I Got My Head Examined, MRI-style.

We discovered that Spotify has everything when just for fun, we yelled “Hey Google, play the MRI song” and it played this. So…soundtrack?

So a couple Saturdays ago, I had to have an MRI of my brain, specifically to have a good look at my pituitary gland. Don’t worry, I feel fine. The doctor’s trying to rule some things out and this was the easiest way to do it. I had never had an MRI before, and apparently it gave me a lot to think about…so here are my random thoughts in no particular order.

I am relieved to know that I’m not claustrophobic. I was pretty sure I wasn’t, but I haven’t had occasion to find myself squished into an unfathomably-small space…so I was afraid I was going to find out exactly how claustrophobic I was at precisely the wrong time. I am also relieved to know that I don’t have any forgotten metal in me. I was 99.99999 percent sure there was no weird metal in me, but a little voice said “But what if you’ve forgotten something?” I was having visions of that guy with the fir tree in his lung, or the dude who had a nail shaken loose that he didn’t even know was there by an MRI. Sometimes it’s not good to read weird news stories. They tend to bubble to the surface when they shouldn’t. I was super paranoid about making sure I had remembered to take things off that I don’t even think about, like my MedicAlert bracelet. I was afraid I would forget one little thing and boom!

The actual scan itself wasn’t so bad, I had read a whole bunch about what to expect, so none of the grindings and knockings and buzzings and other noises really phased me a ton. They were weird, but they weren’t totally unexpected. But I did spend a bunch of time afraid that the MRI would discover some metal. It took me a good couple of minutes to be convinced that nope, I’m all good.

I remember saying afterwards to my dad that it felt like I was being stuffed into a tiny chamber. His response was funny. “That’s because you were.” Well I’m glad I’m not imagining things.

I didn’t know this, but apparently if you move your eyes during an MRI, it can screw up the scan. That’s a scary thing to know, since my eyes move without provocation because of blindness. Thanks, nystagmus. Thanks a heap. It’s never good when I’m practically in the scanner and they put a cloth over my eyes. I ask what that’s for, getting all kinds of terrible and unwelcome visions ranging from animals being blindfolded on vet shows to that scene from the book “The Girl With All the Gifts” when they’re about to saw into that kid’s brain. The technologist says “Oh it’s to keep your eyes from moving.” When I tell her my eyes move involuntarily, she then says “Well we’ll see how it goes.” Considering how much trouble I had to go through to get this far, I was very worried some jittery eyes would have made me have to start all over again. I clamped my eyes shut tight, all the while feeling them jiggle under the lids. Thankfully, when I called back to check a few days later, my jitterbugging eyes didn’t gum up the works.

I’m sure you’re wondering what I mean by “considering how much trouble I had to go through to get this far.” Well, to make a long story short, I didn’t know they needed to put an IV in so they could shoot me full of contrast dye. The letter I got said they may or may not need to use contrast dye. So, I didn’t drink a bunch of water before because I didn’t want to have the need to pee while stuffed in the grinding and knocking tube of doom, and that was a dumb decision because there is a bathroom in the waiting room in imaging, of course there is, and my veins still suck. You know it’s bad when an emergency room nurse prods about and says “Well, I can’t work with what isn’t there.” They almost sent me home without doing the MRI, but I asked for a big glass of water, chugged it down, and a tech from CT was able to find a vein a bit later and get into it with a baby needle. Yup, a baby needle. My veins are that fiddly. But the time between when they started to get me ready to go in to when they discovered that my veins were little arseholes to when they completed the scan took over 2 hours, but for me it felt way longer. As I sat there wondering what they would have to do to me to get the IV in, having visions of being a toddler and them having to jab an IV into my foot, I felt terrible that I couldn’t tell Steve what was up. My phone was locked away with my clothes and other metal things, and Steve was at home with the Shmans since she is covered in metal things like collar and tags and leash and harness and stuff. I felt like one of those people who cannot be without their phone, but I didn’t want him to think anything catastrophically bad was going on.

I think I made the tech from CT laugh because when she thought she was about to have success, without thinking about it, I started whistling the first few lines of “Extra Ordinary” by “Better Than Ezra.” You know, “I got a little bit of hope, like a soap on a rope…”

Because I started laughing, I had to explain what I was whistling, and she laughed too.

I’m always curious about why they do things they do. I understood the ear protection, the contrast dye, the coil going around my head, but before they put the coil where it goes, they had me wear a little paper hat thing. I have no idea what that does, and have googled it and can’t find its purpose. I joked with Steve that it made me think of a kid’s party hat.


Like I said, squishy places apparently don’t mess me up like the guys in the two MRI songs above. But as I have discovered, my brain gets creative when I’m nervous or scared. Sometimes this creativity is good. But oh, sometimes it’s very very bad. For example, when the MRI is making its grinding noises and some of them sound like someone playing an electric guitar very badly, it is not good and not welcome for my mind to take those noises and make a melody out of them that sounds a little bit like “Terrified” by See Spot Run.

When I listen to that song again, it’s not even close, but when I was in there, my brain was sure that the melody it was creating fit perfectly inside the song…and then followed that up by thinking “‘Terrified’? Really?”

But at least I’m not the only one who tried to construct songs out of the rhythmic sounds of the MRI.

I’m curious if I’m the only one who ever wondered if you could put people in a trance with those rhythmic buzzes. I also couldn’t figure out how in the name of all that’s holy you could ever do functional MRI studies on people, i.e. how you could put them in this buzzing and humming thing and then ask them to do tasks. And what about that study where they got a guy who appeared to be in a vegetative state to watch Hitchcock movies and saw that he actually got scared at the appropriate parts. I guess, if a person is considered comatose, they’re used to going through MRI machines all the time, but for me that night, all I could think about was the buzzing and grinding. Would I be able to focus on anything else?

I never considered that I might have to sneeze when I was in there. But at about mid-way through the scan, I started to feel a really really strong urge to sneeze. Not just a little one, but a huuuuge one. I tried to fight it, really I did. I even tried to breathe the sneeze back in. That worked for a few seconds, but this sneeze would not be denied, so I tried to move as little as possible, but that was one huuuuuuuge sneeeeeze! And it screwed up some of the pictures, but thankfully they could redo that set and I didn’t end up in there for the full 20 ish minutes again.

While I was getting ready to go in there, and when I was in there, I could feel a part of me observing myself and noticing that god, am I ever a giant wuss. If I’ve had a test before, as long as it didn’t suck, I’m not bad. But whenever I need something new, despite my best efforts, I am a loud, obnoxious, nervous, question-asking, information-demanding, scared human being and I don’t like seeing it in myself. I realize that I need to have more empathy for other people who are needing something done and are all nervous, because let’s face it, if I were in their shoes, I would be a giant baby.

All in all, despite what probably looks like a long list of problems, it wasn’t a bad experience, but it has taught me once again that you can never ask enough questions. For example, I never dreamed to ask about the moving eyes. Because I was so worried that they loused up the scan, I called and requested to talk to the team lead a few days later to see if my involuntarily moving eyes loused it up and she said no, the images looked good, my eyes hardly moved, and I should only worry about it if they were doing an MRI on my actual eyes or something. Phew! I asked her if she could tell me when I should expect to need an IV, i.e. when I should chugga lugga some fluids to make my veins a little more cooperative. She said basically, if I’m getting another scan of ye old pituitary gland, I should expect the IV. Ok, also good to know. She told me that I can always ask the scheduling people if my scan requires dye. And I guess if I ever need this again and chugging liquids doesn’t help, I can try to negotiate with the scheduling person to see if I can have it done in the day because the folks on at night don’t know how to deal with people with miserable veins. This was told to me by one of the people trying to get my veins, so I’m not saying this as a criticism of the 3 poor souls who tried and failed…although I will still say the fishing expedition in my arm undertaken by one of them was not appreciated. Ouch youch ooch eech! I know what you were trying to do, but ouch youch ooch eech! I hope you enjoyed my creative language choices I used to try and avoid swearing at you. Also, next time you’re about to spear a blind person with a needle, please warn them first.

So yeah. I’ve now had an MRI. And you all probably think the magnets took my mind and ran off with it. Hopefully, this long and winding description of what I went through can help someone, entertain someone, or both. I’m still waiting to hear from my endocrinologist who ordered it, but since the scan was done a couple of weeks ago, I’m going to assume they didn’t find anything earth-shattering and world-ending. If I happen to need one of these again, I will try to be a much calmer, more prepared patient.

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