If you’re reading this, you’re either one of my dedicated readers or you’re looking to see how the Hell to get out of a closed MRI because you’re terrified of it. I’m not going to tell you to call the facility up immediately an request anything but a closed-bore MRI, but maybe after you get done reading this post. And taking a valium.
I don’t consider myself claustrophobic. I get kind of freaked out at massive heights, especially on top of mountains, etc. I own a snake, but really don’t like finding beetles, cockroaches, or spiders inside my house. I feel like my fears are sort of rational. I do, however, have generalized anxiety disorder and tend to pass out when having IVs put in or lots of blood drawn. Even that I can get around with the use of medication and seeing a therapist for anxiety-reducing techniques. So for me, having an MRI requested by my doctor didn’t strike fear into my heart. After all, I didn’t need any contrast (injection via IV to see specific things during the MRI), so I didn’t think I’d have a reason to panic.
My shoulder has been giving me grief for 6 months and I have a shoulder impingement on my rotator cuff. I blame hypermobility syndrome/Ehler’s Danlos but regardless of what gave this problem to me, it wasn’t getting much better with weeks of physical therapy. An MRI was my last resort to make sure that nothing was seriously wrong – something torn, etc.
I arrived at the facility and took of my clothes and put on a fabulous hospital gown complete with booties. I went into the MRI room and got in a very uncomfortable position with my shoulder locked into a shoulder cap-like item and I was velcroed (yes, strapped) in like some sort of mental patient. I was then told to put in ear plugs and I was asked what radio station I wanted to listen to. I started to get suspicious about this now – wasn’t this just a quick in and out procedure? I was told that I was going to be put into the machine – and kept there…for 25 whole minutes.
The part of my brain that controls panic suddenly lit on fire (boy, I’d love to see that in an MRI). I’m sorry – I’m in a tube, almost with the machine pressed against my face, I’m STRAPPED in, I can’t move, and this is going to take HOW long? I requested a blanket and took some huge deep breaths. I was slid into the machine and suddenly I was very aware of how close the machine was too my face. My breath was automatically more shallow because the machine was so close to me that it made the air stagnant and warm. I closed my eyes and made a pledge to myself not to open them until this was over. A contemporary radio station started playing in the headset, but it was quickly drowned out by the jackhammer-like sounds coming from the machine so close to my face. This happened every minute or so, and I suspect that it would be a lot more never-wrenching if I could actually hear “Call Me Maybe” playing over the noises. I mean, who can “relax” while that sound is happening all around you when you’re stuck in a giant tube?
They do give you this squeeze-ball to ring the attendant if you need to be pulled out for any reason. Every other minute, I debated squeezing the hell out of it to try to get out of there. However, this MRI was costing $500 and I didn’t know if I could get it back if I bailed. Every thought through my head was “Do you think they have enough images yet? What if I quit now? How about now? Now?”
I thought about all of the techniques and tips that my therapist gave me to deal with generalized anxiety disorder. I am not ashamed to admit that I sought help for my problem, I believe that it was the best way to deal with anxiety. I am incredibly thankful of the techniques that I’ve learned over the years, especially since I can now fly without many problems anymore – huzzah! I used them and somehow got through the 25 minutes without asking to get pulled out. There were several instances of shortness of breath, racing thoughts, and restless appendages. I did not have a panic attack, but I was definitely on the verge of starting one for at least 22 out of the 25 minutes.
Please note that this is not my first rodeo with MRIs or CT scans. However, I don’t believe I’ve ever done a closed-bore MRI, especially not with my whole body inside (especially my face). I recommend that if you can get a more-open version of the MRI – it will be a blessing. Unless you know for sure that you are not claustrophobic or have any anxiety/panic tendencies, I would ask for anything but a closed-bore MRI for anything that includes putting most of your body inside. If you are not familiar with the different types of MRIs, check out this site http://info.blockimaging.com/bid/102182/Closed-Bore-MRI-vs-Open-MRI-vs-Wide-Bore-MRI – where I have the photos from in this article.
I still don’t know the results of the MRI (cross your fingers for me), but the tech said that the MRI results came out clean, so at least I don’t have to repeat the procedure. While I’m coming down from my anxiety (helped with a gluten-free donut), I really really really just hope I never have to do a closed MRI again.