/posts/ 2024/my-mri


Mar 13, 2024

#health #life 

Warning: This post contains details of medical procedures.

Since my heart attack I’ve been scheduled for a confirmation MRI scan of my heart. I didn’t really know much about it, but I’ve been sitting on the waiting list since early January, or so I thought. A week or so ago I had my appointment set and it was for a ‘cardiac MRI stress test’, which after spending a few minutes reading online I found out that it can’t be done until after two months and comes with risks.

After my heart attack I’ve suffered with a lot of anxiety, every slight pain or twitch had my heart rate spiking and worrying that it was going to happen again. Numerous doctors, nurses, and health care workers have explained to me that for what happened to me the chances of having another if I follow the guidance is slim. They’ve mentioned that getting over the mental element of a heart attack can take a lot longer than the physical, and I’m slowly coming to understand that.

You can imagine how I felt after receiving the appointment letter and initially reading the risks. The appointment will inject a drug to drive my heart to beat faster, and as part of that, I would potentially experience symptoms similar to a heart attack. The thought of this scared me; I don’t want to ever feel that again, but it needs to be done.

The day of the appointment was quite normal, no caffeine or chocolate, and specific medications needed to be avoided (none of which applied to me). For someone who drinks 2-3 cups of tea a day the lack of tea was the killer. We headed into the hospital at my appointed time and I was taken through within 10 minutes of my time.

I was stripped down, had cannulas in each arm done, and then talked through the procedure: 20 minutes of imaging at the start, 5 minutes of the drug being administered and images taken, then another 25 minutes of imaging. The drug will be administered for five minutes and the doctor will be present during that time, it has to be constantly administered during that time so they can stop and the effects wear off within 30-40 seconds.

The MRI itself was relatively uneventful. You’re placed on a table, and in my case had a bar placed over my chest which assisted with the imaging, then rolled into the blank white tube. While I was connected up to drips and ECGs I had a small switch in my hand that I could push if I had any issues and a set of headphones playing an awful radio show that was on at the time.

What I felt was the unexpected part, and thinking about what MRI means makes a bit more sense now. The machine made loud electromagnetic sounds, like a transformer whine but much louder, and the plate across my chest warmed up slightly while the machine was whining. At first it shocked me, but my mind trying to rationalise the fear and feelings talked myself down from hitting that button.

The whole time the operators had a camera on me, so could see how I was doing inside. Most of the time I kept my eyes closed trying not to think too hard about what was going on. After what felt like five minutes I was wheeled out to meet the doctor administering the drug. He explained what I’d feel, how they were controlling it, and how they could stop it rapidly if needed. My anxiety kicked in and I wanted to say stop, but that logical part of my brain took over and said OK.

Within 15-20 seconds I felt like I was working out, a brisk walk where breathing through your nose wont solve, my heart didn’t feel like it was beating particularly hard, but it was working harder. I felt uncomfortable, like a slight ache in my back, and my arm was warm. For a moment I was worried but the doctor was still there observing my reaction, he asked how I felt and I explained my symptoms, and I got a ‘hmm’ in response. After two minutes I was rolled back into the machine, a fast barrage of images was took then 60 seconds later I was rolled out and told they’ll be stopping the drug now. Within a minute I felt back to normal.

The rest of the appointment went slowly, I was itching to leave after the drug, It was nothing near as bad as I imagined but I still had some base anxiety about being here at all. After what felt like forever I was brought out and unplugged from the various machines and drips, brought up from the bed and escorted out to the dressing room to get changed again.

Today, I feel tired and drained, but it is done. Another step in my recovery is done, and now I just have to wait for the next appointment with my consultant. I’d like to thank Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital again, without them I wouldn’t be here today, and so far they’ve made this journey bearable with their amazing staff and their thoughtful care of patients.