On Friday I had to have an MRI scan on my knees. I don’t know if you’ve ever been subjected to an MRI scan but if you haven’t I can assure you there are much better ways to spend your time. I was dreading the appointment because about a year ago I had my first MRI scan, also on my knees.
During the scan, which lasts about 20 minutes on each bit of you that is to be scanned, you have to lie extremely still and if you don’t quite manage it then the technician will come out from his little technician pod and he will tell you off a bit, getting increasingly miffed each time he is forced to emerge if you are a repeat offender. I was. I really couldn’t help it though. The room was very cold and so I was shivering and no matter how much I tried (and I did) and no matter how much I thought I was keeping absolutely motionless (and I did) every ten minutes or so the technician would abort his attempt at scanning me, leave his little technician pod and come into the scanning room to tell me that I was STILL moving and could I possibly try and lay still? I told him I was trying but he didn’t seem convinced. I explained that I was cold and so he gave me a thin blanket but at this point I was so cold it was going to take much more than a thin blanket to warm me up and stop me from shivering. Eventually he told me in an exasperated tone that if I wasn’t going to lie still then he would just have to do the scan as well as he could and that if the results were indecisive then we would know who was to blame. Oh dear.
And so the thought of this year’s appointment didn’t fill me with positivity.
It started quite well. I got to the hospital on time and without any significant incident. After that things went downhill a little. I signed in at the desk and the receptionist asked me for my mobile phone number because in order to be eligible to use the health insurance company you have to be sent an authorisation code via text message. Now, my phone has recently been playing up. It freezes all the time, takes forever to open apps and then suddenly stops them in the middle of something important. It really does have a mind of its own and not a very cooperative mind at that. So I gave the receptionist my phone number and we waited for the text message to arrive.
We waited and waited and waited. We looked from my phone to each other and smiled. We waited and waited and waited some more. She suggested that I step outside as maybe being in the building was inhibiting the arrival of the text. So I stood outside and waited and waited some more. Through the international language of mime I indicated through the window to the receptionist that there was still no joy and that I was coming back in. Just as I returned to the desk my phone dinged! Hurrah! And then it dinged again. And again. And again. The silly phone wouldn’t stop dinging. I was attracting the attention of people around me. The receptionist and I shared an awkward laugh at the ineffectiveness of my phone. In between messages continually arriving I was able to open one of them and read the all important code and then I was sent off down the corridor to wait in the waiting area, dinging merrily as I went. My arrival in the waiting area was heralded by a final resounding ding. My registration was complete.
Almost immediately I was summoned into a little room by a rather dashing young man. He asked me several questions intended to determine the possibility of me having any metal about my person or inside me. Having been judged metal free and suitable for scanning I changed into a crispy, blue hospital gown and matching crispy, green hospital slippers and I was lead to the scanner, trying not to rustle too loudly or to slip over in the aptly named slippers.
The dashing young man told me what was going to happen. I was to lie down, my knees were going to be put in some sort of support contraption and the right knee was going to be scanned first. He asked me where exactly the pain was. I pointed out the most painful part and he stuck what looked like a cod liver oil capsule (I don’t think it actually was a cod liver oil capsule) on the sore bit. That was quite interesting because it hadn’t happened last time. He gave me a squeezy alarm to use in the event that I should find myself needing assistance at any point during the scan. Perhaps he had heard on the scanning technician grapevine that I was a bit shivery and poorly behaved during my last scan because he asked me straight away if I wanted a blanket. Yes! Yes, I did! I did want a blanket! So I was wrapped up in a nice, fluffy blanket and he gave me some ear plugs because it gets rather noisy which was also a little bit exciting because I hadn’t been given ear plugs either last time. And so, after explaining that it would take 20 to 25 minutes for each knee and having ensured that I was quite comfortable, he launched me into the scanning tunnel.
The scan began. I was immediately bored. It came flooding back to me how very dull it had been last time and that it had actually been quite difficult. It’s not that I can’t lie inactive for extended periods of time, I can and I can do it quite well but when you are absolutely forbidden from moving, even a tiny bit, it can be quite hard to do. Whenever I’m at the dentist, usually mid-treatment and with my mouth crammed full of all sorts of dental paraphernalia as well as the hands of the dentist and often his assistant too I will suddenly get the overwhelming urge to cough or to swallow. Once I was at an acupuncturist and I was lying on the treatment table with lots of needles stuck in my legs, my arms, my hands, my face, my ears and in the top of my head. The acupuncturist instructed me not to move (I don’t think I could have if I’d wanted to), informed me that she would be back in 30 minutes and then disappeared. Well, immediately I wanted to sneeze, I was plagued by an itch and I wanted to scratch my nose. Then I began to think about what would happen if the fire alarm went off. It was all rather disconcerting and the 30 minutes absolutely crawled by.
In the scanning machine it was no different. I was tormented by a travelling itch and I was being teased by a stray bit of hair tickling my face. Even worse, I was suddenly aware that in my effort to keep my right leg still I had tensed it and now it was beginning to ache but I couldn’t relax it because I thought that might result in me moving and I didn’t want to get told off again. I looked for distractions.
The ceiling was made up of white square tiles. Each one had lots of pinholes punched in it in various curving patterns. First of all I tried to work out if every tile was different or if they were all the same but placed in different directions in order to create a more varied pattern and to disguise the fact that they were identical. Having discovered that they were indeed all the same I then began to see images appear in the patterns, rather like when you see shapes in clouds. I saw an egg, a stretching cat, a squashed pear and even Tom Daley diving off of a diving board. I also noticed that one of the tiles wasn’t quite straight and that was annoying so I tried not to look at it.
The scanning machine suddenly got very noisy. It started off with a loud noise that was exactly the same as that irritating noise that windscreen wipers make when you use them on a dry windscreen. I hate that noise. Swiftly after there was an additional noise a bit like a drumming rhythm. They carried on together for a while. Then it went quiet momentarily. Then there was a very loud noise that reminded me of the opening bars of ‘Body Moving’ by The Beastie Boys. Then it all became quite riotous as the windscreen wipers, the drummer and The Beastie Boys all played along together at great volume. I remember wondering if I had put the ear plugs in correctly because it was very loud and not noticeably quieter than I remembered it being last year when I was without ear plugs.
Having inspected the ceiling tiles in minute detail I looked around for something else to distract me. Right above my head, on the arch of the opening of the scanning machine was the word ‘SIEMENS’. I decided to rearrange the letters and make some new words. It was a bit like being on ‘Countdown’. What fun! But it was short lived. I found the words ‘men’, ‘semen’ and ‘mess’. Hmmm, there was a bit of a theme developing and it was conjuring up some unpleasant images. I abandoned that idea.
I tried to block out how tired my tensed right leg was feeling but only succeeded in comparing it to my relaxed, more comfortable left leg which then made the right leg seem even more uncomfortable. I wondered how much time had passed, wishing that I had thought to count to 60 twenty times at the beginning as then I’d have some sort of idea of how much time was left.
I tuned in to the noises again. They were actually becoming quite relaxing and were lulling me into a calm state, in fact I was starting to feel sleepy. What luck! I could sleep away the final, dragging minutes! But no. I was scared that as I passed from wakefulness into sleep I’d do one of those jumping, jerking, startled type movements that can happen when you fall asleep. That wouldn’t do at all. That would be sure to get me told off and then we would have to start all over again. Sleeping was definitely off.
At that moment everything went quiet, I heard the door open and the dashing, young man appeared above me. I braced myself for the disappointment of being told that it hadn’t been successful and that we were going to have to start all over again, but no, he was smiling and he said that now we would do the other knee. The cod liver oil capsule was now stuck on the sore bit of my left knee and I was launched into the tunnel again. The second twenty minutes passed in a similar, crawling fashion but they did pass. Eventually the scan was over and I had done it well. The dashing young man was still smiling and he seemed quite pleased with everything and so I was allowed to go and get changed.
In the changing room I tried to think if I could possibly use the crispy, blue hospital gown or the crispy, green hospital slippers for anything at home or at school. It seemed a shame to leave them there if I could find a practical use for them. But no, that was a silly idea. There was really nothing I could use them for. Besides I would look ridiculous and sadly desperate if I was caught smuggling out hospital garments. I did put the earplugs in my bag though. Anyone who knows anything about my home life will know that I can definitely find a use for ear plugs.
I left the hospital feeling quite proud of myself and I enjoyed the warmth of the sun after having spent so long in the chilly air of the hospital. I checked my phone. It would seem the final text message that had earlier heralded my arrival in the waiting area hadn’t been the final text message after all. Ten more new messages had arrived while my bag was in the changing room. I really must get a new phone.