The screening process, for the FTY720 (fingolimod) drug trial I’ve applied for, has started. It’s not off to a good start: after being told that I had to take a whole day off work, then arranging a day off work, I went in to the Neurology department at St. Vincent’s University Hospital the day before to sign the papers and have a last chat with The Professor. The schedule for the next day, last Thursday? A MRI scan, a chest CT scan, and… that was it. The whole day off is going to come later, with another half-day of eye scans before that, and it might not be a whole day after all. Business as usual in Ireland, then.
It was the first time I’d ever had a CT (CAT) scan), or even seen a modern machine, and it was as quick, painless and cheerful a procedure as one could wish for. The machine itself wasn’t even the “tunnel” I’d seen pictures of, but more of a “ring”, like something out of 50s science fiction. Three minutes and a massive dose of X-Rays later, I was done, without even taking my shoes off.
That was a relief after the MRI, a procedure I’ve undergone twice before, and hardly enjoyed either time. It’s not painful, at least not directly, but halfway through I was brought out for an injection of gadolinium, which enhances the contrast. They were comparing scans from before and after the injection, so I was implored to keep my head still, in an uncomfortable position, for over half an hour in total, including the part where I was injected with a heavy metal.
My head was locked in place anyway, with pads at the sides ensuring that the earplugs did not fit snugly. There is no movement visible from inside the machine’s claustrophobic confines, but I was left under no illusion that huge superconducting magnets were flying around, inches from my nose, with enough liquid helium to turn me into a meat popsicle in seconds. The noise… it was as if HAL9000, Metallica and the Aphex Twin had co-designed a nuclear-powered washing machine that went up to 11.
Did I complain? Well, I am British, and it’s not as if my situation was worse than that of anyone else who needs to lie in a powerful magnetic field and have their protons resonated by a powerful radio transmitter. Never mind that I’ll be back in there every six months for the next two years, at least, and I suspect radiologists might have long memories. Zap.