Today I went to University College Hospital (UCH) for an MRI scan. I don’t want to go into details as to why my doctor requested that I do this, so let’s just say that it comes under the general heading of "men’s problems" and move on.
I spent a rather anxious weekend, not knowing what the scan would be like or, more importantly, what the findings would be. Monday morning came and I got myself ready and started out. Once I was moving and occupied, I felt less anxious and when I reached UCH much too early (rather that than arrive late and miss my appointment) I went for a walk around the area and wished I had brought my camera to catch the early morning scenes.
I returned to UCH in time for my appointment but then had to wait. They told me that the MRI scanner is a little temperamental and that they had had to start it up several times before it had consented to run.
I must say that throughout the whole process, I was treated politely and kindly and everything was explained at every stage so that I understood what was going on. That helped reduce the anxiety. The only problem that remained was that although I have recovered somewhat from the chesty cold, I have an occasional coughing fit and they said that if that happened during the scan it would cause the image to blur. They proposed giving me time between scans to cough if I needed to!
To start with, I was shown to a cubicle and asked to strip down to my underwear and put my clothes and belongings in plastic bags. On the bench was a heap of dressing gowns, so I put one on though it was small and hardly covered my "bare necessities"!
After a while I was fetched and taken to the MRI scanner suite. The machine was already in operation and I had to wait, sitting on a chair and delicately arranging my robe as decorously as possible! Then they inserted one of those plastic taps in my arm so that they could give me a couple of injections during the scan. It was done very carefully and I hardly felt it.
At last, the previous client emerged and it was my turn to be processed. My property was stowed in lockers and I went into the scanner room where I had to lie on my back on a sort of plank bed. They gave me a pillow and a cushion under my knees to make me more comfortable. I was also handed a rubber bulb on a tube – I could squeeze this in the event of an emergency. What emergency? No one said…
In operation, the scanner makes a lot of noise. It buzzes, thrums, bangs and shakes. If you listen, you can make out repeating patterns. The patient is fitted with a pair of headphones to mitigate the effects of the din.
When all was ready, the plank bed was raised and slid into the machine in a way that reminded me of a corpse being slip into a sarcophagus. Fortunately, my head was left poking out. The scanning consisted of several different scans of differing duration and lasted about 40 minutes altogether. Every so often a voice would come over the head phones asking if I was OK to continue. I even dozed off a couple of times.
At last the scanning was completed and my 40 minutes of remaining motionless and trying not to cough were over. The plank bed slid out and down and I got up. The tap was removed from my arm and replaced with a swab attached with sticky tape. I was free to go. I returned to the cubicle and swapped my scanty robe for my usual clothes. Then I sped out into the familiar streets of London, like a bird released from a cage.
They got some nice pictures, apparently, and saw everything they needed to see. In the afternoon, I had to go back to UCH for a consultation. The good news was that there was no cause for alarm. I will be returning for treatment but the main anxiety has now abated and I can get on with my life.