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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Abscess or Why I Hate MRIs

So many of you have heard (likely through my sister's facebook) that I'm in the hospital again. This is true. Unsure of all the details I wanted to wait until I had more information but there are too many people clamoring for info so here goes.

What I do know is that a little over 2 weeks ago a stranger bubble started rising out of the skin on my back, right along the surgical scar from my surgery in December. My scars had all closed weeks ago so I figured I was in the clear but apparently not. Unsure of exactly what we were dealing with we went to see the doctor. He thought it might be an infection so he stuck in a needle to see if he could aspirate (attempt to draw fluid/pus from the bubble). He couldn't get anything out so he said to keep an eye on it and see him again if anything changed.

My bubbles.

And the bubble continued to grow. It started the size of a quarter and continued to grow along the surgical scar. We went to the ER over the weekend when it was clear it was growing with increasing speed. They tried to aspirate it again but this failed.

While we were in Baltimore for a family wedding it became clear that it was growing down and outward and soon would burst if we did nothing. We went into an urgent care center where they tried to aspirate it for a third time, this time hitting pay dirt. Multiple syringes full of pus were drained until she finally called it quits, barely changing the abscess at all. She made it clear that someone needed to clean the whole mess out and she didn't feel comfortable doing it herself.

Your doctor doesn't have to be this comfortable but it helps.

We waited until I got back to North Carolina so that I could see my family practice doctor, who we thought should be able to clean it out in the office. She sent us to a surgeon, who sent me in for multiple tests before before telling me that the abscess was too close to the hardware in my back for his comfort level. He contacted my neurosurgeon who instructed me to return back to Baltimore and he or one of his residents would take care of things.

And back to Baltimore again.

So after driving up to Baltimore again we waited in the ER. The doctor there did an ultrasound of the abscess and found something that worried both him and I: there appeared to be a small channel traveling down to the spine. Because ultrasounds are not very precise I was put on a list for an MRI and admitted to the hospital.

Now an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a big machine that uses a giant spinning magnetic and a computer to create a detailed image of a person's body, layer by layer. I wasn't even sure if I could get an MRI because of all the metal hardware I have in me. I was assured that indeed I could and that I would get my chance the following day.

After 15 hours of fasting I finally was pushed down to the MRI room. The walls looked bowed out in places and bent in at others. I guess this is probably do to the natural shifting of the building but it gave me the image of a giant machine version of magneto. Finally we arrived and I realized I had had an MRI before. I also remembered why exactly I hate MRI's with a burning passion.

A very useful piece of technology that no doubt was invented by the devil.

The last time I had an MRI was when I first got moved to Kennedy Krieger. The MRI is longer than a human body and just as tall. When they slip you into the small hole into the center it is somewhat unnerving. What made it worse was that the first time they put my neck in a plastic cage to make sure I didn't move my head, since they were examining my spine from top to bottom. Add to this the pounding noise and I was downright terrified. I've never been claustrophobic but the feeling of being locked in a giant can of Pringles that's being kicked around at high speed is enough to make anyone afraid of small spaces.

An MRI is like that. Except louder. And way less adorable.

Thankfully this time the area they were scanning was low enough so that I didn't have my head locked in, giving me the option to listen to Pandora.com on their headphones. I chose Green Day and happily jammed out in my head to the beats of Green Day, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and The Offspring. The experience still wasn't fun but it gave me a little relief from the thoughts of giant magnets spinning at high speed inches from my head.

Since no one informed me of the results I don't know if they found anything. I still have lots of tests ahead of me, with the possibility of a week or more stay, and the guarantee of lots of antibiotics. I'll keep you all updated on if they find anything and how any potential surgeries go. But for now all we can do is wait.

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