Six Waiting Rooms and an MRI

Alex had a big date yesterday with an MRI machine.

Quick recap.  The purpose of the MRI appointment is to ensure that the anatomy of the cochlea / nerve is compatible with cochlear implants. If there isn’t a nerve present at all, the implants have nothing to interface with, and therefore that person isn’t a candidate for cochlear implants. The chances of this happening, from what I’ve read, are pretty low, but it’s still the big gateway to get green-lit for CIs.

The MRI for a scan like this takes roughly one hour to complete. During the scan, the subject is sedated to ensure there’s no movement and placed on a table that eventually gets sucked into a massive electromagnet. The interactions between the person’s body and the magnetism drives the imaging. Unlike a CT scan, MRIs don’t use radiation, and there are no known side effects of MRI scans (phew). Once the imaging is complete, the results are checked out by a technician and then forwarded over to the ordering doctor (in this case, our ENT). At least at our hospital, that’s supposed to take about two days.

So that’s the procedure in a nutshell. Here was our actual experience, super-detailed in case we ever decide in the future to share specific hospital names or meet people in the area who are going to go to the same places we are:

A few weeks ago, we received some paperwork from the hospital indicating that Alex’s appointment was to begin at 10:45, but we were supposed to arrive at admissions at 8:30. He wasn’t supposed to eat any food / milk starting at some ridiculous time. I want to say it was midnight. So… a six month old baby, not having eaten for 8 hours, arriving at admissions, and then having to wait for almost three hours until the appointment begins? Didn’t exactly paint a pretty picture. Shannon called and the nurses explained that Alex could actually have formula / breastmilk at 4am, and could have a clear liquid up to four hours prior to the appointment (so something like 6:30). That was much more reasonable, so we had our plan.

Shannon and I were both pretty nervous about this appointment because of the consequences it could have as well as the fact that our baby was going to be anesthetized, but luckily we were still coming off of that great physical therapy meeting and we had a pretty fun weekend to boot. It was always on the back of our minds, though.

Yesterday morning, we followed the plan and filled Alex up with as much food as we could as late into the game as possible to hopefully keep him happy. He slept for a little bit on the car ride in. Of course, we hit a minor traffic jam to drive up our anxiety levels just a little bit more, but we still arrived on time.

First stop was admissions. They printed off an ankle bracelet for Alex and threw it on him. No lines or waiting there, which was nice. The lady who took care of us sent us over to the security desk to get passes and told us to head up to the pediatric same-day surgery admission area. Security took about two minutes (no line again).

We headed upstairs to the surgery admission area. This was one of the roughest parts of the day for me. First of all, this is an old hospital. A replacement is being built and everyone will be shipped over to the new place in two or three years, but it’s just a dreary, old building. The area we walked into was basically a narrow corridor with seating on both sides and old floors, windows, etc. I realize I sound like somewhat of a snob here, but when you’re bringing your kid in for a procedure, it’s preferable to not get the feeling that he’s going to be getting 1970s-era technology in 2014.

More sad, though, was the other parents and kids. You could see the look of anxiety on the faces of everyone present. Some of the kids looked scared. One poor little boy had a trach installed (a tube in the throat that he breathes out of). Very handsome little guy, too. Just very sad to see so many innocent little kids affected with issues that they didn’t deserve. Brought me down a bit.

At this point, it was about 8:45 / 9:00, and our appointment wasn’t until 10:45. We were afraid that we’d be sitting in that room for another two hours. Luckily, Alex’s name was called after about twenty minutes. We were taken back and a nurse gave him the basic pediatrician’s checkup – she measured him, weighed him, checked out ears and eyes, etc. We got him out of his pajamas and into peach scrubs, which he rocked. She also went through the usual hospital questions around allergies, reactions to anesthesia, past surgeries. As she was finishing up another nurse came in and asked the same questions. My crappy memory isn’t telling me what the difference between nurse two and nurse one was. I think nurse two was associated more with the MRI folks whereas nurse one just did the general measurement thing all day long for anyone going through that same-day surgery department. Anyhow, once she finished up, we were sent to another waiting room.

Waiting room #2 was way, way better than #1. First of all, it wasn’t packed. Second, it didn’t look old and decrepit. Third, it had a TV going, and they even had video game carts where you could play Wii if you wanted. I thought that was a really nice touch to help distract kids who were about to undergo something scary. We stayed in that room for something like a half hour. Alex started to get fussy at this point to the point where Shannon and I had to take turns walking him around, but that calmed him down and we never hit an outright-screaming phase with him. A… guy (not sure if he was a nurse or not) came to the room to get us. We followed him into an elevator, where he took us down to where the MRI was. We were deposited into waiting room #3, which we had to ourselves. Alex was actually crying at this point, but Shannon pulled out her elite mommy skills and calmed him down, just about to the point of sleep. A nurse pulled us out of waiting room #3 to place us into waiting room #4.

Waiting room #4 was only about fifty feet from waiting room #3. Waiting room #4 was basically the consultation room; Alex’s last stop before hitting the MRI across the hallway. An anesthesiologist knocked on the door after about ten minutes and explained that Alex would be put under by first getting gas, then an IV. A tube would be placed partially down his throat to administer fluids if need be. Shannon and I had both been hoping that Alex would only need gas (the poor kid has been poked with needles way too much for a six month old), but we were assured that he’d be back up to normal by the next morning. He also said that the procedure would take something around an hour, and strangely asked if they were doing a brain scan, as if we were driving what they were going to do instead of what our ENT had ordered. I’m pretty sure that he was just looking for confirmation, but I certainly hope that that if we had said “full body” he would’ve raised an eyebrow. A few minutes later, they came for Alex, who was asleep at this point in his mom’s arms.

After leaving our keys / metal stuff in the waiting room, we walked across the hall and into the room hosting the MRI machine, which is pretty large and impressive. The thought briefly occurred to me that Alex was about to take advantage of a technology that wasn’t widespread twenty years ago and what sort of things he’d be able to take advantage of in the future.

We laid Alex down on a table and the anesthesiologist almost immediately placed a little gas mask over his nose and mouth (even with the binky still on). This was the toughest part. Our little guy was pretty combative and squirmy, probably from a mix of being woken up and having a mask placed over his face while being held down. Even though I knew that the MRI itself was harmless, seeing your kid get put under is a scary and emotional thing. I’d guess it took about thirty seconds for Alex to relax and close his eyes. We were shuffled out of the room and shown waiting room #5, but opted to go to the cafeteria and grab a mediocre lunch.

We were both obviously concerned, but I found a certain peace in knowing that the MRI procedure was no longer looming over us – he was getting it done, right now, working on putting it behind him and us. Despite seeing Alex put under, Shannon held herself together very well. We joked about how we hoped Alex would only have to go through three more procedures; implantation (first implants), re-implantation (fully internal implants), and ex-plantation (biological cure).

After lunch, we headed back up to the waiting room. They ran almost a half hour later than they said it would take. I’m not sure if that was because the hour figure was based solely around the MRI scan or if it included the anesthesia process as well, but it was scary when they were over fifteen minutes late. I had just walked out of the room to try to see what was going on when a nurse popped in looking for Alex’s parents. Shannon went in (only one parent can go in post-anesthesia, oddly). I didn’t hear anything back for about ten minutes, so I anxiously texted her. After a second text, she responded that everything was alright. A few minutes after that, she popped out with Alex, who looked groggy. Shannon explained that he was a little monster when he first woke up, and it took a lot to get him calmed down. I didn’t see it so I can’t really comment on it too much more, but it definitely sounded like it was pretty rough going for the little guy. Nevertheless, I was happy to see that he was calmed down with his mommy in the present.

We headed back up to waiting room #6, which was in the same area as waiting room #2, and were finally able to give him a big formula bottle. He was a little bit slow to take it. You could tell that his throat was bothering him a little bit. Shannon likened it to a bad cottonmouth, which seemed dead-on to me after seeing him. Anyhow, the idea of waiting room #6 (which was a check-up room) is that the nurses would take Alex’s vitals again and monitor him for a half-hour to hour, and if everything looks good, release us. Sure enough, we were let out at about 2:15.

It was a very, very tiring experience. I’m sure the majority of it was from the anxiety we felt. Alex took a huge nap when we got home, and when he woke up, seemed to be about his normal self. I gave him a bath to wash the hospital off of him and we had a pretty normal evening with him, complete with some tummy time and physical therapy. Felt very good to bring him home, and made me appreciative that, if Alex gets them, that he’d likely be home again the day he goes in for his CI surgery.

At some point before lunch today I’m going to be calling our ENT’s office to ask how long it would take to get the results back, and when they roll in, to PLEASE let us know as soon as possible. They likely won’t be in until tomorrow or so, but I want them to know that we are actively looking for this and are going to be a pain in the ass until we find out what’s up. I’m somewhat concerned about the extra amount of time that the MRI may or may not have taken. I have dark visions of the MRI operators saying “What’s this? Where’s that?  Zoom in.” sort of stuff. We’ll see.

As nervous as I am about the results, I’m still happy that the MRI is at least DONE. It was a big milestone and it’s behind us now, and even if the results come back and they’re not great, it’s still a step in the journey that we had to take and it’s been taken.

We have a dinner on Thursday with the oral-deaf school Alex will hopefully be attending. We’re hoping beyond hope that we’ll get good news prior to that and be able to look forward to the sort of things we suspect we’re going to see and the stories we suspect we’re going to hear at that dinner.

Done. Good results, please.  PLEASE.

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2 thoughts on “Six Waiting Rooms and an MRI

  1. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate these blogs. They’re an opportunity to better understand the journey Alex, Taylor, Shannon and you are on. It’s hard to know when to offer help and when it could be perceived as overstepping a boundary. Know that you’re all loved very much.

  2. I am glad that it is over for you all in terms of the MRI. That sounds like a scary and exhausting experience.
    My daughter has had to get tubes placed twice and seeing her go into and come out of anesthesia was TERRIBLE. When she came out of it she pulled my hair, hit people, and thrashed like crazy for about 20 minutes. But after a good nap, she was pretty much back to herself,
    I hope you get good results and soon!

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