For those who are claustrophobic, having an MRI scan can be a pretty traumatic experience. Likewise, for those who have no idea what’s wrong with them, having an MRI scan is a pretty terrifying experience. And for those who, like me, have precious piercings that are virtually impossible to remove – an MRI scan is a right pain in the bum. I arrived for my 5th MRI scan knowing that my head would be uncomfortably clamped into place, that the radiographer would find lots of little grey patches all over my brain and that I was perilously close to losing my triple forward helix*.
Having got over the first hurdle (the inexcusable grumpiness of the receptionist), I sat in the waiting room staring at a sign that read, ‘To avoid delays please remove all piercings, watches and belts now’ (MRI uses seriously strong magnets…). I sat there nodding away to myself; I’d come along without my belt, I’d removed all my rings, my bangles, my necklace, even my make-up (apparently the glitter interferes) – that just left The Piercings. I knew I could manage my lobes, my tragus and my nose but the triple forward helix was another matter entirely. After a lot of drama at my scan last year I’d had to use gloves to help me get some sort of a grip, so I tentatively approached the sour faced receptionist and requested a pair of gloves. Gloves successfully obtained, I managed to remove all but one of the jewels. Don’t panic, I told myself – someone will be on hand to help, preferably someone who doesn’t suffer with numb fingers like me… But of course they are not allowed to help, so I was instead given 2 pairs of giant surgical tongs that I was to fasten around the metal and yank. Had I not been causing costly delays for the NHS I think the nurse and I could have had a real good laugh at my cack-handed and feeble attempts – it was literally impossible. The next step? A trip to A&E to have the stud cut out. No flippin’ way! I already felt truly awful for causing a delay, the idea of wasting more time and resources in A & E horrified me; after all, this scan was not that urgent.
After some time a nurse came back to me and said that my scan had been moved to a weaker machine, that way we could leave my piercing in and continue with the scan, BUT I had to be aware that the image may not be as clear if the metal interfered, AND my piercing could potentially heat up and cause severe burns to my ear. I sat there contemplating this, were these really risks worth taking just to confirm what I already knew – that I had MS and probably a few new lesions to boot?! Ever the daredevil (ahem), I decided to simply shrug off the risks and waltz myself into the scan room. Let’s do this.
Many of you reading this will be familiar with the sonic treat awaiting me – the cacophony of crazy-ass sounds that you’d expect to find in some kind of artsy experimental audio installation in an art gallery somewhere; sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in an avant garde sci-fi flick. A series of electronic beeps and bleeps and knocks and bangs. Dots and dashes. Metal on metal – hammering so loudly it penetrates even the most extreme padding that has been put in place to protect your ears. It’s a surreal experience, and an uncomfortable one at that – especially when you add the ‘cage’ that they place over your face and the eerily slow movement as you’re inserted into the giant, alien monster-machine.
I survived the scan, as did my ear – which didn’t fall off.
On leaving I asked the radiographer if I could take a photo of my dinosaur having a scan for my blog – Looking at the picture I’ve posted I think you’ll have a fair idea of his response…
*A super trendy triple piercing on the upper inner ear.