Tuesday, April 6, 2010

That MRI Guy

Yesterday morning, I endured my first MRI. Why? Well, if you're new to the goings-on of this lightly-read blog, you might not know that I tore the tendon in my left pinky finger last August. In the months that followed, I received some questionable medical treatment that became self-deprecating TBG fodder. In February, several weeks after the splint on my finger was removed for good, I injured my left hand in a tragic condiment accident.

It was three more weeks before I could get in to see a rheumatologist and an additional four weeks after that before I could get in for an MRI.

The funny thing is that I came this close to cancelling my appointment. The acute pain in my hand subsided almost a month ago. And, while I still have just 50% strength in my left hand (and next to no mobility in my left pinky)...I'm livin' with it. But, at 8:30AM, I showed up at the same facility that hosted
my disastrous CT scan last summer.

8:30 AM - I remove all metals from my person. Normally, this wouldn't be worth mentioning, but I manage to nearly fill the little locker with my wallet, cell phone, car keys, wedding band, inhaler, umbrella (it was a drizzly Monday morning in San Diego, y'all) and PSP portable gaming system. Oh, shut up...I forgot when my appointment was, so I brought it just in case I had to sit around the waiting room for an hour or so. SHUT UP!

8:40 AM - The MRI technician -- in her sternest schoolmarm monotone -- explains how I must lay perfectly still during the process. Remember, I'm here because of an injury to the least-needed digit on my non-dominant hand. I confidently assure
Nurse Ratched that I can keep it rigid.

8:45 AM - I'm handed a pair of earplugs ("This thing gets loud", I'm told) which I really wasn't expecting. I had to fill out three different forms certifying that I'm not bothered by claustrophobia before they'd let me show up for the MRI, but the notion of noise leaves me ill-at-ease for some reason.

8:50 AM - I lay down on my stomach with my left arm extended past my head and at a very slight angle. The technician shoves a "panic button" in my right hand which is positioned parallel to my prone body. The machine lifts me up and pulls...me...in.

9:00 AM - Keeping my work clothes on was mistake #1. Most patients are given a hospital gown, but since it was "just for a finger", I was told to keep my slacks and collared shirt on. Work clothes are inherently uncomfortable. They're full of starch and even the cleaning process is "dry" by definition. But, I managed to keep my one-man freeze tag act going despite all the whirring (and occasional roaring) all around me.

9:05 AM - "OK, we're getting a LOT of movement from you, Aaron." The disembodied voice is apparently bleeding through speakers from inside the MRI machine. I'm told they need to re-position me, so the technician starts pulling me out. Like an absolute fool, I start to lift my torso -- before I'd been pulled from inside -- and bang the back of my head on the top of the coffin.

9:15 AM - I'm back inside the machine with my body contorted into what the technician called "the Superman pose". Although, with the earplugs, it sounded like she was repeating the hook of that obnoxious Soulja Boy song from a few years ago. My left arm is completely extended while my right arm is bent and resting comfortably right above my butt. Drink in the imagery, ladies.

9:20 AM - "We're still getting all kinds of movement from you, Aaron. We haven't gotten one good reading yet." Honestly, y'all...I'm NOT moving. I certainly don't feel like I'm moving, at least. But, from the tone of the technician, you'd think I took a couple of hours off from work and drove 15 miles in stop-and-go traffic just to sabotage my own MRI. I explain that the only time I might be moving is when I'm breathing, which leads to this gem from the technician: "I know you HAVE to breathe, but if you could find a way to slow down your breathing that'd be a big help." This is the asthmatic's equivalent to yelling "DON'T LOOK DOWN" at the man on the rickety bridge.

9:30 AM - I've been literally holding my breath for short spurts in a desperate attempt to get this over with. In doing so, I begin feeling short of breath and just a wee bit of panic begins to set in. My eyes inexplicably open for a split second and...
holy sh*t.

9:35 AM - "OK, Aaron, that last one was pretty good. I just need you to hold still for about 3 1/2 more minutes."

9:45 AM - Turns out "3 1/2 more minutes" is on the same clock I utilize to tell Mrs. Bootleg "I'll be home at midnight".

A few hours later, I get a phone call from my doctor's office telling me that a ligament in my finger is completely torn. I'm told, "This is what we thought."

Who thought this? Why was this doctor hypothesis ("doc-pothesis"?) never once relayed to me? I've made between 6-8 visits to rheumatologists, sports medicine specialists and Urgent Care since last August -- all in response to pain in my left finger/hand, not once did ANYONE mention a torn ligament.

I was told the next step is consulting with a surgeon.

I'm kinda-sorta hoping the surgeon's gonna be slightly more thorough and accurate than everyone else has been, so far.


Joe said...

I'm not claustrophobic but the thought of having to stay still in that tube would drive me nuts. You're a better man than I, Cam.

As far as why nobody told you the hypothesis: I'm guessing if they did you would have gone straight to a surgeon, so all of the doctors wouldn't be able to take thier piece of the co-pay pie, right?

Elena said...

Here's a thing: short breaths like that will absolutely trigger an anxiety attack. Your blood CO2 drops, which prompts an ugly chemical cascade involving your fight-or-flight mechanism, and blah blah blah panic follows (especially when you're already in a stressful situation). Should you have to do this again, try inhaling normally (into your stomach, not your chest), then exhaling slowly, over several seconds. This will slow your breathing and help keep you relaxed as well.

The more you know. (TM)

That Bootleg Guy said...

Dude. They should film patients inside the MRI machine and let them buy the DVD after it's over.

I'd have loved to have seen my panicky mug when my eyes opened to see nothing but a closed-in metallic cocoon.

Believe me, I'll commit the proper breathing technique to memory. I was pretty much a rattled, physical mess for the rest of Monday.

Blondezilla said...

If there is a next time, ask for the good relaxation drugs. Personally, I've never needed for the MRI. I just think happy thoughts, like how the giant woodpecker (who knew magnets made so much noise?) is trying to get me out to the big metal tree (MRI machine).

That Bootleg Guy said...

"Giant woodpecker" and "big metal tree"?

I reject your "drug-free" assertion, yo :)