I’d been given Vicodin after a few hours arriving at the Alexandria INOVA Hospital Emergency Room, so I was down to an a eight on the pain scale, rather than the twelve I was when I arrived in the ambulance. Perhaps this is why the ER doctor felt my back injury didn’t warrant any actual care. Fortunately, the Physician Assistant came to my rescue in the nick of time with the news that Radiology could fit me in after all.
When the ER doctor stopped glaring at PA, who had just made her look lazy and incompetent, she signed off on the order for the MRI and sent me and my gurney on our merry way.
Radiology also proved to be no less of an adventure than the ER.
My previous experience with MRI machines was that my weight would be a problem: many MRI machines have tables that only support 250lbs or less. With INOVA’s MRI machine, my weight wasn’t a problem, but my shoulders were. Fortunately, the radiology tech had a few tricks up his sleeve, and he had me stretch my arms about my head before sliding me into the MRI “pipe”. The fit was snug, and the country music piped in over headphones helped, but after ten minutes of buzzing, the tech pulled me out and said they were having calibration issues and needed to use another MRI machine.
The walk to the second MRI machine was the slowest and most painful fifteen yards I’d ever walked. But I made it to the table, laid down, stretched my arms above me, closed my eyes, and relaxed to some Kenny Chesney while the MRI hummed in the background.
After a five minutes, the technician’s voice popped in over the radio, saying the machine was calibrated, and the test would take about thirty minutes. I just kept my eyes closed, half-listening to the country lyrics, and tried not to give into claustrophobia.
After another five minutes, I realized I had a bigger problem: I needed to pee.
One of the possible side effects of an MRI is an increase in body temperature. The MRI machine works a lot like a microwave oven, so over the next twenty-five minutes, I could feel the urine in my bladder steadily increasing in temperature. I knew the technicians probably wouldn’t be happy if I wet their multi-million-dollar machine, so I did my best to pass the time without thinking about growing pressure, warmth and discomfort. By the end of the scan, the pain in my bladder had reached parity with the pain in my back, and I felt like I was sprinting to the restroom twenty yards way.