Don’t Be Scared If You Have to Get an MRI

“Totally normal,” said my neurologist of the results of the MRI on my head. No worries.

I was afraid to get an MRI in the first place.

I got a crown last week, and that didn’t worry me — it’s my ninth. Breathe the gas and just chill for a while. No big deal. It’s almost sad when it’s over.

But I was afraid to get the MRI, because I’m slightly claustrophobic, and all I knew was that they’d put me in a big tube and then walk away.

How It Went

I didn’t have any dietary restrictions in advance. They didn’t inject me with anything. I was told to wear comfortable clothes with no metal — so I wore sweatpants, a T-shirt, and a sweatshirt. I was able to leave my rings (gold, two small diamonds) on.

Beforehand I did a three-sixty in front of a ferrous metal detector. Then I was led through the doors with the giant warnings about extremely powerful magnets.

I put in earplugs that the technician gave me, and then put on headphones. He asked me what music I’d like, and I replied, “80s. Bowie.” I lied down on the thing. There was a firm but not painful thing to hold my head still and give it something to rest on. Under the lower half of my legs was a foam thing that kept them elevated a little. It was comfortable.

He told me it would take about 20 minutes. He also gave me a bulb to hold onto and to squeeze as an alert, and he said they could pause the tests if needed.

Then he slid me in. The tube was more narrow than I expected. And for the first couple seconds I did feel panic rising a little bit, and I thought about squeezing the bulb — but I didn’t. I oriented myself and took some deep breaths.

I was staring up at the top of the tube (I was on my back), but there was this mirror contraption (two mirrors? hard to tell) that I was looking at, and so I was looking out through the end of the tube. What I was actually seeing was a nice, calm painting on the wall — a river and some trees — and I could see the length of my body and my feet, which were free of the tube. I told myself I could scramble out on my own if I had to.

The music started with a Bowie song — “Life on Mars.” Later there were songs by Talking Heads and similar bands. It was good to have music because I could note the passage of time that way. (I guess I was listening to a Pandora station or something similar.)

The machine was noisy, but I had plenty enough ear protection, and the different scans had different patterns. One scan near the end included a bit of vibration. The technician talked to me through the headphones a couple times to let me know how much time was remaining. I just kept my eyes on that painting the whole time.

I had no trouble being still, except when I had to swallow. I just did. It was otherwise comfortable. And I could have gone another 20 minutes, easy.

* * *

Of course, I’m lucky. I have very good insurance through Omni, and it paid for this. And, even luckier, the results were totally normal.

Hear that, world? The inside of my head is totally normal. I don’t mind feeling good about some good news for a change.

Update 4:15 pm: I’ve heard that not all MRIs are so nice. They might not have the mirrors and the music. In that case, well, I’m sorry. Just remember that they won’t forget you’re in there, and they’ll let you out at the end. Stay cool.

23 Feb 2017

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