Fear and Loathing in an MRI Machine

***To clear up any confusion, please note that this entry was written before I received my diagnosis.***

“Hi, this is Random-Chick-Name calling from Random-Medical-Violation-Facility.  I just wanted to remind you of your MRI of the brain and MRV tomorrow afternoon.  Do you have any questions about your procedures?”  –Perky Receptionist

“Yes.  I’m claustrophobic, but I have a prescription for Valium.  Is it ok to take one before the procedure?”

“Sure, that’s fine!”  (Perky Receptionist was definitely NOT on Valium.)

“Ok, how far am I going to be in the machine?  Is it just my head?”

“Yes, and maybe your shoulders.”

“And, how long will the tests take?”

“You’ll be in the machine a total of 45 minutes for both tests.  We look forward to seeing you tomorrow!”  (Seriously, why was she so happy?!?)

As eager as Perky Receptionist was, I just could not share her enthusiasm.  I was extremely nervous.  I had never had an MRI before, but I knew it would be a tight space, and I knew I hated tight spaces.  Trying to be optimistic, I planned on taking my Calm-Your-Butt-Down drug (luckily, I never take these, so one prescription can last me years), and I planned on saying the rosary.  I figure God gave us ten fingers for this reason, I keep track of the decades on one hand, my Hail Marys on the other.

Fast forward to the big day.  The Husband drove me to the MRI, telling me that if “you’re a good girl for your test, I’ll get you a cookie after.”  (Is he confusing me with the children???)  After waiting a short while, I was ushered to the back (technically called “The Medically Necessary Torture Chamber”), where I got to strip down, then put on a lovely hospital gown.  Now, to be fair, the facility and its employees were really great.  It was extremely clean–this is huge for a germophobe as myself–and everyone that I came into contact with was extremely gentle, kind, and soft-spoken.  Unfortunately, the experience was still a nightmare.

First, after laying on the table, the tech tightly tucked me in with a sheet–arms and all.  I like to move my arms.  Very much.  Arm movement is a wonderful gift from God.  Why was she taking that away from me?  After all, it was only going to be my head in the machine, right?  Right?  RIGHT????

Trying to fight off mental images of straitjackets, I waited patiently to get started.  But we were not ready yet.  Oh, no.  My mental-patient-transformation was not complete.  The tech then proceeded to put a cage-like trap over my head.  Apparently, if you move the slightest bit, it can mess up the MRI, and you have to start all over.  So, they make it to where you can’t move.

Now, my transformation was complete.

They had turned me into Hannibal Lector.

Ah, yes.  That's completely accurate.  No exaggerations here.

Ah, yes. That’s completely accurate. No exaggerations here.

All that was left was to place a cloth over my eyes–how kind of them to shelter me from visual hell–and earplugs in my ears.  Now the fun could begin…time to get in the machine.  The tech gently pushed on my shoulders as they squeezed through the tunnel, and the rest of me followed, all the way to my hips.

WHAT THE FREAKING HELL?????  This was definitely not just my head and shoulders!

I will spare you of a play-by-play of the psychological hell I experienced, but here are my highlighting thoughts:

  • Straitjacket, straitjacket, Hannibal Lector, straitjacket, straitjacket.
  • My chest is actually touching the top of this machine.  Thanks again, God for the big boobs…sheesh…
  • I hate Perky Receptionist.
  • This is like a coffin.  I’m being buried alive.
  • What if I get stuck in here???  I can read the headlines now, “Woman’s Breasts Clog MRI Machine” and the story will tell of how I suffocated by said breasts.  Oh, how embarrassing…
  • Have I mentioned that I hate Perky Receptionist?  I wonder if she’s working today?  Dang, I wish I could remember her Random-Chick-Name.
  • When the hell is this Valium going to kick in???  Please tell me it’s not already working.

After a few minutes, the test actually began.  I was warned that it sounded like a war zone.  Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.  But, I actually welcomed the noise; it was a distraction to the tightness of the tunnel.

Then it hit me–I came in here with a plan!  So, I told myself to take a deep breath (as much as I could), and I began to say the rosary.  I said each prayer slowly, concentrating on the words, letting my mind drift off to another place.  I love art, so I began to visualize pieces of art that touch my soul, such as

The Pieta by Michelangelo

The Pieta by Michelangelo


The Sacred Family by Pompeo Batoni...My absolute favorite.  I could look at it for hours...

The Sacred Family by Pompeo Batoni
…My absolute favorite. I could look at it for hours…

After a very short while, I no longer felt the confining restraints of the MRI machine.  I was no longer focusing on the noise, or the heat, or the fact that I looked like some science fiction creature.  I was focused on the Holy Family–more specifically, Mary.  I have never really understood people who have had Marian devotions before, but I’ve thought of her a lot lately.  And the thought of her gives me comfort.

I’ve had a lot of fear while being sick.  I’m usually very level-headed, not one to overreact to things, but I’ve been so sick for so long, with no end in sight.  It begins to wear on you, regardless of how strong you are.  (For the record, I do not think I am a strong person, but others are often telling me otherwise.)  But in those moments of fear, especially if I’m lonely as well, I have thought of our Blessed Mother.  I think of her “fiat”, and how she never questioned God’s plan for her, but rather had complete faith in Him.  I wonder if there were times when she was afraid?  If she felt alone?  The path she followed was not her own, but God’s.  Yet she followed it.  Without question.  Without hesitation.  I am in awe of her strength, her faith.

So, I find myself calling on her lately.  In my moments of fear, I call on her.  In my moments of loneliness, I call on her.  In my moments of doubt, I call on her.

And, you know what?  She always leads me to Him.  To her Son.  Like any good mother, she points us to God.  For He is where we really find strength.  He is where we really find courage.  He is where we really find unity, love, faith, grace…whatever it is that we need in that particular moment, we find in Him.

Some days are just bad.  We all have our MRIs in life.  Take your problems to God.  Take it all to him, and you will find peace.

Because if I can find peace looking like this:

Woman in Straitjacket at a Psychiatric Hospital

then you can find peace too.


One thought on “Fear and Loathing in an MRI Machine

  1. Pingback: Mystery Solved | Faithfully Flawed

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