MRI scan

For a claustrophobic, I’d remained remarkably calm about the prospect of an MRI scan on my bad leg. I’d told myself that as the problem was in my hip, I would be going in feet first and my head would be sticking out of the end. It would all be fine.

My appointment was at the rather strange hour of 7.20pm, which did give me a lot of daytime to start thinking about it worrying. What if I did have to go in head first? I literally don’t think I could do it. I wished my husband was going with me, but Monday night is his night for playing football and that’s pretty much sacred. It has to be life and death for him to miss football.

The letter said to arrive half an hour before the appointment time, which I did. I’d only read two and a half pages of my book (I’ll be honest, I was looking forward to more reading time than that), when I was called through. I ran through a series of questions which can be summarised with: ‘Have you got any metal in your body?’, asked in lots of different ways. Then it was time to take my clothes off, including my bra (contains metal), but not including Tshirt, pants or socks, and get a gown on.

MRI scan, hospital, 365

Then I got the bad news. I was going in feet first BUT my head would be inside.

It was very calm in the room – white and clinical, with this strange tunnel in the centre, with a sort stretcher emerging from it. I lay on the stretcher (one pillow or two?), positioned my hips in the middle of it, where the scan would be, was covered with something heavy and a blanket for my feet. I was given a little squashy panic button to hold and heavy headphones with indeterminate music playing (it was kind of reggae party music). The screen outside the scanner recorded my weight and also how many millimetres I was inside or outside or near the actual scanning bit (I don’t know which it was, I just know it counted up and down really fast when the stretcher bit moved).

I felt strangely calm. I should be panicking. I was going to be in there HALF AN HOUR. Trapped. What would I do? I never do nothing for half an hour, I’m incapable. I need to keep busy, I need to keep moving.

The stretcher started to move towards the scanner, my head went under it. I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t stand half an hour. I was trapped. I had to get out.

I moved back out and did my claustrophobia breathing exercises and had a few sips of water. The pillow was taken away so my head had more space. Once I felt calm, I went for it again. I closed my eyes, it was easier that way.

The scanner started. It was like being stuck next to (or maybe even inside) a pneumatic drill. The music did nothing to drown it out, in fact the music was barely audible. Every now and then the noise would stop, the machine would move very slightly, then there would be a slightly different noise, like a countdown, and then the big noise would start again. This was the scanner changing to a different angle.

When I looked up, it was surreal. Like being in a film or a nightmare – when somebody wakes up and doesn’t know if they’re dead or not.

I kept my eyes closed and breathed slowly. I felt almost calm. I was in a sort of trance. I didn’t move at all.

But then I moved my lips. They felt dry. My nose felt bunged up, so I wriggled it. I was out of my trance and aware of what was going on. I felt thirsty. I needed the toilet. My feet felt too sweaty in my socks. I couldn’t cope with it.

I was good. I waited until one of the silences to press the panic button. I just needed a break.

I had a sip of water and blew my noise. I wasn’t allowed to take my socks off (and definitely wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet!), but the blanket came off. I had 14 minutes left. Fourteen minutes! I could do it!

The music had changed to something more calming. I decided to count. I would count to 840 – 14 minutes. I must have gone into a bit of a trance again as I only got to 160. The noise stopped, but this time it didn’t start again. It was over.

I’d survived it.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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26 Comments

    • Thanks very much, Phil 🙂

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  1. I hadn’t realised you’re claustrophobic. Well done!! I’m ok with confined spaces but even I’d be nervous in there. Hope results come back ok x

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    • Thanks very much! I have a breathing technique to help me cope with claustrophobia, which I used, but it was still horrible! I’m sure the results will be OK – I just hope they show something that can be solved! x

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  2. A massive well done. I felt almost panicked just reading that. It’s not easy is it, when you’re the type of person that’s normally constantly doing something. I don’t stop until my head hits the pillow and that’s why I really, really struggle with MRIs. I struggle to breathe and have a voice in my head screaming ‘move, Move, MOVE!’. It’s so hard x

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    • Thanks very much. It’s horrible, isn’t it? Apart from the being trapped thing, I just had no idea how I would do nothing for half an hour. I never even do nothing for half a minute! It’s good to know I’m not the only person who gets freaked out by it! x

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  3. I had a 40 minute one last year, and I nearly had a panic attack, my head was in first and nowhere near the other side! Horrid things.

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    • Aaagh! Sounds horrible! I don’t know how I would have coped if I’d gone in head first! It’s reassuring to me to hear that so many people freak out about them – I didn’t think I would be the only one, but I felt a bit of a wimp!

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    • Thanks very much, I didn’t feel it at the time! Was so relieved when it was over!

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  4. I didn’t realise you were claustrophobic! Had I known I would have given you some tips on the MRI. I am pleased you survived it. I have one every year that lasts almost an hour and always keep my eyes closed, deep breathing and end up going into a trance as well. x

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    • Thanks very much! I wanted to be in blissful ignorance about it, so I deliberately didn’t ask for any tips! It sounds like I got it right anyway – slipping into a trance was definitely the best way! I’m amazed you can stand it for an hour. Eek!

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    • Thanks very much! I didn’t feel brave, I felt like a wimp!

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  5. Oh gosh sounds positively awful – well done you for getting through it xx

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    • Thanks very much! It certainly wasn’t a lot of fun! x

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  6. Oh gosh you are so brave! The idea of going in one of those machines actually terrifies me. I hate small spaces!

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    • Me too! Thanks very much, I didn’t feel brave at the time!

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  7. Oh my goodness that sounds horrendous. For someone who is claustrophobic, you coped really well. I hope they manage to find the problem

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    • Thanks very much! I didn’t feel like I coped that well at the time. I hope they find the problem too as I really would like to sleep until morning!

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  8. I think I’d struggle with one of those and I’m not particularly claustrophobic – well done!

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    • Thanks very much. It’s good to hear that even people who aren’t claustrophobic would find it hard as it makes me feel less stupid!

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  9. Oddly, I had to have an MRI when I had a problem with my hip. Turned out it was bone spurs in my ankle. ANyway, I didn’t enjoy the experience and I was also given reggae music to loiten too, utterly pointless because those machines are so loud. Well done for getting through the experience. Hope you find it easier if you have to do it again.

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    • Thanks very much. That’s strange that the problem was actually in your ankle. I hope that’s not the case for me as I don’t want another scan in a hurry! Thanks.

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  10. I had one a few years back and struggled to breath. I never really thought of myself as claustrophobic until I thought about going in there and was in there. Then thought about lifts. It’s all about controlling your breathing isn’t it. Hugs x

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    • It definitely is abut the breathing! It’s reassuring that even people who don’t see themselves as claustrophobic find it hard. At least we all survived it! Thanks very much. x

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