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One Piece Of Advice For Your First MRI

Animation of an MRI brain scan, starting at th...

Image via Wikipedia

I talked to a few people. I heard things. People told me that they were noisy. They said that I would not like being in that confined space. Then I went to see if those things were true.

I had my first MRI.

A Disclaimer

I know I did a post about visiting my doctor. And then I did a post featuring some x-rays of part of my spine. Now, I show up with a post about me having an MRI.

I recognize there is a pattern in that. But I’m not dying or anything. My doctor decided to send me for an MRI to get a better look at a pinched nerve.

Moving on…

Hi, Are You Claustrophobic?

My visit to the MRI room at the local hospital began when a woman called me to schedule the event. She asked me to confirm my full name and birth date. I suppose it was important to do that to ensure that she had not accidentally dialed a professional Omawarisan impersonator.  I resisted the urge to ask for the same information since I couldn’t be sure she was actually from the hospital and not some scheduling woman impersonator. We eventually got past the introductory phase and agreed on when I was to appear for the blessed event.

Then came the big question – are you claustrophobic? I said I wasn’t. Because I am not.

Word on the street is that people who say yes get Valium to cool them out. I said I wasn’t. Because I am not.

No Metal

I walked back to the MRI room with a technician. I wasn’t allowed to bring anything that contained metal into the room with the machine. Everything I had on me went into a locker that she gave me the key to.  MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Apparently that means there is a major league magnet involved. I’d have thought metal would be fun, but that’s why I don’t work there.

MRI machine at Seaside Imaging Center

My MRI wasn't a cool sand castle one. Also, I am not that woman. (Image via Wikipedia)

We went into the MRI chamber, she closed a very heavy door and cranked a lever to secure it. I know that part sounds a little exaggerated. It isn’t. It was like going into a vault. Then she took my locker key and hung it on a hook inside the room. “No one is coming in here but you and me” she said.

It has been my experience that many hostage situations start with a door being secured and someone saying “no one is coming in here but you and me”.

Instead of menacing me, my captor showed me the MRI machine. It had a big hole in it where my body was going to go into it. “No problem”, I told myself, “all sorts of room in there”. I was given headphones so I could listen to music and then the table I was on started to slide into the machine.

What’s The Rush?

Geddy Lee

"Exit the warrior, Today's Tom Sawyer, He gets high on you, And the energy you trade, He gets right on to the friction of the day." Geddy, what are we singing about? (Image via Wikipedia)

The machine started moving me into the hole. The song “Tom Sawyer” by Rush was playing on the headphones. I was singing along with Geddy Lee in my head and trying to figure out what we were singing about when suddenly I thought “oh, this is narrow”.

That wasn’t part of the song. The tube part of the MRI looks huge…until you’re in it. It is narrow. It is loud, until they turn it on and it gets really loud. It made me reconsider my answer to the claustrophobia question. It made me think about all sorts of things.

Things like how I couldn’t see out of the tube.

And I’d never know if they left the room and went into my locker.

And how if someone did come in the room and take hostages I’d lie there for hours with a giant magnet spinning over me. I wouldn’t even be able to hear what was going on.

And what if they just left? What if the tech got mad and quit in the middle of my scan?

Fire. Fire would be bad. Would they remember I was in here, or would it be every technician for his or herself?

I Become A Man With A Mission

I was able to get myself together. I went to my happy place, calmed down and started thinking about other stuff.

Stuff like why Bon Jovi was playing in my headphones when I specifically said I wanted to listen to rock music.

And how if this really worked because a giant magnet was whirling around me, the best thing to sneak in with me next time would be a little metal car.

And how if I got out of the MRI, the fire, and the hostage situation, I now understood my life’s mission. I want make sure everyone knows the correct answer to the claustrophobia question.

Friends, I’d like you to understand that the answer to the question is yes. Yes, you are claustrophobic. Yes, you will require medication. Yes, you will get someone to drive you home.

Take the pill.

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38 Comments on “One Piece Of Advice For Your First MRI”

  1. Which was worse: being trapped in an unbelievably tiny space and completely dependent on a stranger, or Bon Jovi?

  2. Don’t scare me like that! I’m glad you’re not dying.

    Bon Jovi is better than elevator music…or smooth jazz. Right?

    • omawarisan says:

      Me too. I’ve got stuff to do.

      Bon Jovi is better than elevator music, but the song Never Say Goodbye should never be played again. It is awful. And the lyric…”you lost more than that in my back seat”…come on man, how about being a gentleman about things?

  3. Lenore Diane says:

    Forget rock … next time you go in that tunnel and have the magnet spin around you rapidly, listen to heavy metal. (groan… i know.)

  4. Been there. Done that. Hell. Pure hell.

  5. Headphones? Man, when I had an MRI a few years back I just had to listen to the machine’s extremely loud clicks and buzzes.

  6. KathiD says:

    My husband thought he wasn’t claustrophobic, too. Until the MRI. Dun dun dun!!! So he subsequently taught me the correct response, which was “NO EFFING MRI.” I was able to make do with a CAT scan for my possible brain tumor.

    Honest to god, they tested ME, claustrophobic hypochondriac, for a brain tumor. At least I got to cross that one off my list for the time being.

  7. Laura says:

    I’ve had MRIs done of my knees. For that, you go into the machine feet-first, and your head, shoulders, and arms stay outside — but even so, I could just barely stand it.

  8. Brutal! If I ever have to do this, and I hope not, I am getting sedated. Just reading your post made me get all panicky. You poor thing!

    Okay. I have some questions. First, how long did it take? Like how many songs? Please tell me you were only in there for 30 seconds or so.

    Second, is there a signal or something you can give them if you start freaking out, so they pull you back out again? I think that should be a given for all medical procedures. I tried to sneak out of the operating room before my c-section, while they were looking for surgical gloves and not paying attention. They caught me. They reminded me that my legs would not work with an epidural. But my sneaky plan was to take a taxi to another hospital where people could find things like gloves. I think. Some of us are not good under pressure 🙂

    Third, if all they are trying to do is look at your head, why do they have to put your whole entire body in there?

    Okay, and lastly, are you by any chance sleeping on your stomach at night? Because if you are, that may cause you pain in your neck and back. I had to go to a lot of doctors and do a lot of tests and therapy before they cleared that up. Now I sleep on my back and no more neck pain.

    I hope you feel better soon!

    • omawarisan says:

      It was about 20 minutes or so.

      On the signal, yes, and I have a story to tell on that.

      The tech that did my test had a strong accent. She said “if you need us you squeeze the ball.” At this point, she had not given me anything to squeeze. I was pretty certain I was not understanding what she said, but had a good laugh during the test imagining why squeezing that would be a good signal.

      But they gave me a signalling ball to squeeze if I needed help. I felt better about that option.

      I don’t know why all of me had to go in. They ought to have been able to get part of me in and take care of business.

      I sleep all over. I’m on my back, face down, on my side. I think I do aerobic sleeping.

  9. It doesn’t look like that woman is going to fit in the hole in the picture. How much clearance did your nose have? Now you know how torpedoes feel!

  10. Jane says:

    I wasn’t asked if I was claustrophobic, probably because they had attached a tiny little mirror that let me see the room outside. No headphones either. The worst part was worrying that I might suddenly have a claustrophic attack and start clawing at the tube walls–you know, kind of like worrying that you might suddenly want to jump off a cliff for no reason at all.

    Since mine was an MRI of the head, the vibrations started to become quite pleasant. Sort of like a $1600 Valium. Thankfully, I had a nice time of it with no hangover brain tumor.

    Maybe the vibrations will unpinch the naughty nerve and set you free. Good Luck!

  11. Pie says:

    I must reside in the valley of the sick, because I loved having my MRI scan!

    Everything you said about the MRI is true. Claustrophobia? Not me, but maybe I should’ve asked for valium so I could’ve had an even better trip. The slot you enter is very small. I could’ve kissed the walls, I was that close. Remove metals? The nose ring had to go (a bugger to put back on, which is why I very rarely take it off), but thankfully I don’t have tattoos. Apparently, that can affect the scanning. Headphones? Yup! But the only music I had was the pounding and thumping of the magnets that sounded like techno to my music brain (it was almost certainly the same decibel level), so I thought it was hilarious. Expect to find one playing on a stage near you. If I did have music, Bon Jovi would’ve been nowhere near, if I had anything to do with it. Tower of Power, on the other hand…

    You forgot to mention that you have to stay totally still while the magnets move around and take pictures. I don’t know how long you were in there for, but I understand a scan can take around 10-15 minutes. Because I had a bloated abdomen with a big mess inside, I was in that spinning magnet thingy for over an hour. I was practically doing jumping jacks when I eventually got out of it, just to remind my body that it was safe to move again.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’d have stayed in for another hour if I could have listened to TOP.

      The being still part was tough. I got myself laughing inside and really had to fight to keep it in to avoid messing up the test.

  12. Betty says:

    Hahahahahahahaha. Sorry, that’s all I thought as I read this because I’ve been there. Except I didn’t get headphones. I had to listen to the thunk thunk thunk. They did offer me a blindfold when I said I was claustrophobic. Know what? Made it worse.

  13. queensgirl says:

    Very vivid. I think I feel the walls closing in…

  14. k8edid says:

    I am so claustrophobic I can barely stand to take the elevator (I have to remind myself to breathe) and driving in a tunnel – nightmarish for me. I’ll definitely be getting the drugs.

  15. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Oh, THAT advice. I thought you were going to tell us not to eat beans the night before. Ok, Valium it is. I’m so glad you’re still with us, OMA. Stop trying to get all this attention by hanging out at hospitals, please.

  16. Amy says:

    Oh, how I wish I had read this before my own MRI experience. Thing is, they didn’t even ask me if I was claustrophobic. If they would have out-right asked me, I probably would have said “yes” instead of going to crazy denial land and then freaking out as soon as the tube covered my face. (If you’d like to feel better about yourself you can read how bad I handled the situation: http://fixitordeal.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/magic-washcloth/)
    I had a pinched nerve, too. My L5 was chomping on my siatic nerve and causing lotsa pain. Hope you’re not in lotsa pain. Nerve pain is the worst.

  17. Spectra says:

    What’s the opposite of claustophobic? Agorophobic? I like snug, tiny spaces. I’ve had several Cats and a couple MRI’s (too noisy and no head phones) and, like Pie, above, sort of enjoyed it. I like looking at brain XRays, too. We have these organs inside of us we never get to see until one of those BIG TESTS is ordered. I’m happy to report, I have a very tidy-looking brain. It’s cute. Petite, really. Actually, kinda tiny ( I should be embarrassed about that, right?). Will you post your brain pics for us? I think we have a right to see. If only because we’ve all been tempted here.

  18. Blogdramedy says:

    I had to have a CAT scan last year when I started getting really bad tension headaches. Just to make sure I didn’t have anything else growing in there except for my strange sense of humor. I got through it by thinking about Karl Urban’s lips and before I knew it, the lady was shaking my leg and telling me to stop drooling.

    The cause of my tension headaches? Turns out it was my sister-in-law. She lives next door. When we’re down south on the boat, no headaches. When I’m back within mental hate vibe vicinity, headaches. My solution was to pretend she’s one of those “House Wives Of” (a city the farthest away from me,) where her icy bitch persona fits right in.

    Whoa. Long comment and maybe too much information. Sorry. 🙂

  19. planetross says:

    So I guess your “happy place” isn’t inside an MRI machine.

    I think I used deductive reasonancing to figure that out.

    note: I’m Santa Claustrophic; that’s why you never see us in the same room together.

  20. jennygoth says:

    mri is not as as scary as the look just listen to the noises i kept conting to a hundred takes your mind off the closeness of the tunnel and close your eyes till the jobs done hope they got to see the trapped nerves xxjen

  21. I didn’t consider myself claustrophobic before I read this, but now the walls feel like they’re closing in on me.

    By the way, you have a way with character development: at first I pictured the MRI technician as some sort of …well…tart…closing the door and then…BAM!…I imagined her as Vincent Price, laughing an evil laugh as she latched the large, medieval door.

  22. […] went to see the specialist after another two weeks so he could read my MRI. I sat on the examining table with my pants on, reading Woman’s Day magazine because […]


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