Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A scanner, loudly

Last week I had my head shoved in the big, bangy machine once more, and I'm now waiting for the photies to come back from the chemist.

So to speak. It was my regular three-monthly MRI, and the first which may or may not give any useful information about how the hole in the head's getting on and, more importantly, if it's still empty. The hole, I mean. Not my head.

I've had a few of these now and they're getting almost routine.

First there's a series of standard questions about pacemakers, tattoos and piercings (no thanks, never wanted any); artificial plates and limbs (just the bits of titanium holding part of my skull on); can we pump you full of tracker dye? (if you must); and do you mind if we stick your head in a great big magnet? (go for it, it's what I came for).

Then it's off  to try on the fetchingly ill-fitting but firmly non-ferrous hospital jim-jams and to have an equally iron-free spike shoved into my vein. This time, as Lou Reed more-or-less sang, things weren't quite the same, because they got the cannula in first time without the usual jagging about my upper limbs which always seems to end up leaving me with multiple stab wounds, a massive bruise round the bit they finally manage to get it into, and a huge wad of ultra-sticky tape across the hairiest part of my arm. At least, what was up until that point the hairiest part of my arm.

Apparently I have very elusive veins which see needles coming and leap out of the way. Which I can't help feeling is eminently sensible for them, but often ends up being a bit nippy for me.

It's odd, because back when I was allowed to give blood every three months, there never seemed to be a problem; although I suppose the nice people at the Scottish National Blood Transfusions Service are vampirising folk all day, every day, and have got pretty good at dealing with all sorts of venous variations. (Incidentally, it really doesn't hurt, so if you feel you can fill in for me now I'm not allowed to donate any more, please book yourself in via www.scotblood.co.uk. They need 5000 donors a week in Scotland alone, and you might well save a life - maybe mine.)

Equally, over at the Beatson's Clinical Research Unit, which has been bleeding me regularly for the last six months in the name of medical science, they're so good at it that I barely feel the needle going in. But everyone else seems to have massive difficulty; from radiographers to registrars to locum GPs, they either seem to have huge problems finding a vein which works, or just have a good old stab away until they do. I've now found out for myself where there are a couple of good 'uns, and I point them out as soon as anyone approaches me with a Venflon.

This time, as I said, nae bother.

So with stylishly washed-out blue jammies in place, tap in arm, and a final check for any old iron, I was off to spend over an hour lying dead still in a very enclosed space.

MRI machines are not terribly comfortable. They're quite narrow, not really designed for the chunkier chap, so once I'm on the table I'm never very sure what to do with my arms – and I become acutely aware that one of those now has a tube in it, and my elbows can touch the sides, and I really have to try to stop thinking about anything being pulled taut as the bench slides back and forward. At least I'm not claustrophobic.

They're also very noisy, although you do get ear-plugs – usually just before the radiographers ask their last-minute questions. You also get a sort of frame thing over your head and then cushiony, spongey things are packed in there round your ears. Apparently this is to keep your skull still in case you fall asleep. There's nothing more disappointing than blurry photos.

And I always do nod off. I've always been able to sleep just about anywhere: in the past, any form of moving transport I wasn't actually driving myself gave me an instant ticket to the land of nod; now I'm an enforced passenger I seem to be getting used to that, but I'm now kipping off  at cafĂ© tables, since my post-radiation/chemo/whatever fatigue, although much improved, is at the moment kicking in around lunchtime.  Being inside a big, thumpy, magnetic tube seems to be equally soporific.

This is A Good Thing, I reason, since I always seem to be in there for absolutely ages: the radiographers give me some sense of time by waking me up via intercom occasionally - I gather to tell me what they're doing next, although it's hard to know thanks to the earplugs; they could equally be informing me of their plan to shave something rude into the back of my now-refoliating scalp while I sleep - but otherwise the tedious process passes pretty quickly.

Then the banging stops and I emerge feeling a bit dazed (since I've just been woken up) and a bit uncomfortable about the cranial scar (since the head packaging is pretty tight) but otherwise fine. Some people, I'm told, feel tense and trapped through the whole experience; others don't like the dye going in at half time. I just sleep through it, and I've never felt a thing.

That was last Wednesday, and I've so far heard nothing from SupaSnaps. Some day my prints will come.

But no news is good news, I reckon, since if the scan had shown anything I'm pretty sure the Beatson would have been onto me sharpish to haul me in for further jabbing and treatment. They react pretty quickly.

Since I've had no update, I'm taking it that I'll get a nice "nothing there" result when I next see the consultant in a couple of weeks.

Just before he tops up my poison levels once more. I'm not there to enjoy myself.


  1. Good to see a fellow health, or should that be I'll health, blogger in Scotland. Sorry you are going through it all.....if you are like me blogging is the front face and there is so much more complexity underneath. You have my RESPECT for sleeping during an MRI. What a man! All my best wishes for your results. Audrey

  2. Thanks, Audrey.

    Here's a link to Audrey's breast cancer blog, folks: http://audreybirt.blogspot.com/