The MRI experience

I’ve got the MRI out of the way. It went as well as could be expected I suppose, the sound is now familiar and I remembered not to open my eyes which helped me not to panic.

The MRI machine, the room it was in, the waiting room were all incredibly futuristic and clean. The people operating the machine were unbelievably kind and reassuring – thank god for the NHS. However, it turned out that the CD player wasn’t working so the only source of music I had was iTunes on my phone, which is sadly depleted since I started using Spotify. I had to hurriedly choose something to listen to, so I chose ‘Amnesiac’ by Radiohead which turned out to be oddly well-suited to the occasion.

Of course it’s pretty pointless trying to listen to anything while you’re having an MRI – the noise is just too loud. I had to wear earplugs under my earphones as well. So you hear the music, or whatever you’ve chosen, in short bursts between the sounds of the machine. However the sound the machine makes is a music of its own. Occasionally it sounds like something you might hear on Stuart Maconie’s ‘Freakzone’ show on 6 Music – syncopated rhythms that intertwine, Steve Reich-ian repetitive phrasing. Before I go off on a massive pretentious tangent though, the thing it reminded me of most was the kind of incredibly hard techno music you’d hear coming out of a sound system at 4am at Glastonbury Festival. I was imagining this scene – the ‘Having the MRI Scene’ – in the musical I’ll one day write about my life*, and there will be a chorus line of crusties, off their faces, losing it to the sound of the MRI machine.

Even before I had that thought, Glastonbury Festival was already in my mind. When I was pregnant I went to antenatal yoga. We learnt how to relax through breathing and visualisation, and we were encouraged to think of a happy place, somewhere to transport ourselves to during labour that would make us feel contented and calm. My happy place was near the Stone Circle at Glastonbury with wafts of music and chatter in my ears, on a sunny day, so I was trying to think myself there throughout the scan. I think it helped a little.  It’s somewhere I’ve spent many happy and carefree times in my life, from the age of 16 right up to my thirties. I really hope I can go back.

The scan took 50 minutes all in, thankfully not the hour and a half I expected as I don’t think I could have endured much more. Afterwards, I felt really strange – lightheaded and woozy. Maybe it was the effect of relaxing after so long being completely tense and concentrating so hard on not moving. I have a pin holding together one of my front teeth. The radiographer had assured me it wouldn’t be a problem – as it’s fixed inside my tooth the magnet wouldn’t be able to send it flying around the room – however I’d felt some pain in my tooth during the scan and it persisted afterwards. I can still feel it now, actually. A funny little reminder. But it’s over now, another stage of the journey done.

*I’m not going to write a musical about my life. Even I’m not that pretentious.

If you haven’t had an MRI and you’d like to know what it sounds like, see below. Turn it all the way up and then imagine it 100 times louder.

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