Monday, October 14, 2013

"Open" MRIs and Utter Stinking Misery

So, my amazing boy got his green belt in Hapkido on Saturday.  His kicks are getting so much higher and stronger.  Broke his boards.  I'm superbly proud of him.

Yes, he's blurry here.  He's actually always blurry.  It's part of what makes him so special.


Today was my MRI.  What a mess.  What an all-day, drawn out, expensive mess.  Appointment was at 11 am in Rockville, Maryland.  It's a bit of a drive, and we were unsure of how the traffic might be, so we headed out at 9:00 a.m.  Got there killer early, and they took me killer early, which I thought was great.  They take me back, and it is clear I'm not going to fit in that machine.  It's not the "high field open MRI" I was promised.  Instead, it's a "sit down, magnets on either side" gig, with a space between the magnets that makes a coach airline seat look spacious.  I'd have been okay (I did fit), had they not also needed my arms flat to my sides, with my elbows pulled back against my ribs, AND the coil around the bad arm.

THAT wasn't happening.

So they wound up calling their other location--the one that actually HAS the open (not sitting) MRI. They could see me today--at 2 p.m.  Almost a four hour wait.  It was a half-hour drive (to Chevy Chase), so we decided to go straight there.  Figured we could park somewhere, maybe nap.  

Who knew there's no parking in Chevy Chase?  No free parking, anyway.  Considering all the Louis Vuitton, JCrew, and Tiffany's scattered about, I suppose the surfeit of parking meters and high-priced lots shouldn't surprise me.  It would have been 18 dollars to park for the six hours we were going to need (longer, it turned out), so we decided "screw it" and headed back home.  We had just enough time, once home, to grab a credit card to cover the parking (which still wound up being ten bucks), grab a snack, and hit the bathroom.  Then it was back on the road again, back to Chevy Chase (which is a lovely area, though the uber-snobby shopping tells me it's not an area that would likely welcome me).  We got there half-an-hour early, but wound up not being seen until an hour AFTER my scheduled appointment.  

I can't begin to tell you how exhausted I was.  Am.

First off, to the people of the Washington DC/Northern Virginia/Maryland area?  Give a girl a break, ENUNCIATE.  Seriously, the folks in this area have the mushiest, slushiest, laziest way of mouthing words, it's all blurred together in this "yezmm, canahaveyashurazcod" slop.

WHAT?  Seriously, what language is that?  Because if it's something exotic and you can't help it because English isn't your native tongue, okay--you speak slower, I'll lean closer, we'll throw in some hand gestures and a bit of charades and we'll make it work.  But if you're a native English speaker?

Stop chewing your damned tongue, stop slopping your lips together and SPEAK CLEARLY.

Thank you.

Anyway, they finally bring me back, and, speaking of English as a second language, the tech is Ukrainian.  Lovely accent, easier to understand than the mushmouth up front.  However, like so many medical professionals, she doesn't actually LISTEN.  She says, "Okay, left arm."  I say, "No, right arm."  She repeats, more loudly, "LEFT ARM."  I assumed I must be misunderstanding her, because otherwise, she just blew me off.  She had me lie down, and then told me to scoot all the way over so my LEFT arm was in the middle of the "bed."

"It's my right arm."

"No, it's you're left."

"No, really, it's my right arm--right here." (I point to the mass in my right arm).

"Not left?"

"Not left."

"The papers say left!"  (imagine angry Ukrainian voice).

"I'm pretty sure the paper reads 'right distal forearm.'"

"It says LEFT!"

"Okay, but it's NOT left, it's RIGHT."

She scuttles from the room, huffs back a few minutes later, telling me to scoot over to the OTHER side of the table so my RIGHT arm is in the center.

And then comes the agony.  She keeps telling me to scoot farther and farther, until my other arm is hanging off the table.  She tells me I have to rotate my arm in, hold it close to my side, keep it turned, AND don't move.  My arm is clasped to my side, wrist bent and fingers resting on the table, helping support the arm (see, the shoulder and deltoid have been hurting badly for a week now, so any sort of twisting like this is painful from the get-go).  She asks if it's comfortable, I tell her "No, it's not."  She asks if I can manage.  And I say I think I can.

And I probably could have, if she hadn't come back in after 20+ minutes, practically shouting, "Mass?  This is for a MASS?"  I agree, yes, it's for a mass.  She makes a rather rude noise (a sort of a "tschah!") and leaves.  Comes back with two vitamin E gelcaps and some tape.  The second time I've had OTC vitamins taped to my arm as a marker today.  Then she shoves and muscles my arm back into the now VERY painful position she demands, and we start ALL OVER AGAIN.

About 15 minutes in, my upper arm (where the tricep [specifically the tricep brachii longus] meets the scapula [shoulder blade]) begins to twitch.  Just small spasms, but nothing I can do about it. She bursts in and admonishes me to be still, that she's seeing far too much motion.  I explain that I'm being as still as I can, but my arm is spasming and it's beyond my control.

Another "tschah!"

By 25 minutes, my whole arm is searing, burning with pain, and the muscle spasms have spread. By 30 minutes?  My whole arm is trembling and my fingers, which were supporting my arm?  Give out.  Not all of them, just two.  They slip, and that's that.  

I lift my other arm and flag her in.  She rumbles the table out of the machine, and I start to explain what's going on, and . . .

I burst into tears.

This isn't my first rodeo, I've had a number of MRIs.  But I've never had one go bad on me like this.  I've never had a problem being still and being in and out in a relative jiffy.

I've certainly never cried at the tech.  I think I scared her.

Might have something to do with two hours of sleep, a two hour job that turned into an eight hour day, months of fear, and a LOT of pain.  She kept asking what to do to make the arm stop freaking out, but kept shooting down everything I suggested.  We finally, through creative use of wedges and foam bits, managed to get the arm in the right position, get the coil in the right spot, AND have the arm resting in such a way that it wasn't tensed and balanced on fingers.  

And then we started AGAIN.

Another 40 minutes.  My back, my knees, my shoulders, my arm, and, of course, my head?  All a mess.  And when I asked her if the scans were better, she made a noncommittal sort of "eh, better" noise.  Which isn't encouraging.

I should have gone to Fauquier and used their wide-bore MRI.  It's nasty, it's claustrophobia-inspiring, it's snug, but they do the job quickly and correctly. Sure, it would have been a fifty dollar copay, but free parking and we wouldn't have had to drive to Maryland.


Maryland, where gas is markedly more expensive than just a few miles south.

Now, I'm not dogging the tech--I'm frustrated with the time and the hurt, not with her.  She seemed a nice enough lady, though her expressions of frustration weren't particularly comforting.

While driving about, we were sure to take the Capital Beltway, seeking out any of the six teabilly truckers who accomplished nothing with their diminutive "Truckers for the Constitution" joke.  Like yesterday, like the day before, and like the day before that, they were nowhere to be found.

On the way home (the second time), we stopped by the Bolger Center.  It's the place my husband was staying when he decided he wanted to move to the east coast.  For reasons I understand far better than anyone suspects.

Now, because it was a federal holiday (Happy Meteors Discovering Dinosaurs Day), we couldn't drop off the CD at my surgeon's office.  So we'll have to go tomorrow, drop off the CD, make a new appointment, and hope Hubby's boss is understanding.

Speaking of hopes, let's all cross our fingers that the MRI place, which has a contract with my insurance provide, doesn't mean what it says in the financial forms.  A lot of "we don't care what preset amounts your provider may think we'll accept--we have our own ideas, and you're responsible for the full amount, your insurance company be damned" language.  Let's also hope my insurance company pays for the in-office x-rays the surgeon took last week.  Because if not, I've already sunk us, and we don't even have a diagnosis yet.

Health care in America.  Where families routinely have to choose between health and financial solvency.


And that's that.  I'm going to try to snag a few minutes of sleep before the boys come home from Hapkido.

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