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MRI Scans: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love MRI Scans

There's something wrong with me. Over the past few months, I've been through a series of painful, embarrassing and therefore completely hilarious visits to clinics and hospitals to work out exactly what this wrongness is. The most recent of these attempts to pinpoint the problem was also the most hilarious, for a number of reasons: an MRI scan. MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. Without going into loads of technobabbly detail which neither you nor I understand, an MRI scan involves a machine that uses a magnetic current to create a detailed map of the body which doctors can then use to diagnose medical issues. A human Google Street View, if you will. The day of my own MRI scan began with a visit to the radiology reception desk at Royal Hallamshire Hospital. I was shown through to a waiting area, where before long I was greeted by an orderly. Nice chap though he was, he came bearing bad news. Not just bad news, but the worst bit of news one can ever have the misfortune to receive in a hospital: that I would need to wear a medical gown. Now, 'gown' is a word which usually brings to mind red carpets and star-studded parties - glamour, beauty, style, elegance. A medical gown is literally the diametric opposite of all this. It is a sheet of thin material with a pattern apparently modelled on a grandmother's nightdress which ties at the back with string. Except that it doesn't. It just sort of flaps about. Nothing is worn beneath it, except for one's shoes and socks. So to sum up that outfit again, then: flimsy gown, shoes, socks, barely-concealed nudity. It's not a look likely to be gracing the cover of Vogue any time soon. After I'd changed into that godforsaken get-up I was called through to the scanning room. A lovely nurse lady checked I had nothing metallic about my person that might interfere with the magnetic scanner - jewellery, artificial limbs, 'Nam shrapnel, that sort of thing - before showing me to the device itself. MRI scanners consist of a raised bed which wheels patients into a thick circular tunnel, the walls of which house the magnetic bits which do the scanning. They are sleek, white, futuristic-looking bits of kit - a giant space-pencil sharpener, perhaps, or a sun bed with ideas above its station. The first thing I noticed was the logo on its side: Siemens. I'm going to be honest - I prefer their phones. I climbed onto the bed, where a friendly nurse man explained that the scanner would be very loud, that I would be wearing headphones to protect my ears because of this, and asked if I brought any music to listen to. Ah! My pre-appointment letter had mentioned it, but now the day had arrived I had of course forgotten this piece of information. But even if I had remembered, how would I have known what to choose? What musical selection is appropriate for such an occasion? Which artist is best placed to soundtrack the experience of being trapped inside a shiny tube in a hospital for three-quarters of an hour? Dr Feelgood? The Vaccines? Maybe not. Because the MRI scan works using a form of radiation, no-one else is allowed in the room while it is in progress, so as not to affect the readings. Information is relayed to the patient from a separate control room, either via the headphones or via a small speaker in the mouth of the scanner. When I first saw it, I assumed the speaker - a small, black circle - was in fact a camera. Maybe I would be filmed throughout the ordeal, I thought, and then the footage uploaded to YouTube, or sent in to You've Been Framed. Perhaps as I exited the hospital, I'd be presented with a commemorative photo, like when you get to the end of a roller coaster at a theme park. Maybe that's just how the NHS works these days - I Went For An MRI Scan And All I Got Was This Lousy Picture. Probably better that it doesn't, really. When it started, the scan was loud as promised - like being inside an old washing machine. Apart from that, the entire experience was pretty blissful. Sort of a holiday. I just went into a room and had a little lie down for a while, away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. I'm not saying MRI scans are a substitute for, say, a spa visit, but I reckon they're a close second. There are certainly worse ways to pass an hour of your time. Watching an episode of Channel 5's The Hotel Inspector, for example. As something of a hospital novice - my only previous trips were for minor infections as a toddler - the thought of having something as serious as an MRI scan made me a tad nervous. But my initial apprehension soon disappeared, thanks to the staff at the Royal Hallamshire being wonderful and amiable and attentive, and also the fact that MRI scans are just no big deal. There's really no reason anyone should ever be worried about having one. In fact, I think the NHS should probably be doing more of them. Scan everyone, I say! Human Google Street View for all! One thing, though: somebody needs to do something about those gowns. )

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