Have you ever had something happen that you were totally unprepared for? Like taking a sip of a friend's soda, with your mind thinking Coca Cola and get a mouth full of Dr. Pepper? I mean it's not the end of the world, but it is surprising and shocking. Lets multiply that by 10,000.
I've been having some health issues such that one of my doctors wanted an MRI of my head.
No big deal right?
I am, shall we say, a full-figured guy. I was always a big guy but over the last ten years or so I've added a lot of weight. I'm about the size of an NFL offensive guard, ok? Big enough to scare small children (and small adults).
Doctor's Office Lady sets me up with the local medical imaging center and schedules me to have the MRI done on an "open" MRI.
Open MRI's are physically shaped differently than the traditional "closed" MRI. They are much more able to image large humans and, more importantly, are easier on the psyche of large humans who normally don't want to be literally crammed into a tube so tight that, say, my arms are mashed into my sides and the top of the tube is about three inches from my nose. An open MRI is like laying in the bottom bunk of a bunk bed where the top bunk is a bit closer than you would like, but no real problem. A closed or traditional MRI machine is like being fitted for a coffin and closing the lid.
We're talking serious physical constriction here, people. If you don't have claustrophobia, a traditional MRI can give it to you, believe you me Bubba.
So yesterday, I show up at the imaging center nice and early. Sign in. Fill out some forms. Pay my co-pay. Then MRI Lady takes me back to a room with locker to change into a hospital gown.
MRI Lady takes me into the MRI room, chattering happily at 90 miles per hour about what's gonna happen, and then I see the MRI machine… (sound of car skidding to a stop)
IT IS NOT AN OPEN MRI. IT IS A CLOSED MRI.
Blood pressure spikes. My face feels flush. Have I mentioned that I have panic attacks? No?
Now I immediately zone out her jabbering and am mentally trying to fit myself into that machine, with my head in that contraption that immobilizes it. I'm thinking it's gonna be REAL tight at best, if I can go in it at all.
She notices I've stopped looking at her and responding to her.
Her: "Are you ok?"
Me: "Uh. I thought this was an open MRI." (At least my voice didn't squeak)
Her: "Nooooo. This is a short bore CLOSED MRI. You should fit in there ok."
Me, not reassured, in my head: "Don't panic. Pray. Dear Heavenly Father…"
Her, miraculously sensing my well hidden unease ;) "Mr. JAM? If you don't think you can do this we can blah, blah, blah"
Me: "Can we just set me up and put me in there like you need me to be without doing anything else? Just to see if I fit and can deal with it?"
Her, relieved: "Oh sure! No problem! All we have to do is blah, blah, blah."
Me, in my head: "You've handled one this size before, you can do it today. But I was on tranquilizers so strong they had to lead me around like a 90 year old with dementia. Oh, quit being a baby. You're here, just calm yourself down and GET IT OVER WITH."
Me, after having head secured in the hard plastic death shroud: "You sure you can hear me if I yell to get me out?"
Her: "Yes. I'll pull you right out. Ready? I recommend you closing your eyes the whole time, ok? Here we go!"
Me, with eyes closed: "Dear God. Me again…"
I had to scrunch my shoulders in and as I went into the machine. Well actually the walls of the 'tube-o-death' scrunched them in for me. As I continued in, my arms were pinned tightly to my sides and she stopped me at the point where my hands were pinned to my hips, but no further.
Me, to self: "Keep your eyes closed! Can you breathe all the way in?" Slow breath, fully in, chest barely grazes top of the 'tube-o-death' and I realize I'm a hair's breadth from absolute panic, but as long as I can breathe…
MRI Lady: "How's that? That’s as far as you have to go in. Could you handle that for a little while?"
Me: "Yeah. I think I can handle it."
So she pulls me out and hooks in an IV so that later in the test she can put some dye in my blood to make the MRI of my head have better contrast. She puts a set of headphones on me for noise reduction, and it allows her to talk to me, and she had some soothing music playing.
Before I go in for real, she gives me a minute or two to gather the fragile threads of my eroding mental state and sends me in. It's noisy, but that's no problem. The soothing music helps. Prayer and self-calming thoughts get me through it though. That and keeping my eyes closed the whole time.
All 45 minutes in the tube-o-death, fighting the 'I'm being buried alive!' thoughts that are trying to take over. Believe me. I'm a really calm and steady kinda guy but this ALMOST had me cryin'. Phew!
Anyhoo, you know how mothers to be can get a snapshot of their ultrasound of the baby? This is a snapshot of my brain below. Can you tell I had skipped breakfast yesterday?