magic washcloth

I am a rational adult.  Rarely, if ever, do I fly off the handle or freak out at the smallest of provocations.  I am even keel and handle stress with deep breaths and calm words.  When placed in an unusual situation, I go with the proverbial flow.  However when the flow beached me at the foot of The White Tube of Doom, I cowered and turned into a blubbering child. 

Some of you may refer to The White Tube of Doom by its professional name: MRI.  Even though I think The White Tube of Doom is more accurate, I will refer to the beast as an MRI from now on to prevent any confusion. 

When my chiropractor asked me to get an MRI, I thought, “Great!  We’ll finally be able to see exactly what’s causing the nerve pain in my leg and will be able to fix it.  Hurray for medical science!”  However, a tiny voice in a deep, dark corner of my brain whispered, “You’re claustrophobic, idiot.”  It was very easy to deny that voice existed, just as it was very easy to deny that I, in fact, have claustrophobia at all. 

See, I can ride in elevators without hyperventilating even if they are full.  I can sleep in a fully closed sleeping bag.  Crowds only unsettle me  because people bother me and I don’t like being touched by strangers, not because I feel trapped.  Yes, the thought of being buried alive makes me queasy, but that’s fairly normal, right?  As long as I can freely move my arm enough to scratch my nose, I am usually a-okay. 

After the visit with my chiropractor, I was so excited to get an MRI, that I called the diagnostic center the very next morning and was able to schedule an appointment for later that afternoon.  That meant that I got to leave work early on the day before Thanksgiving.  Bonus!  All this put me in a rather chipper mood as I drove to the center and ten minutes later strolled through the front door. 

A blonde girl in purple scrubs handed me a clipboard holding some paperwork and asked me to sit and fill everything out.  It was the typical medical release type stuff until I got to the section regarding the possibility of my body containing foreign metal.  I went down the list checking “No” as I went.  Pins. Plates. Clips.  All no.  I’ve never had any surgeries or even broken a bone.  There is no chance that I have forceps floating around in me that some doctor absently left behind because he was worried about missing his tee time. 

I continued down the list.  Rods. Screws. Pacemaker. Eyelid tattoos.  No. No. No. What?  Eyelid tattoos?  Why do they specifically want to know about eyelid tattoos?  I have plenty of tattoos but they are on my shoulders, my back and my leg.  Is the ink they use for permanent eyeliner different from the ink for my stars and moon and rocket ship? I began to imagine lying in the MRI and feeling a burning sensation all over my skin when suddenly bits of my flesh rip from my body and stick to the sides of the machine like some kind of macabre decoupage. 

This image severely damaged my calm, but I tried to shake it off.  My husband has tattoos and he survived an MRI will all his skin intact.  I knew I had nothing to worry about. 

I turned in the paperwork and a short time later my name was called.  A very nice brown-haired lady in blue scrubs whom I’ll call Nurse Patience for purposes of this story, led me to a small dressing room.  I was told to change into some scrub pants and remove my bra and anything else that had metal on it.  Moments later I was walking barefoot down a short hallway and into the room with the massive, white MRI scanner.

Nurse Patience told me to lay down head-first on the platform that would roll me into the opening of the machine.  Once I was settled she gave me some earplugs and told me that the scans should only take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. 

I was strangely calm at this point.  The room was warm, the platform was comfortable and all I had to do was lay there for about 20 minutes and that would be it.  There was a small kernel of anxiety deep within me, but I took a couple of deep breaths and told myself that it would be over before it knew it.

Then the platform started to move and I was slowly fed into the mouth of the machine.  The top of the tube inched into my view and that’s when I realized exactly how close the wall of the machine would be to the tip of my nose.  My chest seized with panic and I went cold.  My arms were still outside of the tube and I waved them wildly and screamed, “WAIT!  Stop! I can’t do this!”

Nurse Patience, immediately reversed the course of the platform and within seconds I was free from the clutches of the machine.  I sat up on the platform and gasped for air that was all around me but didn’t seem to want to make it into my lungs.  

“Are you alright?” Nurse Patience asked. 

I made some sort of strangled whining sound and nodded my head.  Finally I caught my breath and said, “I didn’t know this would get to me like this.”

“It’s okay,” said the Nurse.  “Just take a moment to calm down.”   

I felt like an idiot, but I was determined.  “I still want do to this,” I said while wiping tears from my cheeks.  “I don’t want to reschedule.”

Nurse Patience said, “For some people, it helps if they have a washcloth over their eyes so they can’t see anything.  Would you like to try that?”

I said I would try it, but before I laid back down on the platform I looked down the barrel of the machine.  “Will you be able to hear me in there if I freak out or something?”

The Nurse smiled and nodded.  “Yes, I can hear you and I will be able to have you out of there within 15 seconds.  You will be able to hear me too, and I’ll talk to you throughout the whole procedure.”

I knew she was talking to me like a child, but I didn’t care.  Dammit if it didn’t help.  I eased myself back onto the platform and Nurse Patience placed a folded washcloth over my eyes. 

“Are you ready?” she asked. 

I took a few deep breaths and said that I was ready.  I felt the platform move, but I couldn’t see the tube and that made all the difference.  I still shook a little and had to remind myself to breathe a few times, but I handled it.  The noise from the machine didn’t bother me at all.  It kinda sounded like really bad techno music and I tried to imagine that I was at the world’s smallest rave.

And then it was over.  I got dressed and left.  Anticlimactic, but I’ll take it.  It sure beats having a total psychotic break and being forcibly lead from the premises by authorities because I went all Hulk on an MRI machine.  (Amy SMASH!)

Afterward, face still splotchy from crying and mascara smudged all over the place, I went to the grocery store and ran into a cute guy I haven’t seen since high school.  Ah, life.  Gotta love it.

So what about the results of the MRI?  Pretty much what my chiropractor thought only now he knows exactly where the nerve is being pinched.  He gave me some stretches to do to help. 


Yep, I survived The White Tube of Doom just so I could be prescribed stretches.  What doesn’t kill you and all that I suppose . . .

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41 thoughts on “magic washcloth

  1. Yeah, I gotta do it every February for the cardiologist and they also do a sonogram on the chest and neck. They probably jacked your insurance $2,000. The funny thing is that with all the super tech they tell you to do exercises and the simple remedy helps a lot as it does on my neck. The scary part for me is how everyone runs out of the room and they shut these metal doors with a safe door sounding thud. I asked the doctor about X-ray radiation and he said “Naw. This machine is nuclear.” Huh?

    • My sister has to get them every 6 months (used to be every 3) because she had a brain tumor removed a year ago. I guess you get used to it after a while.
      I always thought that was funny about x-rays – you’re sitting there and they all run out of the room. Never heard of nuclear x-rays, though. Do you glow in the dark now?

  2. I am so glad that you managed to tough it out and face your fears Amy!! Sometimes the irrational ones are the hardest to conquer. Good on you, and hooray for the magic washcloth!!

    • This fear was totally irrational. I really had no idea it would freak me out so bad. Without the magic washcloth I wouldn’t have survived. Thanks!

  3. Yes, we nurses have all sorts of little tricks, ahem, uh, I mean devices that help patients through procedures (read: wrist warmers = restraints). Luckily I get to use nice drugs to help my patients :) I had to use enough on a patient the other day that would have required a “normal” person to be intubated… oh, yeah, I would need the magic washcloth too. Hope the stretches help!

    • Luckily I didn’t need “wrist warmers”!! Ha! Tom says he is claustrophobic, but he fell asleep in when he got his MRI. He thinks he has stress-induced narcolepsy or something. Wish I had that, but the washcloth worked.

  4. I feel your pain!

    About 15 years ago, I apparently knocked my L4 (a bone in my lower spine) out of position (playing beach volleyball?) and it was pinching my sciatic nerve. There was so much shooting pain, in my back and down my leg, that I couldn’t even sleep at night.

    Well a few months of chiropracty (praction? practing?) re-aligned that sucker back into place.

    Unfortunately, here’s the bad news: it will never be the same again. Such is the reality of back problems!

    • My L5 is the one giving me problems. It is only slightly out of wack, but enough to pinch the nerve. I’m hoping a few more weeks of chriopraction will get me back in line, too. I got the shooting pain, but only when I stand up or try to bend over. Luckily, it doesn’t hurt when I lie down so I can sleep just fine. There would be murders if I didn’t get my sleep.

  5. How about that sometimes when I try to check in and catch up on my favorite blogs from my new job I need to be quick and nonchalant. I’m still trying to impersonate a hard worker :). Ok, I really am a hard worker but I think that now and then you need a break at the office. I pulled up this post and scanned it quick to see how long it was to see what time I’d need to enjoy it and saw the pic of the MRI with the caption. I laughed out loud. There’s nowhere to run and hide now :). As for the test, I would have full on freaked out. I would have wanted to push through too but it would have really shaken me. Good for you for getting through it! Would it be inappropriate for me, when I am squeezed into the back of an elevator, to tilt my head back and cover it with a washcloth? I’m gonna try it…

    • This one did end up being a bit longer than I intended. Apologize to your boss for me! :)
      And, I think it would be perfectly appropriate for you to employ the washcloth technique when you find yourself in a crowded elevator. I think a few sidways looks are much better than people screaming because you are trying to claw past them for the exit.

  6. Good, God. You crack me up. I loved your tale of the MRI, from the graphics to the descriptions to the panic attack and the awesome depiction of the world’s smallest rave. Thanks for the chuckle, and best of luck on those stretches. Just pretend you’re going to see that guy from high school again when you’re done. And you’re going to look and feel fabulous and he’s going to fall in love and probably stalk you.

  7. Aww. A tiny rave sounds adorable. Tiny little 1′s and 2′s with records the size of nickels spinning on them. A miniature Oakenfold wearing (human-sized) aviators, doing the “dj point” in your direction at the end of the White Tube of Doom.

    Glad you made it out unscathed and before the little cops could break it up.

  8. Ahh that itchy burning flesh outty feeling is the worst thing ever!

    This was hilarious and very well written. You could write about Sunday afternoon clouds and entertain me and that’s saying something from my ADD riddled ass.

    No Percs, Vics, Demerol? That sucks!!

    • That feeling is the worst and it came on so fast. I went from completely rational to screaming freak in two seconds. And, yes, no drugs. Really trying to avoid them. I’m not functional on most of them and combined with wine they cause a severe case of death, so there’s that.
      The fact that your ADD riddled ass takes the time to read my stuff is compliment enough, but that it actually entertains you is awesome. Thank you!

  9. I know you pretty good, right. That’s why I didnt go into detail with you regarding the tunnel of doom. That a magic (yah, it’s magic if it got you through claustrophobic hell) washcloth pulled you through is a fairy tale come true. Have your sister tell you about the magic tongue depressor…great story, they work.

  10. I also got an MRI done for lower back pain and the test went on forever! Luckily for me, however, they put on the radio, which I listened to with my safety headphones.:)

  11. Hey Amy! So sorry you had to get in that bullet but it does come up with answers. The washcloth over the eyes is the ONLY way. Bless your heart. Had to laugh at the boyfriend thing – THAT always happens. It happened to me the first Christmas with the first baby and husband at Christmas tree lot. Baby and mom were snoticus x 2 when we ran into him. Fine moment. x iz

  12. Oh my dear Amy. I feel absolutely horrible about laughing at parts of this. Not about the freakout part no no no. About like the worlds smallest rave THAT part. You going Hulk on the machine was a bit of a picture too. Yep, I know that I would do the same thing you did if they tried to put me inside the soul eater too. They’d have it all the way in “start” mode and realize I wasn’t on the tray, but beside the machine chin out, arms folded and lower lip quivering. You did awesome. I would have needed medication. Or something. I hope you never have to do anything like that again, seriously. Lately I’ve had people tell me that when we get closer to 50 we have colonoskopies to look forward to…zombies take me away.

    • As long as they don’t have to shove me in a small tube to do it, bring on the colonoskopies! Don’t feel bad for laughing, I laugh about it now, too. Thanks, Dionne!

  13. So to summarize: when it comes to eyelids, washcloth = good; eyelids = not so good. Hold on, let me write this down….
    Stretch carefully and feel better soon!

  14. All I can say, is…….Dum Ass I love you and you should never go to these things alone! kshwee kshweew, boom bomm ba, boom boom ba! I love ya sis

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