Part 2: Some Advice For MRIs
This is a series for Migraine Awareness Week 2020 (6th-12th September) where I give an insight into the life and experiences of someone suffering from migraines. Migraine Awareness Week is where those with the condition and other supporters raise awareness for migraines as a complex, neurological disorder instead of “just a headache”. This is the story of an MRI I had a few months after diagnosis.
After a week in hospital when I was nine, the doctors were 99% confident I suffered from the condition of migraines, which, in my case, is a condition where I develop a temporary stroke for eight hours. However, it’s always good to be 100% sure so the doctors booked me in for an MRI scan a few months after my initial hospitalisation.
MRIs look a bit like space capsules. You lie down on a platform and you are sucked into a semi-circular machine which completely surrounds you. It can feel a bit claustrophobic and you have to lie completely still, but for head scans they only last about thirty minutes. During that time, the machine uses a magnetic field to scan multiple layers of your brain. Doctors then use the images produced to check for abnormalities in your brain.
Two things make MRIs quite challenging. Firstly, no one else is allowed in the room when your having the scan. You are on your own. This is because of the magnetic field. If another person enters the room and they are wearing metal, then it doesn’t end well. The more pressing issue I had was the noises the machine made. MRIs are quite loud and make many different beeping sounds. Some people use the phrase, “If an MRI sounds like there is something wrong, then it is working”.
As you probably can imagine, this is quite a terrifying prospect for a nine-year-old child. However, my saving grace was the fact that MRI machines have built in headphones. The primary use for this is so the doctors who are watching you from another room behind a glass screen can make sure you’re doing ok. However, the secondary benefit is that you can have music of your choice playing into the MRI, which can make the experience much more enjoyable.
My mum was very excited about the fact you could play music. She was telling me how I could get thirty minutes of music together, so I knew exactly how long left I had of the scan by what song was playing.
I was having none of it.
At the time, I wasn’t interested in listening to music. Instead, I loved listening to history CDs. Not podcasts, those weren’t really about at the time. These were CDs given to me by my nan who had got them free from a newspaper she read. They were based on the Horrible History books, such as the heroisms of Horatio Nelson, the gruesomeness of Egyptian mummification and the conditions of the poor in Victorian England. I decided to choose to listen to a CD all about the First World War while I was having the scan.
So, there I was, in a noisy machine that sounded like it was going wrong, with noises of gunshots going through my headphones.
A small piece of advice: if you are having an MRI scan, listen to some nice, calming music.
In all seriousness, MRIs may look and sound terrifying, but they are not as bad as they may first seem. My mum and the doctors were great at explaining the whole process to me and making sure I knew exactly what was going on. I was well aware that the machine would sound loud and that it may be claustrophobic, but it made it a lot easier to cope with. If you have a child, this is the approach I would recommend taking. Be honest with them about the fact it can be scary, but that they will be safe in the machine. I was also allowed to take my cuddly toy tiger into the machine so something to check with your own doctors.
On the bright side, I am the only person in my family to have evidence that I actually have a brain. They can no longer argue with me on that front.
MIGRAINES – MORE THAN JUST A HEADACHE