Tales from inside the MRI tube

I had my MRI bright and early this morning, a feat in and of itself for my mom and me to get there on time. I didn’t really know what to expect again as I’ve been a ridiculously healthy person all my life. (Thanks to those of you who attempted to prepare me verbally.) There was a little paperwork to fill out beforehand which I did mindlessly for about the dozenth time in the last few months. When I brought it back to the receptionist, I asked about the procedure and couldn’t figure out why she was staring at me as if I showed up at the medical center painted blue and walking a duck on a leash. And then I realized what I said,

When I go in for the MRI, will I be wearing only my wedding gown?

I guess I was more nervous than I thought … and maybe still a little Xanax’ed. I tried to correct myself but then the word ‘bridal’ then came out of my mouth. What the F was wrong with my brain? I finally forced my mouth to spit out the word ‘hospital’ and she smiled and said yes, probably moving her letter openers and other sharp instruments from the counter to underneath her desk as I walked away.

I sat only a few more minutes until they called my name. When I walked past my mom to go to the back with the tech, she reached up and high-fived me. ??? I was, of course, expecting a more stereotypical hug and words of encouragement from this very sentimental woman … but I think the hardwiring in her brain is a little whacked right now, too.

The tech brought me to a dressing room where I changed into my HOSPITAL gown and then moved on with her into the MRI room. I lay on the table with a wedge pillow under my knees while she put an egg crate cushion and then the brains of the whole device on my chest. She gave me a ‘panic ball’ (which looked a hell of a lot like a nasal aspirator) to hold in my left hand in case I felt the need for immediate ejection from the tube. She asked if I wanted my eyes covered to avoid feelings of claustrophobia. I said yes. And she placed the headphones on my ears. Friends told me to bring my iPod but I forgot. And I wouldn’t have been able to use it anyway. Her headphones allowed her to talk with me and play music between her instructions. She asked what I wanted to listen to and my mind went blank. ‘What are my choices?’ I asked, completely spoiled by the XM radio menu in my car. “Anything FM,” she said. I rattled off the only local call letters I could think of and found myself quickly tuned into a New Orleans easy listening station. Lionel Richie. Great.

She left the room and began the LOUDspeaker communication … and starting sucking me into the tube, head first. Unfortunately, I instinctively opened my eyes and realized that I could see the ceiling of the tube, which I was pretty sure was so close that I could touch it with my tongue if I tried. And, no, I didn’t like it. She kept moving me into the tube until I was waist-deep within it. At that point, the movement stopped and she asked if I was okay. I said, “As long as you’re not taking me into this thing any further.” She said she wasn’t, so I exhaled and decided to keep my eyes closed and attempt to relax to the smooth stylings of now-playing REO Speedwagon.

Anyone who tells you that he can sleep in the tube is lying his ass off, by the way. The noise was incredible. It vacillated between loud siren sounds and jackhammers. I closed my eyes and pretended to be in my favorite hotel room in New York City. Those sounds are extremely commonplace there, and I hear them all the time from my bed while on vacation. This ‘happy place’ thinking seemed to work for me. Until I realized I had been holding my breath the whole time and I flinched when I suddenly had to draw in a quick breath to keep from fainting on the table. Which meant we had to do that round of tests again.

There was a lot of “Take a deep breath … and hold it …” until I often felt like I was going to faint during the whole process anyway. I don’t know if these repeated loudspeaker instructions are normal or if they were just required for me because an inflated lung is easier to inspect than a deflated one. I just did what I was told. Over and over and over again. Until they told me that they had to put in an IV to inject me with some substance to help enhance the images again. (Remember the CT scan?)

After a good bit of pain getting the IV in while I was still all covered on the table, the tech told me that the vein she was working with was no good so she’d need to do it again. She then gave me THE singlemost painful needle insertion I’ve ever experienced in my life. I actually apologized for the howl I let out. But at least the f-er was in now. And she said that this injectable dye would not give me the urinating sensation I got with the CT scan injectable. But I did get the mouth-full-of-turpentine, chemical taste again. (I honestly wonder about the damage I’m doing to myself with injectable dyes, multiple x-rays, CT scans which are said to equal 100 x-rays each, MRIs, etc.)

Now with this foreign chemical surging through my veins, they took another whole series of images … and friends like Michael Jackson, Norah Jones and Oasis kept me company. After about an hour, I was able to get up, get dressed and return to my mom, who kept herself busy on her iPad in the waiting area. My results are expected by Monday. Surgery is guaranteed, but there are still a lot of questions surrounding it that I’m hoping things like this MRI will help to answer.

More soon ….


9 responses to “Tales from inside the MRI tube

  1. Hello Michele,

    I read your post last night too late to answer you about MRI’s. I would have said, “make sure it’s an OPEN MRI!!” But it was too late for that anyway. Oddly enough, the only time I’ve ever had an MRI done was nearly 3 years ago when YOUR MOM!! went with me. She must be getting good at this, although she didn’t have her iPad or even iPhone then. I was having my back scanned. I don’t remember being instructed to inhale and hold my breath, so that was probably to see your lungs. I do remember it as the single worst diagnostic procedure I’ve ever experienced. 45 minutes of the most infernal noises I can imagine outside of hell–strange since I was freezing the whole time, even though I had my shoes and pants on. Maybe Dante was right that the pit of Hell is ice not fire. The cloth on my eyes made me MORE claustrophobic. When there was a pause, I took it off myself because the tech didn’t answer me when I asked if I could. So much for being able to communicate at any time. I’ll take a CT scan any day–at least it’s quick–but if I ever absolutely have to have an MRI again, it will be open.

    Anyway, I’m glad that part is behind you, and I hope the results give more answers.

    All the best,

  2. You survived Lionel Ritchie in an MRI tube. You can handle anything.

    • Sorry, I meant you survived listening to Lionel Ritchie while you were in an MRI tube.
      Not that you survived being attacked by an MRI-clad Lionel Ritchie.

      Because that would just be weird.
      (sorry for any confusion).

  3. I’m glad it went well, wedding dress and all! Know what you mean about all the chemicals but can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that if I don’t glow in the dark or emit a high frequency pitch after all the diagnostics of injuries in the last 10ish years, you should be fine. Also, forgot the sleeping-in-the-MRI caveat: I have a toddler and therefore am A) used to very loud noises close to my head and B) perpetually sleep deprived. I hope you have a peaceful weekend and get your good news ASAP. 🙂

  4. You’ve been so positive through all of this, a really good sport. If I may make a pun based on your blog’s usual topic, most people (myself included) would be BIG BOOBS in your situation.

    Good on ya! (Oh, that could be another pun, for how a lift/implants would look.)

    I’ll stop milking this stupid comment now. (Dang! Not even going there.)

    I’d better just say “Ta-ta!”

  5. Been there, sister! Even being heavily laced with valium didn’t help with the sound of the jackhammers. I felt like I was in a Flintstones episode and some prehistoric bird was inside the machine, chiseling out the images. And they made me lie facedown with my boobies HANGING DOWN THROUGH A HOLE IN THE TABLE. Dignity shmignity! Glad your final results were positive.

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