On my first appointment to the endocrinologist, I wasn’t prepared (remember what I said about packing a lunch?). My appointment was for something like 11:30 a.m. and I was brought into the exam room at about 1:00 p.m. Then a medical assistant talked to me for a couple of minutes, and then I waited again – for about another 45 minutes. Finally, a cute little (4’11” max) blonde lady came in with high heels and a lab coat and greeted me with what I learned later was a Russian accent. I told her my story, and after an exam she said, “Yes, you certainly look like a Cushie!” My blood pressure was high (a symptom), and the dexamethasone test results were indicative of Cushing’s disease, but first we needed to see if there was a tumor. There must have been be a tumor somewhere if I had Cushing’s. We would start with an MRI of my brain.
This would be the second MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging) I had ever had in my life, and the first just happened to be of my brain, too. (The first was taken by a neurologist I saw for tingling of my upper lip, and he determined I had a harmless cyst – Ha! More on that later). Just like any time a person has a diagnostic image taken (CT scan, plain film x-ray, ultrasound), I was asked to bring the films of the previous MRI.
I wasn’t always claustrophobic, but somehow as I grew older I developed a fear of being buried alive and it got worse from there. I even tore a non-removable cast off a broken ankle once. It’s amazing the power one has when totally freaked out. So what I’m saying is if you are remotely claustrophobic or think you’re not, but have never had an MRI before, REQUEST SEDATIVES ANYWAY. I know people who say, “Oh, it’s so peaceful (like being in the womb) and I just put the earphones in my ears and listen to the music and fall asleep, and blah, blah, blah,” BUT DON’T TAKE THE CHANCE. After all, if you move ever so slightly, it can blow the whole thing, and it’s much easier to lie perfectly still if sedated (even if not claustrophobic). Depending on the type of MRI you have, you’re going to have to be in that thing for 30–90 minutes, so you may as well be comfortable. There are also different sizes of MRI’s which I will talk about in “The MRI – Part Two.”
So I showed up for my MRI with my designated driver and checked off a number of questions. One question asked is whether you have any metal in your body. I must now relate a story told in nursing school. It was about a child who had a metal plate in his head and his mother didn’t know about it. He had an MRI, the magnet in the MRI ripped out the plate in his brain, and he died. MYTH. I later learned several MRI’s later that metal in your body causes a flash and disrupts the picture – IT DOESN’T KILL YOU! (Other nursing school horror stories at a later date.)
Finally, I was in the same room as the giant tube, asked to lay down on the skinny table-like thing that was going to slide in the tube, my face enclosed in a cage (thank goodness I doubled my dose of sedatives), given earplugs for my ears (no music with a brain scan), and told I would come out in about 45 minutes when I would be given intravenous contrast material and put back in. I was slid in, and the loud banging began. (More tomorrow in “The MRI – Part Two”).