Doctors visits, tests and medication.

Increase in doctors visits.

This was something neither my husband or I gave any thought to before retirement. We have been relatively free of any serious illness throughout out life. Of course we are not immune so we have had the normal everyday occurrences of colds and viruses and short hospital stays etc.

Then we hit 60 and I think the body must have a trigger that comes alive around this time. As it happened we had a regular doctor at the time who was and still is quite thorough and diligent. I have always believed if you have an engaging active doctor it is best to stay with them if possible. A history is then gathered and changes are more noticeable for follow up. Of course it goes without saying one should always question any procedure or medication that is suggested. I feel we are lucky to have a doctor who does let us question and then thoroughly explains everything to us. She also does not prescribe medication unnecessarily or without follow up. I do remember having discussions over the years with ageing relatives about why they were taking a certain medication. The answer I received several times was I don’t remember, I must ask the doctor next time I am there. In my experience elderly people dont like to take up the doctors time, so they minimise the need to be there or they forget to ask questions. If you are reading this and have an elderly person you care for maybe they would let you go in with them as a support. I often wonder how many people are getting the correct care as they get older. We do heavily rely on what our doctors say. Furthermore we have less control of our faculties and therefore while have full control we need to find a doctor we can heavily depend upon for the future. Alternatively we need to ask for help.

Ken and I together have experienced the usual blood tests along with the occasional radiography scan, Colonoscopy, Gastroscopy or Endoscopy and so on. I am certainly not going to explain these procedures with my lack of medical expertise. I will also refrain from going into the gory details. I imagine there are not many people really wanting to know the nuts and bolts of my complaints.

What I would like to explain is a test I have just had which I believe could be quite daunting for some elderly people especially without prior knowledge. Please note here there is no pain involved with this procedure and it is completely safe.

I had a little scare recently experiencing heart palpitations and tightening chest. Ended up in the local emergency room for a few hours having tests. I was discharged with a suggestion that it was a reflux condition not a heart problem. I followed up with my doctor who wanted more tests done to confirm. After several tests and a visit to the cardiac specialist I was asked to have a Cardiac MRI.  

Typical MRI Machine.

I had previously had an MRI for bursitis in my shoulder so I was prepared for it or so I thought. I was referred to St Vincents hospital in Darlinghurst which is a bit of a travel experience on its own. I drove in with the assumption there would be a car park attached. This is the case however it was full so try finding a car space near the centre of Oxford street in the middle of the working week, in a pandemic was a bit challenging. Around and around the tiny, often one way side streets saw me heading quickly into a panic. Finally I came across a private medical centre car park which seemed accessible. I drove in parked and headed for the exit. I did not really know where I was but as it turned out luck was with me as I was just a little way up the street from my destination.

So it’s a pandemic and I have to sign in, but of course there system is slightly different to the norm. My QR code was not recognised. Wait in line, sign the book and then fill out a 2 page questionnaire. Finally I am allowed to proceed to the department. Now to go through the admin procedure of forms to complete, cards and referrals to present, payment to be made. Nurse takes you to another room, takes your temperature, blood pressure etc. She asks you about your medical history and why are you there. Asks you to clarify what test you are having and then more questions. MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging so naturally there are magnets at work here. Do you have any metal in your body? Maybe, I have a replacement knee but not sure if it is metal or plastic. I have dentures and not really sure if the holdings are metal. Are you claustrophobic? well not that I know of but I have not spent much time in small restricted areas, I guess not? Are you on any medications, thankfully one only. Hate to think if I had a multitude of pills to remember.

It is time to put on the dreaded gown and follow the nurse to a room where she tells you what is going to happen. We will lay you on this bed, strap your body down, put some padded bolsters around your body to hold you firmly. A devise is placed on your chest to be used to send radio wave signals where needed. In my case an intravenous line was inserted in my vein to allow a later injection of contrast material required to help with imaging. The last attachment was headphones. These are to dull the apparently irritating loud drilling sound the machine makes and also allows the technician to instruct you.I was given a push button to call if I needed to. The very pleasant nurse then explained I would slowly slide into the tunnel of the machine, I would hear someone speak through the earphones instructing when to hold my breath and when to breath. You are then told it is important to remain completely still. Please relax and it will only take about 40 minutes and I am just outside the door if you need me. Final step was to inject the die and we are ready to go. Every aspect was explained and every precaution taken considering the magnetisation capabilities of the machine. The nurse was very pleasant so there was no fear in going ahead.

I am good at breathing slowly and relaxing when having needles or tests so I took a deep breath, exhaled and closed my eyes. The first sensation I felt was the sides of the tunnel on my body, definitely smaller than I thought. Once I was in place I opened my eyes and was a little shocked to find the roof of the cylinder looming very close to my face. This I did not expect as previous MRI tunnel was a lot bigger. My arms which were by my side touched each side of the tunnel. The next surprising part was the breathing. it was explained a voice would be heard instructing me to breath in, breath out and then hold breath for about 10 seconds.That’s fine, no big deal I can do that. A very pleasant voice was heard through the head phones telling me when to start and stop. Then the drilling noise started, quite loud, quite scary at first. All good I was expecting it. What everyone omitted to say was that the breathing ritual would happen about 60 or more ( I lost count) times during the 40 minutes you are in the tube. There is no pain or discomfort. I was not scared at all but  continuously worried that I was not doing it correctly so each time it happened my concentration would increase and I tried harder to breath at exactly the right time etc. until I became exhausted. I had this unrealistic fear that at the end the voice would tell me I had to start all over again because I had not been doing it correctly. Finally, when I was beginning to doubt my capabilities I heard the assistants lovely voice saying all done we will bring you out now. 

It was such a relief to slide out and feel space around me once again. The nurse took of all the apparel off and kindly said you can sit up slowly and stand when you are ready.  I could not actually lift myself to a sitting position Either I was too tired or too relaxed from all that breathing and my body felt so heavy I had to ask for her help.Once up and moving I quickly returned to normal. The nurse had asked me prior to starting if had I had an MRI previously and I said yes. That was the wrong answer as it was a totally different experience to the previous one.

Reflection

Looking back on it now, It was interesting and slightly amusing adventure. A test one should not be frightened of but one that could be explained in a little more detail for someone who is even a just little anxious. I have inserted a link here to a youtube video which explains the procedure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-jj4KrmYPI

My results were excellent with no need for further investigation. Come back in 4 years. Sounds good to me.

4 thoughts on “Doctors visits, tests and medication.

  1. MRIs are the woooorst. I’m not claustrophobic and still find it difficult not to panic in them, so I don’t know how people who are claustrophobic manages! I have to say there is a big difference between the experience at public and private hospitals though – the private place I went to once gave me a choice of music to listen to and the bed/table was more comfortable.

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  2. The test was quite expensive at the public hospital and no medicare rebate so I suspect the private was pretty pricey. It is usually my preference to do private but this was at my doctors request apparently due to excellent reporting practises. I will keep it in mind if I need another one.

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    • It depends who orders the test from my experience. It has to be ordered by a specialist for Medicare to cover it. Of course that means you have to pay for the specialist, but I think that is cheaper overall.

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  3. The test was ordered by a cardiac specialist who did in fact tell me it was expensive and was not rebateable by medicare. My previous MRI which was of the shoulder was ordered by a GP and medicare covered it. I assume there are many differing factors with each test.

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