MRI’s and Claustrophobia

On Monday, I had my MRI along with three x-rays. Because I’ve had MRI’s previously, I took a Valium so that I could stay in the tube while the MRI was performed. I have a problem with claustrophobia and get very anxious while in the tube. It may be because several years ago, I was locked in a car trunk in the winter time, when doors and windows are closed. I had been working on the trunk lid when I accidentally released the tension and the lid slammed shut.

While I was in the trunk, it was of course dark, and I couldn’t see to be able to open the latch. I began to wonder whether I would have enough oxygen to keep breathing, so I punched a hole up into the back window area where there was a cutout for a speaker.

My wife was inside running the sweeper, and I knew she might not even think about me for a long time, since I’m often working in the garage. I finally got her attention by rythmatically tapping on the side of the car with a screwdriver. She heard my taping and wondered what was going on. She opened the door and called out my name. I yelled to her that I was locked in the trunk. Since that incident, I’ve always had a hard time being in confined spaces – and the MRI tube is a confined space.

It is not only confined, but they strapped me onto the platform like a mummy, so I couldn’t move. This makes me even more anxious. Finally, after reciting the 23rd Psalm and several other Scriptures that I have memorized, I was able to settle down, but it took a few minutes and the complete MRI took about 35 minutes in total.

Once situated on the platform, strapped in and given ear plugs, the nurse placed a bulb type object in my hand and told me to squeeze that if I had any problems. She then left the room and entered the control area where she had a window to observe me. It was completely quiet except for the sound of ticking coming from this huge machine behind me. Without notice, the platform began moving me into the tube. Then it stopped (I’ve got my eyes closed).

Several seconds pass and then a series of loud electronic pulses begin. The pulses continue for a period of time and then stop. Then a new set of pulses begin that sound different than the previous ones. That will go on for a while and then stop with a new, different sounding set to follow it. You must not move or exit the tube during this time or the whole process has to be started again.

On one of my previous MRI’s, I signaled for the attendant to let me come out for a while because I was becoming very anxious. She told me “Oh no, sir. If I let you come out, we’ll have to start all over again. See if you can hang in there for a few more minutes.”

At this particular MRI facility, they had headphones for you to listen to the music of your choice (which was better), plus there was two way communication to talk to the attendant if there was any problem  (without the little squeeze ball). After this one was completed, the nurse told me that if I ever had to have another MRI, it would be a good idea to take a Valium before coming for my appointment. That is why I asked my doctor for a script for one this time around (which didn’t start working until several minutes into the tube).

So, I survived this procedure :), and the results will be sent to a radiologist to be analyzed and then forwarded to my surgeon. On Friday, I will meet with my surgeon to discuss the findings of the imaging.

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