I went to go see Dr. Klix and mentioned my vision loss episode. She perked up immediately, and rattled off a list of follow-up questions. The "did you have a headache afterwards" question seemed to be a key one; I answered in the negative, though I admitted that there could have been a slight one I wasn't recalling. The symptoms I described were enough cause for concern that she referred me immediately to an imaging center where I could get an MRI of my brain. A stroke, she said, was a possibility. Her scheduler Connie found a place that would take me same day, and I drove straight there.
I had never done an MRI before, so I had no idea what I to expect.
Professional Imaging is located in the first floor of a suburban medical office building, with their entrance right off of the lobby. I stared at the building directory for a good 30 seconds before I realized that I was ten feet away from their door. The staff was friendly, and all young. Sort of like Logan's Run, an analogy that was certainly helped by the oversized, warning sign covered industrial door that seemed to take up half the wall. What went on in there? What was that throbbing womp-womp-womp noise coming from?
After filling out my patient forms I was led back to a small makeshift locker room, where I was told to leave my phone, keys, shoes, and wallet. Then I was told to sit in the hall, in a plastic chair opposite the aforementioned industrial door. I complied, but made sure to note where the nearest exit was in case I needed to make a break for it. After about 5 minutes it was my turn.
Eddie the tech opened the door and walked me into the MRI chamber. It was a barren room with a one-way window on the wall and a massive metal donut shaped machine that appeared to be sticking its tongue out at me. It was probably eight feet tall, with the "tongue" being a slim metal bed that I was directed to lay on. Eddie talked me through what was going to happen, which mostly included me staying very still and not moving. Then took my glasses and put a rubberized pair of circumaural headphones over my ears.
Eddie: What kind of music do you like?
Eddie: Music, for the headphones. What do you want to listen to?
Me: I dunno. Whatever.
Me: Yeah, that's fine.
Eddie hit a button that slowly moved my bed into the mouth of the machine, then he left the room. Or at least I assume it was a button. I was staring at the ceiling so it could have been a lever. Or a switch. I could hear music, but it was so faint that it might as well have been off. Then the machine started talking.
It started slowly, quietly, and then sped up. Womp-womp-womp. It was like a kettle drum was competing with an electrical generator. A pattern emerged. Slow fast slow repeat. It was like an all encompassing bass-heavy industrial techno. I actually liked it, and even found it to be somewhat soothing after a few minutes. I started to fall asleep towards the end, jolting awake in a hypnic jerk that left me a little freaked that my movement might have just corrupted the whole exercise. Thankfully, it hadn't. The machine stopped talking and a voice just as faint as the music came on to say something I couldn't understand.
Another tech, Joe, came into the room and pulled me out of the mouth. I was done with round one. Joe told me not to move, other than to give him my left arm. He stuck it with an IV and pumped what was probably "gado" into my veins. It was a contrast agent that was going to help make my brain veins more visible. The first round, without contrast, compared to the second round, with contrast, made it easier for the docs to tell what was going on in my grey matter. Joe finished up the IV, hit the button or lever or switch, and sent me back into the machine mouth for round two.
This time, Joe and Eddie realized how low the volume was on my headphones and cranked it up. The Steve Miller Band did their best to try and distract me from the womp-womp-womp, but I was able to tune them out and zero back in on my new kettle drum wielding friend. The second round wasn't quite as entrancing as the first though; no falling asleep this time. Pretty quickly, it seemed, Joe was back in the room again and pulling me out of the machine. He took the headphones and gave me back my glasses. Could I have a copy of the pictures, I asked? Of course, was the reply. They were already making me a disc.
I probably only spent 30 minutes in the mouth of the MRI. After they were done with me I was sent back to the locker room to gather my things, then I sat out in the waiting room for a few more minutes until Eddie came out and gave me my disc. All in all, the experience went much faster than I expected. I took my disc and went home.
That was on a Friday, so I had to wait until Monday for a nurse from Dr. Klix's office to call and tell me that I didn't have a stroke. At least it didn't look like it. They didn't know what had caused my vision loss and hand tinglin' but they were pretty sure it wasn't a stroke. That was good, somewhat anticlimactic, news.
A few weeks later the folks at Professional Imaging sent me a bill for $524, the amount I owed after adjusting for what my insurance company had covered. In fact I'm looking at the bill now, as I type this. The disc they sent me home with has now gone from "what a nice thing for them to give me" to "what an expensive little disc they could have at least bought me lunch too."
So without further ado.... my brain: