Yesterday we drove to Canberra so I could complete all the tests begun when my brain went wrong. After a big storm the day before, yesterday was gorgeous. Freshly washed skies, spring sunshine and cool breezes kept us company as we climbed the Great Dividing Range between Batemans Bay and Braidwood, then skimmed effortlessly over the unusually green and watery plains to Canberra. I was excited about the prospect of spending the afternoon at Floriade, Canberra’s Spring festival … but that was not to be.
Instead the machines took over. What was to be two tidy appointments actually took all afternoon. The MRI test was delayed almost an hour because they were running late. We enjoyed sitting in the tiny waiting room chatting with four others at various times, all lamenting the farce of our newly elected government. The new cabinet has only one woman, reflecting our Prime Minister’s low opinion of women, but he says the places were awarded on merit. Sad that the Liberal Party does not have women of merit amongst its ranks. How dare we public say that it looks like an Old Boys Club arrangement! So after an hour of that and other reflections on events such as the removal of a Ministry of Science, which has been replaced by a Ministry of Sport … .. oh dear! … it was finally my turn.
I had to make sure I had nothing metal on me or inside me … since the MRI is a huge magnet it can be dangerous. Then I was instructed to lie down on the sliding ‘bed’, my arm was prepared for an injection which would happen after the first round of imaging, I was given earplugs to protect my ears from what turned out to be incredibly loud noise, and tucked in with foam pads around my head and ears inside the plastic bubble that covered my face and head. A warm blanket completed the preparations. I closed my eyes and felt the ‘bed’ being raised, and sliding inside the coil. The illustration I found for you looks a little newer than my MRI … but you get the idea. Then the noises began! It felt as though there was an amazingly loud beeping, groaning, clanking, banging and pulsing monster right beside my left parietal bone. Every time the machine moved the noises changed. Every now and then there was an ominous silence. Minute movements inside the coil create these loud sounds of clicking and beeping, some reaching 120Db(A), equivalent to the noise of a jet engine on take off. Just as I was settling into my meditation I felt someone enter and the injection of gadolinium, an intravenous contrast agent, took place. Now I felt a little ill and strange, as well as under bombardment. In moments it was over and I had to readjust to the every-day world. Apparently I looked pretty awful, but luckily Stuart did not tell me that at the time!
We were given our films, then went to wait for the neurosurgeon and the EEG. He seemed very busy too, but eventually an extremely gentle woman invited me in for the EEG. This time Stuart had his camera and permission to take a few shots. A snug cap covered with electrodes was fitted to my head. Each electrode has to be in good contact with the scalp. The operator squirted gel in between the electrode and the skin, delicately scratching the skin with the blunt end of a long needle. When I say delicately, it was usually so, but some spots were more resistant that others and had to be firmly scratched and scraped until contact was at the right level. Once it was right the recording began. Eyes closed, eyes open and so on … until a flashing light was turned on. The very bright light was just above eye level, at first I kept my eyes closed while it went through a series of challenges, varying from slow flashes to very rapid extra bright flashes. It made fabulous mandalas on the inside of my closed lids! Then I had to watch it as it flashed. Increasingly difficult and stressful.
We waited again, and saw our very charming and relaxed doctor, who reassured us that nothing unusual had been revealed! By then it was after 4pm, and I did feel rather battered and exhausted. Sadly we had to drive back home, two and half hours back down the mountain to the coast, and no chance to visit Floriade. We murmured about returning on the last weekend of the event, when our grandson’s band will be playing for the public. Hopefully that might work!