Going through the tube
Darren Buckley confronts a demon
Earlier today I travelled to an off-shoot of the NHS in order to have an MRI scan on my right hip/thigh, this resulting from an injury I suffered on a golf course.
After the round concerned, I arrived home having ‘stiffened up’ and beset by various aches and pains, all anticipated and perfectly normal for anyone of my vintage who troubles to take any exercise. By the following morning all these had left me, again as per usual, bar what felt like – from previous experience – a pulled muscle at the top/front of my thigh.
Over the next few days, the discomfort from said affliction grew exponentially to the point where I could only climb stairs in dot-and-carry Douglas Bader fashion, only sleep in a foetal position lying on my right hand side and, in daytime, experienced pretty continual discomfort, even when sitting down.
During the first week, all this was moderately amusing as both my pals and I went through our repertoires of ‘groin injury’ quips. But, as time went by and no improvement occurred, things began to darken. My reaction edged from acceptance to boredom and then onwards to frustration and worse. The condition became debilitating, physically and mentally. To walk to the shops not only took an age but, by the time I got home again, I was thoroughly exhausted.
After a month, I went to see my GP. From there, I was sent for an x-ray, then for an ultrasound … and finally today, eleven weeks after suffering the injury, an MRI scan. Hopefully the MRI will show something, because neither of the first two did. I’ve also had two sessions of physiotherapy. Overall, my movement and flexibility has improved by about 50%, but the basic problem has not gone away.
I reported to the clinic this morning at 7.30am, thirty minutes before my appointment, to find it was firmly not yet open. Furthermore, at that time of the day, it was still very dark. I shuffled off to find a local newsagent from which to buy a newspaper and, upon my return, the lights were on. Although it was still not yet open, there was a notice on the reception door indicating that the MRI scanner was in the car park around the side of the building.
I therefore knocked on the door of the mobile scanner and was let inside by two female operatives. I had to fill out a form detailing my medical history and specifically any metal I was carrying in my body – as I understand it, because the MRI amounts to a powerful magnet. All jewellery etc. had to come off. I went behind a screen and donned a gown, having removed my neck chain, signet ring, watch and Prince Albert – all of which I had to hand to one of the ladies for her to put in a transparent plastic bag and place in a locker for me.
They had me lie on a couch, on my back, and strapped my feet together, in order to reduce any movement. I was then given a pair of ear defenders – to combat the noise – and a panic button (for the use of), told to keep my hands on my chest, and was soon edging backwards into the scanner for what was (I had been advised) the ten-minute duration of the scan.
I’m not brilliant at the prospect of confined spaces and my initial reaction was that this experience was not going to be much fun. The roof of the scanner was about six inches above my face and I was totally enclosed. Fortunately, within a few more seconds I had moved so far into the scanner that my forehead was out the end and I was able to stare at the ceiling if I wished. I closed my eyes and tried to relax – perchance to snooze, if possible.
It wasn’t. One of the factors with my condition is that I cannot lie on my back or front without a degree of discomfort in my thigh. Within a minute of the clicking and whirring starting – volume occasionally high – I could feel the sensation growing. In any other circumstance I could and would have shifted, slightly or more, in order simply to change position and/or get more comfortable. However, this was not possible.
The last eight minutes or so inside the scanner were long. The discomfort became progressively worse, but I just had to get on with it. No point in pressing the panic button, because (presumably) that would derail the whole process, which would have to begin again, maybe another time.
I’m back home now, relaxed and content that I’ve done my bit and that in ‘four or five working days’ I should hear something from somebody – probably my GP – about the results.
Hopefully there will be some. When you’ve got a medical issue, the worse thing of all is the doctors – and therefore you as well – not knowing quite what we’re dealing with.