Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Sounds of MRI

And, it's back to the Radiological Associates Breast Imaging Center for an MRI. I was only there once for my biopsies, but the receptionist actually remembered me and asked how I was. So nice. I was given another paperwork packet, including scary questions about any metals in my body.

Did you know the magnets in these MRI machines are so powerful that if you have a piece of metal in your eye and don't know it, your eye can turn to soup and explode in the machine?

I don't know it either but it's a story I love. Thinking about exploding eyeballs has always been a favorite pastime of mine.

Anyway, as far as I know I have no metal in my eye or any other part of the body, so I check no after no on the papers. Those questionnaires are very thorough. No, I don't have a penile implant. No, I don't have an eyelid stent. (?) No, I don't have a pacemaker. I do enjoy imagining what would happen if I got in the machine with one of those things though.

Somebody should make a horror movie about that.

Apparently, they are going to inject me with contrast dye too, so I have a long list of questions about allergies to fill out.

No, to my knowledge, I am not allergic to Gadolinium.

The ubiquitous TV was on but it's a large room and this time, I sat far away. There seemed to be three sections that people self-separated to - one for people near the TV, one half way down, and at the very far end appeared to be the men's section, all waiting for their wives, I presume. I sat in the middle.

Suddenly, a man who'd been sitting closest to the TV gets up and turned it on full blast. And, I mean full blast, as loud as it would go. All heads turned. For a second, I couldn't figure out why he did that, he was right in front, he had no problems hearing it. But, then I realized, President Obama was speaking.


Now, I'm a well-informed person, I listen to the man's innumerable prime time speeches, I heard his speech to school children, (which I liked quite a bit). I am old-fashioned and still read newspapers every day and also read news online. So, I've heard his healthcare pitch.

Many times.

Now, while I'm sitting in the breast center, thinking about the possibility of eyeball soup dripping from my socket from some unknown metal I might have gotten in my eye, in order to determine if I'm getting one breast chopped off or two - well, it's is not the time for me to be lectured at by anybody. Not Joy Behar, and not Barack Obama. No, not even Oprah. I want this breast center to be a place where I can get away from controversy and just think about boobies.

But, that man unilaterally decided that even though I sat 25 feet away from the TV, I should be forced to hear the president speak. It wasn't enough that he hear it - nope, everybody had to.


I really, really, really, really need one of those pocket universal remotes so I can turn TVs off. It would have been amusing, since he was so insistent everybody hear it, to have it suddenly shut off. Hey, two can play that game!

Anyway, despite the fact that it would probably brand me a racist, I asked the very nice office lady if she could turn down the TV a bit. She found the remote and turned it down. The woman next to me thanked me for speaking up - yeah, my entire life is being thanked by cowards for doing what they were afraid to do. But, it was still too loud for me to concentrate on exploding eyeballs, so I went to the men's section to finish the paperwork, hoping they would find me when it was time.

Here's a photo of how far away from the TV I had to get to not have it blaring at me:

They soon called me into the testing area, and had me undress except for my underwear. She gave me scrubs to put on, but all they had were size large. I weigh 97 pounds right now, and large scrubs are really, um, large. I could pull the drawstring pants in enough to close them, with the material ballooning out, crotch hanging to my knees like some mutant late-80s MC Hammer clone. I rolled up the hems so I could walk. I had a dilemma with the gown. It too, went down to my ankles and tying it didn't cover anything as the gap is bigger than me. If I tied it around twice, the armholes were located in such a place that my breasts showed through. Hmmm....well, I was going to undo it anyway, so I'll just hold it closed, elbows down.

I was taken to a room where they put a needle in for the contrast and asked more questions about metals in my body. I assured her that unless the CIA had implanted a tracking device in me, or the doctor who did my appendix surgery a year ago had left a tool in there, I was clean.

Then she said something interesting. The insurance company was only authorizing payment for the MRI on my cancerous breast. Now, I'm having this test for two reasons: to see if the cancer soup in my right breast is located in one quadrant, which would mean I could have a lumpectomy, and also to see if it's hidden in the left breast. LCIS usually shows up in both.

So, it seemed strange that they would only pay for pictures of one of the twins, but the tech assured me that they were going to do both anyway: the doctors refuse to do just one. Seems like an interesting game - insurance pays for one, knowing the doctors will do both anyway. But, really, how much more expensive is it to do both? I mean, they are right there in the machine, right? Who wins here?

Me, I guess.

So, I lie down on a table with my breasts (once again) dangling through some holes. They put a padded thing for my face that has one of those periscope mirrors in it - I'm looking down but seeing forward. Not that there is anything to see. I put my arms up, and they connect some tubing to the IV for the contrast dye - they do some films with and then some without. Then they hand me a squeeze ball that I'm to press if I need help, with a warning that they might have to start over if I do. They push a button and in I go.

I hear some very loud clicking noises and then WOW! I thought the TV in the waiting room was bad; this noise was really loud. It was at that point I realized that they had forgotten to give me the earplugs they'd promised. At first, it was kind of cool. The sounds are super loud but interesting. Whirs and hums and clicks and sonic booms. I'm a child of the 70s, I went to lots of rock concerts and sometimes even sat in front of the speakers, so I'm fine. I pictured psychedelic patterns to the sounds.

Groovy man.

The first set of 30 seconds is over and then she tells me through her mike that the next set will be 4 minutes.

Wow. That is even louder. I mean, it's really loud. Even though it's not lecturing me on healthcare policy, I'm getting concerned. I figure after this set I'll take a chance and squeeze the ball. But, four minutes is up and then she immediately starts on the next set - 3 minutes. After than 3 minutes my ears are ringing and I'm worried about getting a migraine, but she doesn't even tell me how long the next set will be - it just starts. I was worried that it was so loud my hearing could be damaged, so the second that set was over, I push the ball quick and stay still.

She asks if I'm okay, and I say that I think I need some ear plugs.

She's shocked. "You didn't get ear plugs? I can't believe you lasted this long!" Then she tells me not to move and puts some in my ears, and tells me we don't have to start over since I'd stayed still. She goes back, does another 3 minutes which is much better, and then tells me she's going to inject the contrast dye for the last few sets.

Interestingly, she didn't come out to do the IV push - it happens automatically with some machine or something. She told me it would be cold as the stuff was injected, but I didn't feel a thing.

I'm done and it was really easy except for the loudness. Nothing hurt, nothing was scary, nothing was uncomfortable, my eyeballs are intact. Even the loudness would have been okay if I'd been sure it wasn't so loud it'd hurt my old lady ears and if I wasn't a migraine sufferer.

The doctors will get the results in three days, so Monday I will call and find out what's going on and have the results sent to me. If they find it in my left breast - that means more biopsies.

I googled MRI decibel level. Apparently, between 110 and 115. Very loud, but I won't lose my hearing along with the boobs. I'll hear the president talk another day.

Probably tomorrow, knowing Barack.

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