmm. So, I made my way to the maternity department. There I was greeted by the sight of five heavily pregnant women walking round the circles with dressing gowns on. Husbands and partners were trying to help but they weren’t. A nurse appeared, so I asked her where the MRI unit was. She pointed to a gleaming white metal shed outside, opposite the entrance.
I went outside and the signs led me up a gangplank. Uncertain what lay at the end, I went up. At the end, behind some automatic doors, was a small, cramped reception area with no one in it. I stood by the desk and I could hear laughter. This happens quite a lot at receptions. There’s no one there but you can hear sounds of life, sounds of fun. It puts you in a bit of a dilemma. Do you want to stop the fun by announcing your presence? I was wrestling with this when the phone rang. Phew. A jolly looking receptionist appeared, smiled and answered the phone. After she finished the call, she asked my name and I was checked in.
Five minutes later a nurse appeared to run through the pre-flight checks. As the “M” is MRI stands for magnetic, these checks are mostly concerned with whether you have any metal inside you. You would be amazed with the amount of metal that could be secreted in you after an operation. Shunts, clips, staples, you name it. They all could be in you.
The nurse was visibly relieved when she found out that I had had many MRI’s. She didn’t really ask me why. But she was relieved and that was all that mattered. She gave me a gown to change into and said she would be back in five minutes to take me through. I hate hospital gowns. This one was the old style where you had to do it up at the back. Thankfully I could leave my jeans on so I wouldn’t be mooning anyone. Well not today anyway. After my struggle with the gown, I noticed a strange notice on the back of the door. It said that if you had changed into a gown, leave the door open a bit and a radiographer would bring you through. I opened the door about half an inch. Waited five minutes. Nothing. I opened it half an inch more. Still nothing. I did it again and got a response. So next time one and a half inches it is.
She took me to the scanner. There I lay down on a table and had a cage placed around my head. I was given headphones and a buzzer to press if I needed to stop the scan. The table then wobbled into a brightly lit scanner. On the cage was a mirror. The mirror is angled in such a way that you can see what is happening in the scan control room. They could be doing the Paso Doble in there. You can see it all in your tunnel. There is a series of loud clunks and the scan noisily begins. I love these noises. In a weird way because they are repetitive, they are very relaxing. I often get lulled to sleep.
After fifteen minutes or so, the noises stop. You hear a muffled voice. In the mirror, you see a nurse enter the room. You are wobbled out and the nurse prepares you to inject dye into you. This is so that any anomalies can be seen clearer in the scan. The cannulation went well this time but there have been occasions where I’ve had three plasters or four stickered on me thanks to failed attempts.
You are then wobbled back in for the final part of the scan. Sometimes the dye makes me feel a bit queasy. A few deep breathes usually cures this and I’m soon dozing away. After another fifteen minutes, it’s all over. You are wobbled out and told to drink plenty of fluids to wash the dye. So up you get, back into the world of circling pregnant women.