MRI scans, hope or defeat

Photo by Kat Jayne on

A war zone. It seemed like a war zone.

Sound effects of an AK47 gun amid MRI vibrations and banging noises usually taking place on construction sites. Tinnitus adding an overlay I can miss like never before.

Magnetic resonance imaging is a godsend to ill people. In regards to MS, it gives a clear view of what is physically going wrong inside the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. Add some contrast fluid, and you light up like a Christmas tree, just like mine did this morning.

Or so I was told.

Sudden, loud sounds twitch my head involuntarily. The upstairs part of my body locked in a mask, I now realise how Leo DiCaprio felt when he played The Man in the Iron Mask.

Poor King of France.

Having seen the inside of almost every hospital in Dublin the last 12,5 years, systematic desensitisation has taken place each time I had an appointment. It simply seemed that I was destined to review every hospital in Dublin.

Ever the perfectionist, I tried to comply.

There were two sets of crutches, two abdominal surgeries, and a fainting spell near the top of the grand staircase in one of the more uptown shops in the middle of Ireland’s busiest street.

There were the superbug and the Achilles tendon, the broken tailbone, the possible lung clot, the lost contact lens, and the upcoming sleep test.

There was the literal, accidental headbanging after losing my balance at work when I familiarised myself with the vanilla-coloured Dulux paint of the company walls.

It’s perfectly possible that other already forgotten hospital visits will eventually show their existence in my memory, but for now, I think I have enough reasons to believe that at least physically, I’m cursed.

The biggest upset near the end of 2004 and the start of 2005, was how MS arrived on my doorstep.



Unwilling to move out.

After four months of continuous misdiagnoses, being proactive when I needed it most by walking into A&E was a checkmate move. I had X-rays, a CAT scan, vascular testing, another round of X-rays and an MRI scan in the space of the first 36 hours.

It seemed I had an invisible pull on hospitals, illnesses and large medical devices.

In fact, it seemed as if I had the same strength of the principal magnet of an MRI scanner on hospital environments. Considering that the main MRI magnet is strong enough to produce fields 60,000 times the strength of the earth’s natural magnetic field, I feel challenged to beat its malice.

Leave a piece of metal in your skin so, and you could end up on the ceiling of the MRI tunnel.


Trying to classify MRI sounds is like asking the New York City Ballet to do a thirty-minute STOMP dance to the sound of hungry cats wailing on a busy construction site, wolf whistles included.

In short: a cacophony of gut-wrenching sounds, sounds that set off another round of trigeminal neuralgia.

Expletives are allowed.


And no, feeling stuck like King Louis Number Whatever in Versailles on the debilitating noise pollution of steel plants and crayon on blackboards means that for now, I do not regret my inside use of said expletives.

God, I am wicked.

As you can tell, stories aplenty for family and friends! Because of the many hilarious stories in Ireland, far away family and friends said, “You should write a book about your life in Ireland!”

Additionally, because of the twelve-year-long desensitisation, there is very little doctors have yet to discover inside my body, which means that basically, I share my guts for the glory of the medical establishment.

And sharing it with you now, so, is an honour.

Today, after my three-tesla MRI scan, I heard a few new sounds that weren’t present during my previous MRI scans. Tesla-T sounds may be as loud as 125 decibels, equivalent to a rock concert or a balloon popping near the ear, but add strong MS fatigue and your first goal is to try to out-snore the digital competition.

Today though, there was a reversal of my acquired learned behaviour. Having an incurable, neurodegenerative illness is nothing compared to what I witnessed in the MRI department.

Sitting on a hospital trolley right next to mine, was a little girl, barely 3 years old.

She was crying because of an imminent scan.

It told me more than any medical or psychology book could teach.


My heart broke.

I wanted to leave the hospital thinking that through the eyes of defeat, I could see hope.

Instead, it made me feel angry at myself for going on about the myriad of sounds in MRI scans when there’s a far greater hurt going on in the minds of parents caring for their ill children. My only hope today goes out to the little girl and her parents, and to the many other children in this world battling physical illnesses they are too young to have.

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©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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