Monday, June 30, 2014

MRI at the RCH

On Friday Michael and I went to Melbourne for the day, so he could have an MRI scan at the Royal Children's Hospital. He was born with a heart defect that was corrected by surgery when he was a week old. He has annual checks in Hobart, and every 3 or 4 years goes back to the RCH for more intensive checks. This is make sure his heart is growing as its should, and to see if the scars and slightly stretched vessels are affecting its function. So far so good! He really is a remarkably healthy, resilient and happy little guy, and I can honestly say that I don't think about his heart from one week to the next.

Our state government pays for our costs to undergo procedures like this interstate, when the local system can't provide the specialist people or equipment. Which is a great system – it was a very welcome surprise, hard on the heels of the unwelcome surprise of Michael's diagnosis when was he only hours old.

I always believe its better to be being bored at the airport than frantic on the road, so we had plenty of time to wait. Then a power outage in Sydney delayed our flight by an hour. The low morning sun shines powerfully into the departure lounge at Hobart Airport, so we got out the bits and pieces we had available and did shadow/reflection experiments to pass the time.

video

We finally got airborne and I started prepping Michael for the quiz I was planning to give him. There was a strong possibility he would need to have a cannula (IV drip) in his hand, to put a contrast agent into his blood for the MRI. This is when I would start asking him tricky flag questions, such as "Which Brazilian state has the word 'nego' on it's flag?"

The lady dozing beside me on the plane while we talked flags opened her eyes to say to Michael "you are a VERY clever boy aren't you?". I told her a bit about him and he answered some fairly detailed questions. She closed by saying "Hmm, Michael Rees. I'll keep my eye out for you Michael".

My plan had been to have lunch and see the resident meerkats at RCH before our appointment, but as we were now an hour behind, we just sped straight there in a cab. I took along my iPad to document the day; Michael had been prevailed upon to write a report on it all for his class, so I was taking pics as memory-joggers for him primarily. He doesn't like having his picture taken.


I was allowed in to sit with him while he was in the scanner. He was very relaxed about it and, as always, very easy to look after. He is the opposite of a drama queen - just keen to be accommodating and cause minimum fuss.

The scan takes about 40 minutes. Kids can choose a movie from a menu (Michael took Ice Age 2) which they can watch using a mirror set-up in the head-cradle thingy. They have audio from the movie and instructions from the operator coming in through the headset as well. They have to hold their breath in, hold it out, etc as commanded. This is quite tricky to master for younger kids, and that's why Michael has not had an MRI up until now (he's 10).

The scanner makes some pretty terrible noises, but not constantly, just intermittently. I had earmuffs, and I watched he movie without sound and dozed. I couldn't speak to Michael so there really wasn't much I could do, but he didn't need me anyway. As it happened they didn't need to stick anything in him, which was a happy result.

Once it was all done they let me stand in the doorway of the MRI suite and get some pics for Michael's report.




So, that was that. We'll get the results at some stage via his cardiologist.

We went up to pay a brief visit to the meerkats and have something to eat. There has been massive upgrade of the hospital since we were last there, in fact I didn't recognise it at all. It used to be that the McDonalds was the most prominent feature of the ground floor. Now there is a small aquarium (but big enough to have at least one shark in it), the meerkat enclosure a number of cafes and a sort of interactive-video-touch-screen-fun-wall, where kids can play Pong-style games but involving their whole bodies. Great idea.


Then we had to summon another cab to get us across to the Melbourne Museum for the 3.15 tour of the Aztecs exhibition. We were running late but the ticket said that's OK as long as you aren't TOO late. While we waited for our cab, someone called my name - it was our friend Andy, a pediatrician who works part of the week at the RCH. She was dropping off some paperwork in the 5 minute parking zone, kids in the car yelling, and so we had a quick catch-up on family news and general goss.

The Aztecs were great! They certainly know how to turn a chunk of basalt into an upsetting icon of the malevolent undead spirits.


This one below reminds me of 1980s swamp-billy band The Gun Club, for some reason.


These perky dudes are actual sacrificial knives, used by priests to cut out the hearts of the unlucky victims. They have human teeth stuck on and eyes made of obsidian and ... white stuff. The spike on the right was used for non-fatal self-mutilation to supply the gods with a bit of extra blood from time to time.


I wish I could recall all of the long Aztec names of the diferent gods. Suffice to say this guy below is offering you some of his liver...


... and this is a mask made a from a real skull. With a knife in its teeth! And googly eyes. Weird enough for ya?


At closing time we scooted out of there and met Dugald Jellie, author, journalist and football blogger, who walked us over to Lygon St for early dinner at his favourite pizza place. He's a terrific fellow who has the happy knack of talking to kids and actually listening to them – which is surprisingly rare.

Dugald even hailed a cab for us. Next thing we knew we were crowded into the tarmac-level hell-basement that is Tullamarine mega-gate 26/27/28/29/30. Having been in a Peruvian bus station during the Festival of San Isidro I felt right at home. The galling thing is the disparity between Gates 1-24 (TV! Tiki bars! Restaurants! Toilets and drinking water!) and the third world downstairs. Never fails to bring me down.

Due to the Sydney shenanigans, we were on a small plane, packed to the gills, and with more legroom than the Peruvian buses but only just. Bumpy slewing takeoff and landing. Delighted to get to our car and hit the road, actually controlling the mode of conveyance. As we turned into South Hobart we counted down the landmarks before home. "Last traffic lights before home ... last cafe ... last pub  ... last turnoff ... HOME!!"