Practicing For An MRI Test

This is the second time that I’m writing about my experiences with MRI procedures. Why, you ask? Because every time I have an issue, my doctors order me to take another MRI. Then, if they see anything else that is suspicious, they order another one.

In the future, I’m going to “practice” for future MRI tests, just like I would for any test. Hopefully, this will help me endure the rigors and discomfort of the ordeal. More on this later.

Frankly, I have plenty of time to partake in these disturbing procedures in an effort to stay healthy. But my fear of going into the tube has grown materially over the years.

Why are the machines so noisy? Why are they so small? An average sized man barely fits inside. The chance of claustrophobia is increased exponentially because of the way these damn machines are constructed. Why does it take 30 minutes, or more, to take a few pictures? We’ve had the technological ability to go to the moon for decades, yet it takes 1/2 an hour of torture to determine the extent of an injury or malady.

A few years ago, I was waiting to take an MRI in the anteroom. Of course, I was nervous as hell. Suddenly, Justin Tuck, who was then a defensive lineman for the New York Giants appeared, having just gotten an MRI. Justin is a Notre Dame graduate (as I am), so it was pretty exciting to meet him.

My immediate observation was, this guy is humongous. He appeared to be 1 1/2 times my size. I thought, I can barely fit into the machine, how does he manage it? Really, why is it so important to squeeze patients in and make them feel uncomfortable? Someone should start a movement to make MRIs more spacious.

CT scans and MRI’s are procedures that capture images within your body. The biggest difference is that MRIs use radio waves and CT scans use X-rays. MRIs are a principle way for doctors to view potentially dysfunctional parts of your body. By the way, CT tubes are much smaller, and the procedure is only a couple of minutes.

A constant imaging field and radio frequencies bounce off the body’s fat and water molecules. Radio waves are transmitted to a receiver in the machine, which is translated into an image of the body that can be used to diagnose problems.

The MRI machine is loud, really loud. Usually, a patient is offered earplugs or headphones to make the experience more tolerable. You have to be still in the MRI for an extended period of time for the images to be clear.

I’ve had all sorts of adventures relating to MRIs. Once, I needed an MRI for my shoulder. I tore my rotator cuff. My surgeon said I needed an MRI, and I refused. The doc is a friend of mine, and he told me I had to go down into the MRI torture chamber and take some pictures or he couldn’t fix my shoulder. I told him I was frightened. He called me a number of derogatory names in front of several people. They referred to me being a chicken.

I told him that it was no laughing matter. I said, I would do the MRI under three conditions. By this time, a crowd had assembled, and everybody was laughing as my shoulder pulsed.

The doc asked, what are the conditions? I said I want to be unconscious, not just with a sedative, but with general anesthesia. He asked me if I was serious and looked at me like I was out of my mind. I said yes. He agreed. Everyone was hysterical laughing once again.

He asked, what else? I told him I wanted to be asleep before I entered the MRI anteroom. More laughing. He said okay. He asked what else? I said, I wanted to be unconscious after the procedure, so I wouldn’t see the MRI machine. More laughing. The doc agreed.

Several weeks later, I showed up for the MRI, I was knocked out, and I got my pictures taken. It probably cost me triple the amount to pay for the anesthesiologist, but it was worth it.

I really had to do something to make the MRI process more bearable. I went to an imaging place for another MRI. They said they had no anesthesiologists on staff when I told him I wanted to be knocked out. I got up and started to walk out. The staff put a full court press on me trying to get me to stay. It was another crazy scene.

One of the nurses said they had prism glasses that enabled a patient to look backwards out of the machine to alleviate any claustrophobia. To make a long story short, it worked pretty well.

I now have my own glasses just in case the imaging place doesn’t have them. You can buy them online.

I recently was told I needed another MRI. I started to feel tremendous anxiety even armed with my glasses. I’ve been stalling about taking the MRI trying to psych myself up. The thought of lying in the tube for so long was weighing heavily on me.

I decided I should “practice” for my 30-minute MRI encounter. So, for a week, I’m going to lay down every day somewhere in my apartment that feels confining with my prism glasses. I will then try to keep still for 30 minutes without moving.

I’ll bet I’m the only patient who has been practicing for an MRI. Wish me luck.

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