For those who don’t know, I’m undergoing investigation into a severe iron deficiency. For some reason my body has suddenly decided to call in a sicky and stop working as well as it was. I was seeing a haematologist for iron infusions, but he has passed me onto to my gastroenterologist for more tests to find out why my body is slowly throwing in the towel. After an appointment with my gastroenterologist, she has come to three possible conclusions:
- My rectal stump is inflamed and the bleeding from that could be causing the iron problem – I have a temporary ileostomy, which means I still have my rectal stump. Colitis starts here… so it continues to bleed. (Highly likely)
- With the lack of colon, my body can’t absorb iron (moderately likely)
- There’s bleeding somewhere else in my small bowel (highly unlikely)
Test number 1 of 3 was an MRI and is probably the least stressful test out of the three they’ve booked for me. My GI wanted to make sure there wasn’t any bleeding coming from any where else in my digestive tract, and ensure she didn’t miss anything.
MRIs are minimally invasive in comparison to the endoscopy and ‘sigmoidoscopy’ (even though I don’t have a colon, this is what they call a rectum scope examination) I will have just before Christmas; not exactly top of my list when I was thinking of festive things to do this year… Merry Christmas 2019 to me.
Safe to say, the imaging staff were incredible chill about the whole ordeal when they booked me in for it. They didn’t really give me much information and just said I would have to arrive an hour before the scan to drink a funky drink (maybe this is a little festive). I arrived at 4pm for a 5pm scan and descended into the basement of the hospital; imaging centres in hospitals are always in basements… No wonder the staff look a little pale. I checked in for the scan; giving my name, address and email; as well as filling out a questionnaire. It’s like checking into The Savoy, although the questions they ask are more “will you die in my MRI” than “can I offer you a glass of champagne.”
My first concern was my body piercings I didn’t want to remove. Dr Google says:
“wearing any kind of piercing will result in an even bigger hole in the body after the MRI magnets supersonically pull the piercing out of the body at record speed.”
I tested both piercings with a small magnet beforehand and they were fine; always check with your radiology team first as they are the experts, and trusting Dr Google is like allowing a toddler to draw on the walls with a sharpie: A complete mess we could’ve avoided.
A nurse gave me ‘one size fills all’ XL scrubs and fetching yellow socks to pop on and told me to wait for the radiographer. He went through the “are you going to die in my MRI questionnaire” and asked me all the questions again; then went through the procedure. They gave me a drink that looked like water, but sure didn’t taste like water. The radiographer challenged me to drink just over 1 litre in 30 minutes. Just like the drinking games at uni! I told him I had experience downing miscellaneous drinks I wasn’t too keen on drinking (UoP Netball Club I’m looking at you) and started to down it.
Due to my missing colon I have to (always) be aware of getting dehydrated, and only drinking clear liquid for the last 5 hours didn’t suit my stoma. Not to mention, the side effect of this drink is that it’s a laxative… Also not ideal. It tasted like lukewarm flat, stale lemonade without the lemons; slightly sweet but like it had been left out for months. This stale sugary concoction makes your intestines glow like a glowworm in the MRI and allows the radiographer to see any inflammation or bleeding.
After drinking my weight in stale water, they got me into the imaging room. An MRI machine is like a giant polo, in a room that feels like Britain in summer (cold) and sounds like Chernobyl just before it exploded. They got me onto the bed, stuck a cannula in my arm and explained the next steps of the scan. The radiographer was going to inject liquid Buscopan and a fluorescent dye into my blood stream. The Buscopan slows the gut down and ensures the MRI can get a clear picture. When they inject them into your body, the buscopan makes your heart jump a few beats and go a bit dizzy; while the dye makes it feel like you’ve wet yourself (I was promised this was only a feeling and I wasn’t actually going to wet myself).
The scan was a very relaxing 40 minutes to the construction site sound track; I think I’ll request it at my next spa trip. Lots of very strange noises in amongst the occasional breathing instruction from the same woman on X-rated TV telling you she wants to chat… Halfway through and as if this experience couldn’t get even more uncomfortable, all that liquid had caught up with me and that feeling of wetting myself might become all too real.
After a very long 40 minutes the scan was over. They took the cannula out my arm, and allowed me to Usain Bolt it to the bathroom; I got changed and was handed a CD with the images on. My GI would receive them in two working days and if I was feeling OK I could go home. Just as I was leaving the laxative side effects of the drink kicked in… I emptied my bag three times before I left the hospital. It didn’t dehydrate me, but just to be on the safe side I found a packet of salty crisps at a train station and just pray my bag didn’t leak on the way home. Thankfully it held up and I was fine but it was a little stressful. After two hours my stoma settled down and the output went back to normal.
The whole experience wasn’t the worst scan I’ve had. In fact the staff were lovely and made me feel as comfortable as possible; I even had a laugh with the radiographer when he bet me I wouldn’t finish the intestine-glowing drink. This was a good first step in investigation to my iron troubles; the next two will be more intense but it’s worth it! Stay tuned for my next blog on the endoscopy and sigmoidoscopy; as well as the result!
Remember chaps: Health is wealth!