Aug 20 2010

New Life Experience – The MRI

I had a new experience today.  At 7am I had my first MRI at the Boulder Community Hospital.  I was a little nervous, although I’m not entirely sure why.  I was in and out in 45 minutes – it was fascinating.

I hurt my lower back about five months ago (actually, exactly on March 13th at about 1pm at my parents house in Dallas).  I went for a two hour run and then took my dad to Fry’s for his birthday to buy him a new color printer.  As I unloaded the printer from the car, I lifted correctly, but then twisted left and immediately knew I’d screwed myself.  I rested a week and started running again in advance of a marathon in mid-April in St. Louis.  I had a great three hour run in Charlotte the first week of April and thought I was ready to roll.  Amy and I drove to Santa Fe the following weekend; when I got out of the car when we got back to Boulder I had enormous lower back pain.  I got a massage the next day (big mistake) and when I woke up Tuesday morning in a hotel room in Seattle I couldn’t get up off the toilet, nor could I completely straighten up.  Four weeks of rest and three months of intermittent running with regular recurrence of back pain in the same spot after a few days caused me to finally decide that I’m hurt and need to figure out what’s going on.

Boulder is fortunate that it has a great community hospital system.  There are plenty of new facilities and the people are very nice.  I checked in and got my paperwork.  It was already completed via my doctor’s referral.  The charge for the MRI was $3,696, my insurance plan allowed $1,078, and there was $0 co-pay or money owed by me.  I was completely stunned by this – I expected to at least have to pay a $20 co-pay.  The entire billing / checkin thing took about as long as it takes to checkin on FourSquare.  I pondered where the difference between the $3,696 and the $1,078 was coming from, or whether it simply vanished into the ether.

I went to the Imaging Center with my Dark Side of the Moon CD, ready to chill out in a tube.  I changed into hospital scrubs and was escorted to the MRI machine by a lovely nurse who talked me through everything.  The machine I was in didn’t have a CD (it had an MP3 player) but my head was in a cradle that wouldn’t fit the earphones so I punted on the music.  I got a little “panic thing” to squeeze if I freaked out and then went into the tube.

I basically had a noisy 20 minute shivasana.  They did six scans, most between three and five minutes.  The noise was loud, but rhythmic.  I had earplugs so it was more like a weird electronica thing.  I did my share of isolation tanks in college (I went through an isolation tank phase) – this was much shorter, much more comfortable, but much noisier.  As is my practice with shivasana, I dozed off near the end.

They pulled me out, I walked down the hall, and picked up a CD with my scan on it.  The software is pretty ancient, doesn’t run on my Mac, but worked fine on a PC.  I have no idea what I’m looking at – well – other than my lower back and pelvis region with all the ensuing pieces – but it’s pretty amazing to look at and ponder.

It’s fun to be a human, even when you are hurt.