My First MRI

Today was my first MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). Why am I getting an MRI? My goal is to find out why I get headaches and then find the cure for them. I believe nobody should have frequent headaches. I had 89 headaches in 2010. If you have pain anywhere in your body that often, something is definitely wrong!

Anyway, I want to tell you about my experience with the MRI machine. Since I’ve never been subjected to this type of test before, it was a memorable experience.

First, let me tell you what the MRI machine does--
Your body is mostly made up of water. Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen atoms respond to a magnet. The MRI machine uses a very powerful magnet to line up the hydrogen atoms in your body in a straight line. About half of the atoms point toward your head and about half point toward your feet, but there are always a few unmatched atoms. Then a radio frequency pulse is added which causes the unmatched atoms to spin the other way. When the pulse is turned off, the unmatched atoms return to their normal position and emit energy. This energy sends a signal to a computer, which converts it into an image.

I felt honored that they were going to use this sterile, spaceship-looking mega-machine on me. I did some research before my appointment and learned that just the machine itself costs more than $3 Million. And that’s not including the highly trained staff that runs it. Impressive.

They had me lie on a narrow table, which is designed to slide your body into the machine. The table was surprisingly comfortable. They added a pillow under my legs to keep my back as flat as possible. Then they added pads under my arms (for comfort, I guess). I also got foam earplugs and headphones, which played music and allowed the technicians to talk to me while the machine was running. Last but not least, I got an emergency squeeze bulb attached to a cord. "If anything happens(!?!), just squeeze this and we will get you out of there." That was both worrisome and comforting at the same time. LOL I never had to squeeze it.

One of the technicians said my job was to hold still. In my head, I told myself, "Hold still, think positive thoughts, and smile". It may not help, but it sure can’t hurt! :)

They slid me in and went behind a glass wall. I wondered if the glass was explosion-proof. They turned on the music and started the machine. I was expecting a loud windy sound. Nope, what I heard was very loud pulses of varying frequencies and degrees. Sometimes it sounded like the bass beat of rock music. Sometimes it was just noise.

A lot of thoughts went through my head as the huge magnets and pulsing frequencies did their work. I remembered when I was a little boy, hiding in my toy box, which seemed oddly similar to where I was now. I also wondered if the lights in the rest of the hospital dimmed when they turned the MRI machine on. That led to thoughts of spinning electric meters, and people running the power plant having to turn a few dials to compensate for the increased power draw at Kadlec Hospital in Richland, Washington… Just for me…

I briefly wondered if this giant hydrogen sucking magnet would cause me to have a headache for the rest of the day. How ironic would that be? I tried to keep my thoughts positive. Feeling good, pushing back any negative thoughts, and smiling. I wondered if the MRI techs could see what I was thinking on their computer screen. His name was Don, he was nice. There was a woman, too, but she didn’t tell me her name. She talked to me through the headphones while I was in the machine. She asked me if I was ok, and gave me periodic updates of how much time was left.

They did two separate scans, one of my brain and one of my neck. Each took 20 minutes. There was about a 2 minute break in between. I can’t say it went fast or slow. I was very much aware of the time as it passed. I knew it was almost done before I heard her voice in my headphones, "only 4 more minutes to go".

When it was over, I wasn’t dizzy or disoriented at all. I felt like I had taken a 40 minute nap but I know I didn’t sleep. And I was very hungry!

I won’t have the results for a few days, but I expect a clear picture with no sign of trouble. I suspect my headaches are caused by some type of allergy. I will get to the bottom of this mystery, because that is my goal. :)

Now go take on the day!

Peace, out.

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  1. I feel like I get headaches fairly often too, but I always just kind of associated it with being female (menstrual cycle, hormones, etc.) and being young / still growing. When did you start actually tracking how often you were having headaches? I mean, I'm assuming you didn't just GUESS that you had 89 headaches... right? :)

    Thanks for this info on the MRI, I think it will be helpful for people who need to go through it. I've never had one personally, but I'm sure the situation may come up at some point and now I feel a little prepared if I do.


  2. Hi Jessica,
    Thanks for your comments. I've been tracking my headaches since 2007. I have a calendar hanging on the wall and when I have a headache, I put an "x" on that day. There is no real pattern that I can see, but my chiropractor and my new M.D. were impressed and happy to get this info.

    Thanks for reading my blog. I really appreciate it. Do you have any requests or suggestions for topics?

    Have a great day my friend!
    Peace, Duane

  3. I think there must be something wrong with me because I haven't had a headache in at least 5 years.
    That can't be normal!
    Good luck with the results Duane. Interesting Blog on the whole MRI experience.
    Did you know that having your head put in a powerful magnetic field can cause alien abduction type hallucinations? Or ghostly presences near you? Some MRI patients have this happen to them.

  4. Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for your comment. If you haven't had a headache in 5 years you are very lucky! I'm not surprised about the hallucinations. That would have been kind of fun, but I didn't see anything like that. :)
    Cheers, Duane

  5. Thanks for sharing this Duane, I enjoyed reading that.
    I hope you get over your headaches soon.

    Take care.


  6. Hi Mike,
    Thank you for your kind words. I get my results next week. I'll probably write a blog about that, too. LOL
    Cheers Mate,

  7. Yeah, had my first MRI this morning, for the same reason. Wasn't bad. I thought I would imagine I was on Star Trek:The Next Generation, but when I got in the tube, the sounds reminded me more of Logan's Run, especially when Logan was being interrogated by the computer and he kept repeating, "There is no sanctuary. All frozen."
    And I found myself humming the same frequency as the sounds the machine was making. People say it sounds like a jackhammer, but to me it sounds more like a pneumatic pump, and the machine itself sounds more like bullfrogs in love. Pretty cool experience, except since I wasn't supposed to move I got itchy after awhile-your experience very closely mimics mine!

    1. Hey Rkady,
      Thanks for your comments. It was an interesting experience, for sure. I hope they can get to the bottom of your headaches. Doctors still have no idea what is causing mine. Funny, they have almost stopped since I quit working. :)
      Peace, Duane

  8. It does, but it’s worth every penny. As a matter of fact, the new type of MRI, that was developed a few years back, is the answer to the problem of claustrophobia with some patients who undergo the scanning procedure. Developments like this are important to ensure functionality and quality. What does the MRI they used on you look like?

    Cami Hood

  9. Hi Cami,
    It looked like a huge donut. I was on a narrow table that slid into the donut hole.