Small bowel MRI – Don’t go there.

Well I survived the Thursday's test after all. I was going to wait to post about it until I had begun to see the funny side but I am beginning to think that that will be roughly ten years or so by which time I'll have forgotten what happened so I'll write it now.

The night before

Re-read the information leaflet about what I can eat and drink before the scan. I'd got the food bit right (clear soup and jelly, nothing after 7pm) but hadn't read the bit about 'no fluids after midnight'. So start epic mission to down as much fruit cordial as a body can take in the 2 hours I have left so as not to end up dehydrated in the morning. Result – I feel about 15 stone, my innards make swooshing noises when I move and by the time I go to bed I'm pissing like a racehorse. Not impressed.


6am on day of test

Wake up having just had a lovely dream in which the tube that they put down my nose is roughly the diameter of a drainpipe. And I need a piss again. For the fortieth time that night. Curses to the 4 gallons of cordial. And I'm still bloody thirsty. Of course now it's getting light and I can't get back to sleep so I go downstairs to moan to the dog about how unfair it is that I ended up with this and not one of my cousins.



Get dressed. Fear is mounting but I comfort myself with the thought that these things are never as bad in real life as they are in my head.



Myself, my dad and my husband have arrived and have negotiated the maze that is Hope Hospital and found the radiology department. We're sat in the waiting room and it's then that I notice everyone else has brought something that I didn't.

My dad: Did you bring a dressing gown?

Me: Erm…no.

My dad: Prat. Why not?

Me: Didn't know I was meant to. It didn't say anything in the advice leaflet, how was I meant to know?

My dad: Everyone else knew. You obviously didn't read the leaflet properly you great muppet. Ha, now everyone will see your arse in a hospital gown!

Yeah, thanks.



Am called through to get changed and issued with a hospital gown. My relief that they have slightly altered the design from the old type is slightly deflated when the nurse asks me if I brought a dressing gown, I say no and she gives me a look of pity mixed with slight contempt. Ah well, I might look like an escapee from an institution but no one can see my arse, I think to myself. It's not till I get out to the waiting room that the nurse informs me that although you can't see my backside, one of my boobs is escaping and I have to rectify the problem using sellotape.



I am called through to the room where they will put the naso gastric tube in and am introduced to a very nice team of nurses and a quite attractive doctor. They are all quite amused when the question of "how are you feeling?" is answered with "Shagging terrified". I note that while they are amused no one informs me that there is nothing to be terrified about and take this as a bad sign. I give them the usual warning about my low blood pressure and how when I get very stressed it drops further causing me to fall over and lose consciousness and urge them to take no notice if that happens and do feel free to continue and get it over with while I'm out cold. I am informed that unfortunately they aren't allowed to do that, I have to be conscious for the whole process. Great, just what I wanted.  The doctor approaches with a spray that he explains is to numb my nose and throat and sprays it up my nose twice. For a brief moment I smell banana and then JESUS CHRIST!!!…the man has just sprayed napalm into my nasal cavity and my head is on fire…..I can dimly hear them telling me that the burning will wear off in a moment but it may just be the fire making noises in my head and I can't see because my eyes are streaming. And then, all of a sudden, the burning is gone. Yes it's definately gone but what it this? Is it……yes, it is, my throat has been paralysed and I can no longer swallow properly. I poke it to make sure that the napalm didn't remove a large section of nose and throat but it all feels to be there. "Shall I put the spray into your throat now?" says the nice looking doctor. What I want to say is "Only if you want a sharp kick in the conkers sonny" but I only manage to make a sort of grunting squawk and so get my message across with a head shake and my finest death stare. It seems to have the desired effect, he backs off and suggests that perhaps we've had enough of the anaesthetic spray. You're damn right we have.

So I sit on the edge of the bed and the nurse explains they are going to put the tube in with me sat upright. Except that they can't because at that point my blood pressure drops and I fall over so they lie me down and start to put the tube in. It's got cold jelly on the end and feels like someone is pushing a lightly chilled KY-jelly covered cobra down the back of my throat. The sensation is not only odd but also genuinely fucking unpleasant. The rest of this bit is all rather vague as I was only semi-conscious for most of it but I can recall that:

a) It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. If not THE most unpleasant.

b) I will never EVER do it again.

c) It will go down as the one time in my life that the idea I had in my head wasn't worse that the reality. In fact my imagination didn't even get close.

So I'm wheeled out into the waiting room and everyone in there stares. As well they might, I'm sitting in a  wheelchair wearing a blue hospital gown that only just covers my assets, I'm white as a sheet, my hair looks like I've been shagged through a hedge backwards, there's a bright yellow tube emerging from my left nostril and it's held in place with an enormous plaster on the end of my nose. My dignity is not helped by the fact that there is KY jelly all over my nose which isn't a good look for anyone. Then I notice my dad is laughing at me so I loudly tell him to fuck right off. A woman in the waiting room starts tutting about bad language and my dad wheels me swiftly out of there before I can give her the benefit of my full range of obscenties.



We arrive at the far end of the hospital which is where the MR scanner is. I'm now laughing at my dad because he's had to wheel me the length of the hospital and he sounds like he's having a coronary. He and my husband wait outside while I go in to the scan room. They put me into the tube and strap me in then they hook the end of my nose tube up to what looks like a giant clear bin-bag of clear fluid but which I am assured contains a mere litre and a bit. I have my doubts about my small intestine's capability to contain that quantity of stuff but I keep my thoughts to myself, mainly because speaking with a tube down the back of your throat is painful. They put headphones on me and oooh…it's 'Smooth FM'. I don't think I'll ever be able to listen to Lionel Ritchie again without my innards twittering. And away we go. The radiographer is giving me instructions over the intercom…"Breathe in…hold it…breathe out".

For 20 minutes or so it's all going swimmingly but then odd things start to happen in my innards. They are gurgling like a overfilled drain and twitching in a most bizarre way then suddenly the thought occurs – I need the loo. So I buzz the radiographer and tell her, "Well we'll just do a couple more then you can go" she says. Ok, i think, fair enough. The thought doesn't last because then I know that I have to go and I have to go NOW, right now not in a minute but now. I explain this to her over the intercom and try to convey to her with my eyes the fact that my arse is about to explode and render their machine in need of deep cleaning. I must get the message across because a nurse comes and unstraps me. I dimly hear her saying something about returning when I'm done as I hurtle across the room, through the waiting area (ignoring my dad who is once again hooting with laughter at my undignified progress) and into the loo. I sit. For a moment I think nothing is going to happen but then, suddenly, it's like someone has released an exocet missile from my rear end. All I can do is grip the walls and hope the world isn't ending. On and on it goes until I wonder if I'm going to be left entirely inside out on the floor of an NHS toilet surrounded by shattered porcelain and scan fluid. Eventually it subsides, leaving a twitching shadow of my former self sat on the bog wishing that the NHS invested in that loo roll that has the aloe vera in it. They haven't but I sort myself out and go back in.

The nurse now tells me that the tube can come out. She says most people like to remove it themselves, personally I don't give a shit if me, her or George Clooney takes the damn thing out, I just want it gone and if the fastest way to achieve that is for me to deal with it then shove over and let me get on with it. It comes out very well (and very quickly) until I get to the end, which will not budge. I turn to the nurse "Erm…It's stuck. What do I now?" "Pull it" she says. So I do but it isn't moving. "Pull it harder" she says. So I get hold of it with both hands and yank with all the strength I have left. A searing pain shoots through my nose, my eyes start to water and the end of the tube emerges, complete with a strip of my nasal passage attached. "Ooh, that looks like it might have stung a bit" says the nurse gleefully. I just squawk and head back to the loo for another onslaught on my arse.

After that it was all quite civilised, I had a few more scans done then I went to the loo again. Then I got dressed then I went to the loo again. We walked down the entrance where I went to the loo. Then my dad drove me home where I went to the loo again many times. All told I believe it took 13 loo visits to shift the damn stuff although they weren't all quite as explosive as the first few. All I can say is I will be emailing Andrex to let them know how wonderful their double velvet with Aloe vera is. Without it, Friday could have been a very different story indeed.

So let that be a lesson to you children – if someone offers you a small bowel MRI scan, just say no. Your arse will thank you for it. 


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4 Responses

  1. Excellent reading. Exceeded expectations. I think you have a real future experiencing unpleasant procedures and writing about them so the rest of us can vicariously benefit.
    A couple follow ups.
    1 – What made this necessary?
    2 – Why don't they go in the other way?
    2 – Don't they anticipate expulsion during this process? Sounded like they were unprepared for the fact that a body might need some urgent and immediate discharge which would seem like an obvious result.
    3 – Is this aloe TP available in the US. I've not heard of it.

  2. The trouble with me reviewing procedures is that no one would ever have anything done if they'd read my description first. I had to have it done because I've got Crohn's Disease and the fools at my last hospital lost my entire notes meaning the consultant had no idea what was going on in there. If those pics don't turn out he'll still have no idea coz I'm not sodding well doing that again. They can't go in the other end because it's the small intestine so to get there they'd have to go through about 3 miles of large intestine meaning the tube would have to come on some sort of hosereel. Anyway, the way I had it done is quite undignified enough. You'd think they'd be ready for the expulsion wouldn't you? They weren't. Which is odd because a digestive system + 1.5 litres of warm fluid is always going to produce something entertaining at some point. Aloe vera loo roll is an invention of the gods. Can you imagine what would have happened after 13 toilet trips if I'd only had cheap scratchy stuff at home ? I'd still be sitting on a cushion now, waiting for the stitches to be removed.

  3. OH. MAH. GAWD. I haven't laughed so hard at something I read on Vox ever. I feel so badly for you, because I deplore anything to do with hospitals and doctors. But you tell the tale so well.

  4. Ugh… sounds hideous – my innards are twitching in sympathy! Are they really allowed to do some of that stuff, sounds more like torture than treatment…! x

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