As a nerd who gets all excited about the whole idea of Quantified Self with my FitBit and 23andMe and HealthVault profiles I was somewhat thrilled to discover I needed an MRI – after all using powerful electromagnets to peer into places I’d never want to see normally (expect perhaps from the inside of a miniaturized spaceship) is pretty cool.
As I was curious about how they worked I read some articles, and checked some videos to find out about the process, and to see people messing about with one so at least I’d know what to expect (no, they don’t attach you to a stain gauge and lower you in on an office chair!)
The process was pretty straightforward – the usual check-in paperwork and confirmation of why you’re there, though with a very detailed checklist of possible magnetic items you might prefer to remove before going in (I’d remembered to take out all the piercings – back to my natural state for the first time in 20 years!) and then through to the machine.
The tray itself was pretty comfortable – after all, if you have to hold still for half an hour that’s important. The technician warned me that it would get pretty noisy, so they recommend earplugs and then extra pads to hold your head square in the cradle.
The first slightly claustrophobic moment was when they put the frame over the front of my head as well (apparently it both helps to hold things in place and act as an antenna). The one in the video had mirrors on to help you see out of the tunnel, but this one didn’t. He also gave me a panic button in case I felt uncomfortable… I was sure I’d be fine…
Then, like a naughty child being slid into the oven in a Gingerbread Cottage I was delivered into the maw of the giant magnet. About 30 seconds later I was having to will myself not to press the panic button – it turns out I’m a little more uncomfortable in enclosed spaces that I thought I was! Luckily when I shut my eyes and practiced my yoga breathing that passed.
The noise is pretty intense. It starts out with some pings and pops but then it really gets going… a jackhammer crossed with some really boring EDM! No real progression and just when you thought they’d drop the bass it went for another chorus. The cycle repeats a number of times while they move the tray around – at least each track on the album was different – and the technician kept checking in to make sure I wasn’t freaking out.
I don’t know if it was psychosomatic but at various points in the cycle I could feel a buzzing and goose-bump sensation in fairly specific areas. Curious about that.
When it finished and I was disgorged the first thing I noticed was how dizzy I felt – that lasted for maybe 15 minutes. I don’t know if it was the machine, the effort of lying still or lack of coffee!
Now I just have to wait for the results. I’m hoping when I go in to see the Doc he’ll be able to share the images with me – not because I have any pressing need but simply to add to my collection of nerdy medical data!