Why I Paid $5000 for MRIs

"I travelled two hours and got five MRIs done at once. The next day, I finally had answers.”

May 16, 2023

“In August of 2017, I was driving near Victoria, B.C., with my kids loaded into our van, when we got into a collision with another car. The kids had no life-threatening injuries, but I had to go to the emergency room, where I was treated for lacerations on my face, arm and abdomen. 

Afterwards, I had shooting pain all over my body. It was difficult to stand and walk, and it wasn’t getting better with time. I tried everything to help ease the pain: I had an occupational therapist, I did physiotherapy, I visited a chiropractor, I did acupuncture, I got massage therapy. Nothing helped. 

We moved to Comox, B.C., in December of 2017, where I had no family doctor. I would go to walk-in clinics every couple of months and wait for hours to see someone. Eight months after the accident, I finally got a GP, but he soon left the practice. I was transferred to another doctor in the same practice, but she left too. I was transferred to yet another doctor, who said she would order a CT, but months passed and I never heard back. At this point, I had no continuity of care.

In August of 2020, three years after the accident, I decided to be more proactive about getting my life back. I googled “MRI Vancouver Island” and found a private health clinic in Nanaimo that did imaging. I called the clinic and within two weeks, I was scheduled for an appointment. I travelled two hours to Nanaimo and got five MRIs done at once. 

Three hours later, I had imaging of my abdomen, spine, hip, sacrum and pelvis. And the next day, I finally had answers. I found out I had a possible torn labrum—the protective lining around the hip socket that prevents the thigh bone and hip bones from rubbing together—and many herniated discs. Later, more imaging confirmed there was a labral tear. Altogether, the scans cost me $5,000. 

We moved to Nova Scotia soon after. I was lucky to find a doctor here, but I’ve been on the waitlist for hip surgery for almost four years now. If I could afford it, I would pay for private surgery. But at least I know the source of my pain.” 

—As told to Emily Latimer

This article originally appeared in the June issue of Maclean’s, alongside Christina Frangou’s investigation into the growing world of private health care in Canada.