Yesterday I went down to the medical school campus once again to meet up with one of my favorite people with TS, Dr. G, and to do the second part of the Tourette's study, the MRI. I met Dr. G in the waiting room and then we went back to the MRI control room. There was another woman in the MRI control room to help out with the MRI screening and such. She was very friendly and of course Dr. G was amazing as usual. I took out my earnings and then we went into the MRI room.
I couldn't believe how big the MRI machine was!! It looked huge! I was told to lay down on the laying part of the machine and they got everything set up to make sure I was conferrable. They put pillows on either side of my head to help me keep my head still and put this mask cage looking thing over my face. They also put large earphones over my ears which they would later play music in so the noise of the machine wasn't too loud. I was a little nervous but not too much surprisingly and I wasn't ticcing to much just yet.
When they sent me into the machine, it wasn't really too bad. It just looked like I was in a big white tube and I was only doing some leg and feet tics. First they did some set up scans were I only had to stay still for about 30 to 40 seconds and they tested out the music. It took a little bit to get the music volume right but eventually we found the right volume. Dr. G talked to me through the earphones and they could hear me as well. Just the little things she said in between scans made all the difference and made me feel less nervous.
For the first long scan I had to stay still for 5 minutes and look at a plus sign on a screen. Before the scan, Dr. G made sure I was conferrable, ready, and alright. She told me to stay as still as I could, but made it clear that I just needed to stay as still as was reasonable for me. I was actually able to stay still for the five minutes but was doing A LOT of blinking and eye darting. I couldn't quite get my eyes to stay on that plus sign. After I was done, Dr. G told me I did a good job staying still and said that they were setting up for the next scan, so I could get all my "wiggles out". I jerked my arms, legs, and did a lot of facial tics in between the scans.
I did about 4 more of these 5 minute scans where I look at the plus sign and each time in between I would have time to let out my tics, so it really wasn't all too bad. The cushions on either side of my head, under my legs, and under my arms put pressure on me, kind of like my weighted blanket, which helped my tics not be awful. Like I have said before, this MRI screening was obviously designed for people with Tourette's.
The longest scan I had the whole time was an 8 minute scan, but they put music on and I was allowed to close my eyes which helped. I was able to stay pretty still for all the sections of the scan and let my tics out in between the scans so I was very happy about this! It was over soon enough and Dr. G told me that she was coming in to get me. I was relived that it was over and so glad I could now tic freely.
I was ticcing a lot more when I came out of the scanner than when I went in, but it wasn't all that bad. I was doing a bit more of my hand shaking tics and facial tics, but overall even though I was a little nervous in the beginning the whole experience turned out just fine. And after I was done, Dr. G printed out some awesome pictures of my brain for me to keep! Yay! Check out my brain! Pretty cool, huh? A part of me can't even really believe that this is what the inside of my head looks like!!!
Also, I have been looking for things to do over the summer and one of the things I really want to do is either get a paying job or do some volunteer work. So at the end, when Dr. G was walking me back to where she had met me, I asked her if there were any volunteer opportunities that I could participate in in the lab. I was kind of expecting her to say, no sorry but we only let adults work on these kind of studies, but to my surprise when I asked she looked super excited!!! She was really excited that I wanted to help out in the lab, and almost immediately came up with the perfect job for me! While the kids and adults with Tourette's participating in the study are in the MRI machine, parts of their body like their eyes and their legs are video taped and the sound is also recorded. Every recording has to be played back, watched, and each tic needs to be written down with the time stamp and type of tic that was displayed. Dr. G thought she should be the one to do them since she is so good at identifying tics since she too has Tourette's, but there are so many of them! So she thought this would be the perfect job for me to help out with!
She was super excited that I wanted to help out and I was super excited that she was offering me this volunteer position! She will be calling on Monday to get my social security number (since I forgot to bring it with me :P) and I think we will talk more about me helping out in the lab then! I just have to let her know when my last day of school is and then we can start setting things up. I am soooooo excited!!!! I will be participating in doing real research on Tourette's!! What more could I ask for?
I also hope to get a job as an usher at my state's Opera Theature, and I will probably be doing lots of intensive OCD therapy in a summer program and some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help lessen some of my more painful joint cracking tics. So I hope to have lots to do this summer, but I am most excited about working in the lab with Dr.G. She is pretty much my idol and getting to work with her on Tourette research is going to be my idea of a perfect summer.