Keeping Physicians Informed About My Past Health History is My Responsibility.

I recently learned that because I have two muscle movement disorders, I need to be my own advocate when visiting the doctor.

Last month, my orthopedist sent me to get an MRI taken of my swollen left elbow to determine if there was an infection. If you’ve ever been to a radiologist for an MRI or an X-ray you remember that before you even get started, you need to fill out a bunch of questionnaires about your health history.

When I arrived at the radiologist’s office I checked in and proceeded to fill out their questionnaire. It was tedious but nothing exciting to reveal. Or, so I thought. I’m not allergic to any medications. No, I don’t have a heart condition. I have never suffered head trauma. I’ve never taken any of the medications listed.

I thought I got everything down and that it would be a snap. But I forgot something crucial. I forgot to let the doctors know in advance that I have Tourette syndrome and Tardive dyskinesia. That’s important at a radiologist’s office because if they are to get a clear scan, you need to sit without moving.

After a half hour waiting in the patient queue, the radiologist guided me into the exam room and had me lay down flat on my back. He asked me to put my arm into what looked like a short tunnel in the machine so that the image could be generated. Then, almost as soon as I put my arm and in, I heard the radiologist comment, “Your hand is shaking.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, feeling foolish for forgetting to inform him in advance. “I must’ve forgotten to tell you that I have Tourette syndrome and Tardive dyskinesia. I can’t really control it.”
 He knew what Tourette syndrome is but wasn’t very familiar with Tardive dyskinesia. TD is a condition brought on as a side effect of medication I’ve been taking. It causes tremors in my hands and face.

At first, I chalked it up as the office staff’s fault. I wondered how he, as a radiologist, someone who needs his patients to be very still, could have never encountered someone with tremors in their hands. It should have been listed as a choice on the questionnaire.

He tried to stabilize my arm in the MRI by stuffing some padding around it, but it didn’t help much. The only solution I could come up with, was to press my wrist up against one side of the of the tunnel and my elbow against the opposite side to stabilize my arm. It was a little painful laying in that position knowing that I couldn’t move my arm in any way for a half hour. My arm shook a little but the image apparently came out clear enough.

As I was leaving, I politely suggested that the office staff edit the questionnaire to ask about any involuntary muscle movements which might complicate the procedure. But, on further reflection I realized that I was wrong. It was my responsibility to make sure they knew about my condition in advance. If I had told them sooner, they might have been able to come up with a better solution.

Originally published at on June 6, 2017.