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 . . .