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Whole Tooth / In the Coffin
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The Nucleo-Magnetic Coffin
Monday, November 2, 1998
Today, I rode to Dr. med. Johann Bonow's office in order to get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. If you would as soon confuse PMS with MRI or PCMCIA, here's an explanation of the process:
Put simply: During the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (also known as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, NMR) process, the hydrogen atoms in your body are mixed up with a powerful magnetic system, the results of which are interpreted by a computer and transformed into a visualization of your inner organs.
More detail: You are shoved into a thick, metallic tube, somewhat coffin-like in its appearance. The tube houses a huge magnet and tiny antennae. The magnetic field aligns the hydrogen atoms in your body (80 % of your body is made of hydrogen). Then, the machine sends out radio waves which invert the alignment of the atoms. As soon as the radio waves stop, the hydrogen atoms flip back into the direction of the magnet, which causes the atoms to emit resonance signals. These signals are captured by the antennae and processed by a computer which transforms the signals into images which can be analyzed by a qualified doctor.
The procedure takes time. A MRI scan of the whole body can last more than an hour.
Given the fact that this technology is relatively new and very expensive, doctors will usually be a bit reluctant to have your hydrogen atoms spun for their diagnostics.
As I arrived late (are you beginning to see a pattern here? I am not), I was rushed into the examination room. I had to leave everything behind which contained metal: My belt had to go, but I didn't have to remove the buttons of my pants.
(MRI trivia: People with metal in their body cannot be examined with MRI. Since I had seen on my previous computer x-ray that I didn't even have a brain, I didn't have to worry about metal either).
A gentle woman in a white overall gave me some paperwork to sign (a release form) -- they were going to pump a "contrast substance" into my body. As I signed, I was told to lie down on a horizontal sled. How long was this going to take? "About twenty minutes." They gave me an IV on my right arm through which they would later administer the contrast substance. My head was put into a some kind of restraining unit.
Did I ever mention that I am a bit on the claustrophobic side?
Slowly, they pushed me -- head-first -- into the metal tube. The MRI machine was making a constant pumping noise, like an old steam engine. Chug chug chug chug.
They pulled me out again, made some adjustment I couldn't see and pushed me back in.
The exam started. A loud, jarring noise, something spinning around me in this tube, was all around me, accompanied by the chugging noise of the machine. The jarring sound shifted phases and positions. I was lying there, immobilized, staring at the upper end of the tube.
Somebody had pasted a bandaid exactly above me into the tube, with a smiley face drawn straight in the middle.
For the next ten minutes (or so -- I didn't have a watch), I listened to the jarring noise around me, the chug chug of the MRI machine and staring at the smiley face. The IV was a little uncomfortable, but I stayed calm. The noise stopped.
A tinny female voice came through some speaker: "We are now going to administer the contrast substance." Cold liquid ran into the IV and into my arm. "We are now continuing the examination." The noise started again.
This time, though, I had lost my cool. My hands were cramping and my breath was uneven. My leg muscles tightened and loosened without me doing anything. I fought down my impulses to scream, to rip the IV out, to free myself from the machine.
After half an hour, it was over. I was told I could pick up the scans in an hour. I passed the time walking around outside, window-shopping. I didn't dare to eat lunch -- who knows how this contast substance reacts to food.
With the scans in my possession, I biked to the dental hospital and eventually showed the stuff to Dr. Küttner. He looked at the images and, evidently, saw nothing. Luckily for him, there was a cue sheet enclosed, the analysis from Dr. Bonow.
Dr. Küttner asked me whether I would mind him pressing against the inner jaw again, to which I replied "If you must...". He pressed, it hurt, I told him so. He was not happy.
He proceeded to call up his superior, Dr. Eckardt, who arrived after a prolonged wait period, looked over the images (three huge, rectangular transparencies) and finally read through the lab analysis.
The cyst was gone, according to the MRI. However, there was a brain. I was rather unprepared for both findings.
They had found nothing.
Staring at me earnestly, Dr. Eckardt outlined my choices:
See a neurologist about "conservative" pain therapy (medication).
Giving myself small local electro-shocks with a walkman-sized device whenever I felt a pain surge (yikes).
Neural surgery with a cauterization of the nerve (for possible side effects, see Sylvester Stallone -- he's got some dead nerves in his face which explain his droopy look -- no joke).
But first, I have to go to neurosurgery, for a second opinion. After the doctor pressed onto the jaw, the pain kept climbing up inside me, steadily worsening. Just what I needed.
At this point, all hope for this to end quickly are gone. The tour de docteurs has begun again.
NEXT: THE CYST THAT WASN'T.
"The Internist asked about my medical history. I almost referred him to my web site."
The Cyst That Wasn't >
Previously: Back To The Drawing Board <
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"The Continuing Health Crisis" is an 100% true account of MOATMAI's health problems. It is intended to keep all friends and enemies informed about his current status. The Whole FAQ.
First Visit? You might want to check out the summary before continuing.
Current Status: The root canal, it is done. The tooth is dead. And the pain? Well...
The whole mess began in June, 1997. The Whole Tooth starts here.
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