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Health: Shocking Medical Mystery

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A common test that millions of people get is supposed to diagnose problems. But a Philadelphia woman says it made her sicker. 3 On Your Side Medical Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on the MRI shocker.

Denise King has been singing for 25 years, making CD’s, headlines and performing around the country and in Europe.

But now she says she sometimes has trouble remembering songs, especially new ones.

“It’s upsetting. It’s frustrating. It’s embarrassing sometimes,” said Denise.

She says her memory fell apart after what she calls an MRI mishap two years ago at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Denise had a sinus problem, and was sent to get the specialized imaging that was done in a traditional tube like machine.

Magnetic resonance imaging uses a powerful magnetic field, generated by an electric current and radio frequency pulses.

“And I remember telling them, ‘I’m being electrocuted, I am being shocked, something’s happening to me, stop it,'” said Denise.

She says she was trapped inside the MRI tube, her head held down with a mask.

“I’m screaming, I’m crying, I’m panicking. Help me, get me out of here, I’m being shocked,” said Denise.

She says the technicians stopped the test quickly and pulled her out. Denise says she was checked by a doctor and sent home.

“Their response was well, we know something happened, we just don’t know what,” said Denise.

She says she was disoriented and had burns on her arms. But after a few weeks felt better, and needed to get back to work. And that’s when she really started to notice the memory problems.

“After this incident, everything changed,” said Denise.

“Something strange started happening. She began not remembering performances. She called me for, she began to forget lyrics,” said Aaron Graves, a band member.

“It was the most horrific experience I have ever had in my life,” said Denise.

She says after months of getting no answers from HUP doctors, she got a lawyer involved, and filed suit against the hospital.

“We know something happened, and it shouldn’t have,” said Edward McCandless, Denise’s Attorney from Langsam Stevens & Silver LLP.

He says he’ll be able to prove that Denise’s memory problems caused by the MRI have interfered with her career.

Stahl asked, “How can you prove these memory problems are related to that incident and not a matter of her aging?”

McCandless replied, “I think the science is there, the medicine is there, the story is there.”

We talked to several radiologists and the American College of Radiology. They all said they never heard of an MRI shocking someone.

Denise sometimes now relies on her phone for words to songs, and sticks to the oldies, the songs in her heart, that she still remembers.

A spokesperson for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where Denise had the MRI, says they don’t comment on cases in litigation.

Denise’s lawyer says the hospital has not yet filed its response to the suit.

Denise says she’s determined to keep working and singing, and finding ways to overcome her forgetfulness.

Reported By: Stephanie Stahl, CBS3

More from Stephanie Stahl
  • Lucille

    The medical profession has a bad habit of coming out with “We’ve never heard of that” for things like this — as though their knowledge of it alone means that it really did or didn’t happen. Not quite the same thing, but along the same line…many years ago, I tried to talk to doctors and pharmacists about side effects I noticed from taking cough syrup containing dextromethoraphan — feeling spaced out, having weird dreams — and was told that there was no such problem because “We’ve never heard of that”. The pharmacist even told me it was all in my head. And what ingredient is now going behind pharmacy counters (and possibly on prescription only) to keep it out of the hands of people (especially kids) using it to get high? Dextromethoraphan. Don’t take the medical profession’s word as the final say in any matter.

  • Ben F.

    Stephanie, I want to thank you for bringing this story to the air. A few years ago (2 or 3) I had to go thru an MRI. Once inside, I felt a strong shocking pain surging thru my back and legs. I spoke with the technician thru audio inside the machine and she told me that wasn’t possible and to just stay still. It felt like a strong electric charge was going thru my back and clenching the muscles in my back making me shift/turn significantly. Though it was painful, I kept my mouth shut and tried my best to stay still and get it over with. I never received burns or experienced any side effects that I know of, however, I take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only one who has experienced this issue. I live in the Woodbury/Deptford, NJ area and I had my MRI conducted at Booth Radiology in Woodbury, NJ. There has to be more to this issue than just coincidence. Thank you for your time.

    • Terry

      I had a very bad experience with MRI NO doctor would admit my cancer got
      worse with the standup MRI. Trying to contact Mr McCandless he is not with the original lawyers??

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