Sunday, 13 July 2014

My Sixth MRI Scan

Some backstory: when I first went to this German hospital about two months ago it was to get a second opinion on the reconstructive surgery for which I had previously contacted another German surgeon and got a date scheduled. At this new hospital they were quite interested in my case, started genetic testing on my blood and scheduled an MRI scan with contrast dye. Then, after informing them about a third surgeon I had contacted and that surgeon's desire to get the genetic testing done first to figure out which form of intersex I have exactly, this MRI appointment got cancelled and I was left waiting with no appointment or concrete date.

Then, a few weeks ago I suddenly got a message from the surgeon's assistant in which she expressed a kind of apology for me missing the first MRI appointment and offering to schedule a new appointment. Agreeing to this, I then had another road trip to a hospital to look forward to on the 8th of July, which was this week Tuesday. I must honestly say that this message caught me by surprise and I had trouble shaking off the feeling that I was being set up somehow. Regardless, I had to go to the appointment and see what happened.

That Tuesday the journey itself was quite uneventful, with Deutsche Bahn giving me no grief. The entire journey I was filled with apprehension about what would happen at the hospital, though, in the sense that I had no idea whether there really would be an appointment in the system or that it was just a ruse and I would have to return home again after such a shameful discovery. Regardless, I had arrived at the final train station and had to catch a bus. There I found that the bus company's workers were striking. After a few confusing minutes for me and my fellow travellers we found that a bus would still go to the hospital every half hour.

Once at the hospital I finally got to execute the scenario I had been practicing for weeks at that point: asking at the front desk where I had to be for my MRI appointment. In German. While I was waiting for the guy in front of me at the front desk, a woman behind the desk who was not helping the guy in front of me quickly helped me. I told her that I had an MRI ('MRT' in German) appointment at 12 o'clock and to my surprise she pulled out a big sheet of paper and asked me for my (last) name, confirming my first name and telling me where I had to go for the radiology department.

So I really did have an MRI appointment, then. This was going far better than I had hoped. Walking down the hallways I quickly found the right department and got helped by a friendly lady at the desk there. I had to fill in a form with the standard MRI-related questions and she also asked me for the referral from my GP and the blood test results (contrast dye precaution, for liver-function), both of which I had with me. I wasn't just surprised by how well-organized everything went so far, but also by how easily things went considering that I was still doing all communication in German at that point.

After waiting for a few minutes it was my turn for the MRI scan. The assistant gave the usual instructions on where to change clothes and also advised me to take off everything but my underwear before I slipped into the hospital gown, as it would get very warm during the scan. Having done so, a doctor entered the room to insert the contraption used for the contrast dye into the usual vein on the opposite side of the elbow. That done, I was guided into the MRI scanner by the first assistant and a second woman. The latter at one point asked me where I was from, but I could barely hear her since they had put on the headphones already. Taking these off she repeated her question in English, to which I replied in English that I had moved to Germany recently from the Netherlands. I figured that something about my accent when I speak German must have tipped her off that I'm not native German born :)

The MRI scan itself took about fourty-five minutes. The first half hour or so wasn't so bad. I did the usual stuff as with my previous five scans: just blank out and doze a bit while stuff goes on around one. I got the instruction via the headphones to hold my breath for a bit while they did one scan series, then they told me that it would take another ten minutes or so at that point. That's when they apparently also added the contrast dye or more of it, because I got really, really warm around that point. It's never very cold inside an MRI scanner because it's quite a narrow space, but this time it turned into a sauna. It wasn't external warmth either, but my body which was warming up. As someone told me later, the contrast dye is at or above body temperature, so that would make sense.

I was very glad at this point that I had taken the assistant's advice to take off all my clothes, as I could feel everything getting drenched with sweat. When the MRI scan finally ended and the assistant helped me get off the bed I felt both very sweaty and my body protesting against having had to lie motionless for so long. The lower back pains I keep having definitely didn't help there either. She also asked me whether I was staying at the hospital, to which I replied negatively. The reason she asked was because of whether the tube into my vein would have to stay or not. Taking it out  I felt relieved to be without body modifications again, albeit with yet another big hole left to heal.

I had been informed beforehand that the contrast dye tends to make people want to go to the toilet a lot, and although it wasn't quite so bad for me, I did make a toilet break after the scan before slipping back into my clothes. I talked with the assistant who told me that the scans would be sent to my doctor at the hospital. I told her that I had also agreed with this doctor that I would receive a copy of the MRI scan. This turned out to be very easy, I would just have to ask at the department's desk for a CD with the images and wait twenty minutes. Thanking her, I got dressed and went to the department's desk. Everything pretty much turned out as described and I did indeed have to wait about twenty minutes.

After I got handed the CD in the waiting room, an older woman sitting in the waiting room inquired about the examination I had received earlier. I told her about the MRI scan with contrast dye, pointing to the bandage around my left elbow. She was curious as to what the scan was for, to which I just responded that it was for reconstructive surgery, for something which had been 'off' by my birth. Something 'down there'. While I could have told more, it was already stretching the limits of my German vocabulary and there really wasn't any need to go into detail. The woman seemed quite understanding regardless and wished me a lot of luck before I left.

Leaving the hospital with the CD in my possession, I soon found myself back at the train station where I had some time to kill as I had booked my journey back in the expectation of delays of which there were none. As a result I loitered at the small book store at this station where a particular book caught my eye: 'Hilfe, wir sind umsingelt' ('Help, we are surrounded') by Helene Wolf. It's about the strange separation of humanity into two species: singles and couples. The word joke in the title should be obvious: umSINGELt. Essentially it describes how both species work, how they can learn to live with each other and deal with each other's oddities while also giving a lot of relationship advice. All in a humorous fashion. It seemed oddly appropriate for someone like me.

On the way back home and especially once home I had trouble not falling asleep. With the adrenaline and apprehension about the MRI scan gone, I was left a sleep-deprived, energy-less wreck. Eating dinner (pizza) first and then forcing myself to stay awake until a more acceptable time to go to bed than 7 PM, I went to sleep in the knowledge that the next day I would be back in the Other World, without hospitals and medical examinations. A strange feeling indeed.



Zoe Brain said...

Best of luck. Here's hoping for some definitive answers.

Maya Posch said...

Thank you, Zoe :)

Hopefully later this month I'll have some proper answers :)

Patrick Horgan said...

Have you looked at the CD? Could you tell anything?

Maya Posch said...

@Patrick - Nope, haven't looked at it. Doubt it will tell me much more than the previous MRI scan images since I'm not a professional radiologist/physician :)