The Third MRI

That weekend, waiting for the MRI, felt like a last supper. I didn’t have a clue as to what the week would bring. The thought that I could end up as an inpatient again by Wednesday and then back in surgery by the end of the week was unpalatable. With the MRI looming on the Sunday, I was adamant that I was going to make the most of the Saturday, at the very least. Brunch with a friend, a walk in the city looking at apartments, writing in a cafe. I made the most of the freedom the day gave me. But as I was getting ready for church the next morning, I felt sick by the thought that this could be my last Sunday with my church family for a while. Being at the church gathering that morning though was hard. Well intentioned questions were asked of me, ‘Are you improving?’ ‘Are you getting better?’ At one point, a friend who knew why I was struggling came to my rescue. The questions were hard because I knew that in a matter of hours I would be going through a third MRI to determine why I had suddenly experienced the setback in my recovery. And as the time for the MRI drew closer, my uneasiness was also growing.

I was a nervous wreck by the time the radiographer came to collect me from the reception area. He showed me into the change room where I needed to put on the paper gown. When I finally emerged, I was holding onto the door and the wall, not being able to walk unassisted. The radiographer invited me to go to the MRI machine. Slightly embarrassed, I had to ask him to help me walk across the room to the MRI. I was relieved when he put the foam pillow under my legs, without me having to ask, so that I didn’t have to lie flat. This third MRI was going to be longer than the previous two. I was nervous about whether I would get through the first part of the scan, which was of my whole spine, without moving. But as soon as classic fm was playing in the headphones, I was able to zone out. By the final sequence of the scan, lying on the hard surface was starting to become too uncomfortable and trying not to move to relieve the pressure on my back took a lot of concentration. When the scan was over, I knew part b was still to come. The radiologist gave me instructions not to move my spine while he put a line in my arm to inject the Gad. He explained what the Gad was for. The contrast that the Gadolinium will cause will be able to show the scar tissue. For the first time, I heard that there was a third possible reason for the sudden weakness in my legs, which is that scar tissue could also be impinging on the nerve. I knew that if the cause was scar tissue, then nothing could be done. But I also knew that if the surgeon thought that scar tissue was a possible cause, then he would have related that to me on the previous Wednesday. I trusted my surgeon. That thought put my mind to rest. I knew by the metallic taste in my mouth that the Gad had been injected and the radiographer was now waiting to see if I had an allergic reaction. Assured that I was okay, the radiographer started the sequences for the second stage of the MRI; this time, the MRI was only of my lumbar spine. The scan was soon over. I was stiff and sore after lying still in one position for over forty five minutes. The radiographer kindly helped me back to the change room and I slowly  readied myself for the outside world. The radiographer handed me the scans and I realised that the waiting was not yet over. I might have the scans, but now I needed to wait for the surgeon’s verdict; I still had another 48 hours to go. An inkling of a thought was creeping into my consciousness. Not quite ready to be spoken aloud, but there nonetheless. I knew from the experience of the first MRI that if the problem was caused by a disc compressing the spinal cord again, I wouldn’t have been able to stay still voluntarily for the full length of the MRI. And something else did not quite add up for me. I wasn’t in pain like last time. So I resigned myself to the wait. I put my head down in my work and tried to get on with life as much as I possibly could.