Health

Back in the MRI Tunnel: Feeling as if I was flying in the Nostromo Spaceship

To say I had a horrifying experience three weeks ago when I underwent two MRIs would be an understatement.  I did manage to get through it to only have to wait two weeks to get my results. Do not get me started on how annoying the wait and our healthcare system can be. D-day for the results came and I got great news in that my brain MRI was fine. I had nothing wrong with my brain, although some of my adversaries might dispute that.  However, the neurologist still had no idea what was wrong with me. The neck MRI proved inconclusive to the point that the neurologist sat there, deep in contemplation, muttering to himself, for about 5 minutes.  Have you ever seen the television show House? Do you know the character of Dr. Taub? I felt I was getting a differential diagnosis by the highly neurotic character.  After he contemplated, typing furiously, he turned to me and stated “your body has stumped me.”  Wow, those are words a girl has always waited to hear. Maybe John Mayer can write a song about it?  It can be called “your body is a stumping ground.”  The neurologist proceeded to engage in what I am sure came as comfort to him (not that I am diagnosing him). He proceeded to give me yet another neurological exam. And, yes, I was still neurologically off!  I don’t really fail tests, so this is not of great comfort to my perfectionist self. Apparently, I have brisk reflexes. Hmm, could it be all the coffee, coke zero that  I consume? No way! I have always been a little jittery. So, the cranky neurotic neurologist did the next logical step. He ordered me to go back for yet another MRI. Oh no. I had thought I was done with that.

So, here we go again.

Sunday night I ran errand upon errand. Best to get lots of work done Sunday night as Monday afternoon I would have to go back into the MRI machine. I got a good night’s sleep. Monday morning came and the blahs came on. Monday’s are just so difficult in general. I got my son ready and I headed out to the train station. As I was almost to the station I realized I had forgotten to take my medicine. Oh no. I have been clearly instructed to take the medicine before 9am each day. Panic started to take over. I started to run back home when I realized I didn’t have my house keys. Bullocks. It was official now. I was a hot mess. Not much more to say there.

Work proceeded as usual that Monday morning. Rainstorms came and went as I looked unto the Empire State Building. Such a majestic sight that I often take for granted everyday.  Finally, the time for me to venture back to the MRI had arrived. I walked over in the blazing sun skipping through rainbows. Yes, there are rainbows in New York City. I got to the waiting room and completed my paperwork. My knees jittered and swayed.  The television blared a “Bachelorette Men Tell All” commercial. This is why I record all my shows of interest. I cannot go without fast forwarding through the commercials. God that show seems so silly. Ah, tall calm technician dude was in the house.  It was nice to see him. He had walked me through the MRI last time.  Tall calm dude walked a little old lady out.  She looked a bit shaken. Eek.  She joined three other women.  Now there was some cooking show on the television. I so didn’t want to think about food. My feet moved back and forth. I have never ever been able to sit still. Never done it. Even when I have appeared on television or broadcast satellite panel discussions, my feet have moved to and fro.  Thus, I wasn’t about to stop now when waiting to be taken into the torture chamber.  Rock, rock, rock. Now all four women in the waiting room appear to have each gotten an exam and now they were all leaving together. Some weird new form of a bachelorette party?

I look around. Where was tall calm dude? Hmm? He walked out sipping a fruit punch. Didn’t seem like he was coming back anytime soon. So, not liking this. Now, there was a short jittery white-coated woman hanging nearby. Was she my technician? I didn’t want her. They mentioned my name. Why did they mention my name?   Why do I have to go through this again?  She is staring at me. Am I being paranoid? I am ok. I am ok.

Oh, I have to pay. My stomach is in knots. It’s grumbling. It’s growling. My heart is starting to pound loudly. My stomach is fighting me.  I feel rising heat from my stomach. I taste bile in my mouth. I feel like I am about to board the Nostromo spaceship where I am going on a journey encountering alien life forms. It’s as if my food and internal organs decided to form a coalition (that’s a non-profit industry joke) against this moment.  They were rallying internally and pushing back against the stomach wall. Jittery white-coated woman calls me to the back. Great! Now, I have to break her in to my state of neuroses.  I change and let her know that I did not do too well last time I was here. She tells me this time will be different. I will be able to see the light. That sounds ominous. She asks why I am there. I explain the long-lasting 6 weeks of pain. Ah, yes. I have had that pain as well but you won’t catch me in the MRI.  Did she just say what I think she said? That’s comforting. She appears to be a jaded New York cheerleader. Ok. I will roll with this as I get rolled in feet first. I have no Hannibal Lecter mask on me this time. I open my eyes and I see white. I roll my eyes slightly back and I can see the room and the ceiling lights. I feel cool air hit my face. I was going to be alright. I hear her voice coming through the little holes on top. I can count them. You will be ok. This will be twenty minutes depending on the length of your spine. Ok. Good?  Yes, I am ok.

Bang bang drum drum. Here we go again. I close my eyes. Open them. White. I see white all around me. That is a bit disconcerting and generally freaky. When one thinks of scary MRI environment it is usually the thought of being enveloped in darkness that is most horrifying. But this white space is somewhat surreal and dizzying. Need to focus and remind myself I can roll my eyes back. But it is cool. The air literally is cool and on my face. I daydream of being on a Hawaiian beach.  My legs want to twitch. I am not supposed to move. But even my own neurologist said I have brisk reflexes. Maybe I should google that.  I breathe in and breathe out. My stomach starts waging a battle. It is gurgling and churning. I feel my stomach skin is being lifted up against the blanket. I am not supposed to move. Those were the instructions from short jaded cheerleader woman. But my stomach is acting like something wants to pop out and scurry about the white floors in a menacing manner. I recall Ash’s directives aboard the Nostromo in Alien: “Bring back life form. Priority One. All other priorities rescinded”. Hmm, this MRI tunnel situation might get sticky.

Space travel…the idea has never enticed me. I love travel in general but space seems a bit more confining despite the vastness of the universe. The air seems thick with staleness yet very cold and brisk. As I lie in the MRI tunnel I imagine Hal talking to me, or rather ignoring me. I would like that space pod bay door opened now. I look up at the white ceiling and imagine floating in a pod semi-conscious state of mind.  Breathe. The white ceiling really throws me off. It is not fear.  It is just an odd sense of envelopment. My stomach is having its own existential moment. Does the battle in my stomach count as movement against the machine?

The drumbeat continues. Where was I in my thoughts? Hi there. You are doing well. You have six minutes left. You are really doing good. Whoa. Jaded cheerleader is speaking to me. My leg wants to twitch. My left leg falls a little to the side. Hope that doesn’t screw this MRI over. No way, I am doing this again. You are doing well. We are on the last scan. About three and a half more minutes. The white light is mesmerizing. Where is the emergency airlock system? These three minutes are so long. It is like running on the treadmill. Those last few minutes are absolute torture in that time seems to slow down enormously and you are caught in the feeling of wanting it to be over. You did well. I am doing a final check and will be with you shortly. It is over. Ok. Can I scream now? Can I roll myself out and run?  Can I let the alien break free from the confines of my stomach? I hear the door open. She is here. I survived. I more than survived. I did well. Amazing how not having a mask over ones face can be so liberating. Life’s experiences are always about the context and contrasts, no?

So, here I am. Final report of the MRI tunnel starship Nostromo, Psychologist Mimi reporting.  I may not yet know what is wrong with me. However, I got through this and I have walked back out into the sunlight. But no future space travel for me.  That’s for sure.  MRI survivor signing off.

To see my previous post on the first MRI experience:  https://psychologistmimi.com/2013/07/07/my-40-minutes-of-terror-inside-an-mri-machine/

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