I’m guessing many of you have been inside these gizmos a time or two — especially those who are up in years like I am (a mere 60). I’ve lost count of how many MRIs I’ve had, for back, shoulder, abdominal and chronic headache issues. Probably about eight, give or take. Had my latest eight days ago in this very tube, sent by an ENT to whom I went in hopes of figuring out some bothersome occasional dizzy spells I’ve had for a couple of years.
When they’ve hit, I’ve always been at home, thankfully not driving down the highway. The last two times, I’ve been sitting on the couch watching TV and, most recently, sitting at my desk looking up info on MTV’s 40th anniversary on my laptop. There’s never a catalyst that I can discern — just a sudden sensation of the room spinning, blurred vision, a slightly nauseous feeling, and if I don’t already have a headache, the onset of one.
This last spell, on a Sunday, I got up from my desk and made my way to the bed, where I lay for about 5 minutes watching the ceiling fan move from left to right even though it wasn’t on. And, I developed a splitter of a headache and decided I’d better take two 500mg Tylenol and try to sleep it off. Over two hours later, I woke up to a strong thunderstorm and the pain was still intense, but thankfully, a few hours later, it got better.
I’ve been to neurologists and my PCP over the years for my headaches and have been on a daily medication for a couple, but no one’s been able to figure out what causes them. Even with the med, I still have at least a dull headache — always in the front of my head, behind my eyes — pretty much every day.
Back to the MRI. I’ve never had a problem with them. Never been claustrophobic. But this time, for some crazy reason, after the technician at Central Imaging in Arlington, Claudio, explained that I’d be inside for 30 minutes for the scan of my brain and ear canals, then back inside for 15 more after he injected me with contrast dye, I freaked a little. He asked if I was ready and I glanced behind me uncharacteristically nervously and said yes.
As I started moving backward inside the tube, I said, “Hang on, I’m not ready. I think I need a minute.” That’s never happened. So after he brought me back, I took a couple of deep breaths and tried not to think about the cramped space I’d be inside for 45 minutes and, after a minute or so, I said, “OK, I’m ready now.” I decided to keep my eyes closed for the whole scan this time, which I don’t always do.
For those who haven’t experienced an MRI, all I can say is: It’s a darn good thing they give you earplugs. The varied loud (and they are almost ALL loud) noises of the spinning magnets (my condensed version of the MRI’s complicated apparatus and operation) are nothing if not incredibly annoying and monotonous. Thumping, tapping, knocking, banging, some louder than others.
During one stretch that lasted over five minutes, I started counting the knocks, and there’d be seven loud ones and then seven softer ones in succession that seemed to be answering the louder ones. Sometimes there’d be only six of the echoed softer knocks.
The things you do while passing time during an MRI. Sometimes you just stress about how you’re stuck inside a narrow tube in which you’ve been told not to move or they’ll have to do the whole thing over. You don’t know how heavily you should breathe, whether you can clear your throat, contort your face because it itches or anything else you’re suddenly obsessed with doing.
The ENT I saw in Arlington was booked until Sept. 1 (next Wednesday), so I won’t be able to get the MRI results until then. When I went for the consultation, I first took a hearing test with an audiologist, which I’ve been wanting to do for a while. For years, Kay and the kids have been telling me I need to get my hearing checked because I’m always asking them to repeat things. And I sometimes struggle to hear people in situations where there’s background noise or others talking around us. The results showed that I have mild to moderate hearing loss, so if I were inclined, I could get hearing aids. I’m not inclined, not until my hearing’s much worse.
As for what the doc thought about my dizzy spells, there are so many possibilities that we just need to see what the MRI shows first. It could be something more nebulous like vertigo, or something relating to my headaches, or any number of things. Also, we discussed how Crys, my oldest brother from my birth family, was diagnosed about 15 years ago with acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous tumor on his vestibulocochlear nerve, the main nerve connecting the inner ear and the brain. That’s why the ENT’s orders also called for the MRI to look at my ear canals.
Although it can be hereditary, it’s unlikely I have the same condition as Crys, because his was much more recurrent, and he had bad nausea that caused him to throw up, which I don’t have. One thing I found out as I was researching my symptoms is that the med I’ve been taking for my headaches, Trokendi XR — actually an anti-seizure drug — *can* cause dizziness. I mentioned that to the ENT, and although she thought it was something to consider, she didn’t seem to think there’s a correlation since my spells are pretty infrequent.
So, we’ll see what the MRI shows when I revisit Dr. Allis Cho on Wednesday. Hopefully it won’t show anything, although as someone with chronic back and headache issues that no one has ever been able to figure out the cause of, I sure think it’d be nice for something to have a definitive cause for once … as long as it’s not bad!