I was scheduled to have my first MRI bright and early on a Saturday morning. It's a good thing they asked me to wear clothes without buttons or zippers. I woke up, sipped a cup of strong hot coffee (thankful for a compassionate husband), took a quick shower, and threw on a clean pair of jammies. Sweatpants and a t-shirt, actually, but at 7:00 AM, I looked like I'd just rolled out of bed, anyway.
"Open MRI" is an interesting experience - I still can't decide if it's one of the most comfortable medical tests I've ever had to endure, or one of the creepiest. I can't really comment on the differences between "open" vs. "closed" MRI; I don't know that it would've made all that much difference to me, since I'm not the least bit claustrophobic.
On the one hand, the table was not so hard, the technician put a nice cushion under my knees to keep my back comfortable, and he placed pads at my ears to keep my head from moving and help block out the sound. The room was neither too hot, nor too cold. A popular radio station provided a little background noise. All in all, it was comfortable. On the other hand, the MRI does sound a bit like a pile driver on speed and a distant jackhammer, punctuated by the occasional staple gun. Having that heavy piece of equipment hovering over your nose for half an hour does make you wonder, idly, what your head would look like if the thing collapsed.
The worst part, though, was the technician's telling me "don't swallow." Don't swallow. Now, that's like saying "don't think about pink elephants." Suddenly swallowing became the one overwhelming obsession of my life.
For a few minutes, I confused swallowing with breathing, and thought maybe I shouldn't do either one. Then I wasn't sure if it was possible to breathe without swallowing. My tongue seemed to be glued to the back of my throat, obstructing my airway.
I was aware of sensations related to swallowing and the anatomy of my throat that I've never given a thought to before in my life! For a few minutes, right after the thumping noises got started, I had this barely controllable urge to laugh. The more I tried not to, the harder it was to contain myself. That was bad.
I tried to imagine, again, what my head would look like if the machine collapsed upon my nose. Strangely, that only increased my urge to giggle. Then I was hyperconscious of the need to pee. Given that I'd just toured the facilities a minute before hopping onto the table, it had to be a combination of early-morning coffee and nerves, but I was unable to think of anything but swallowing, laughing, and trying not to disgrace myself for nearly 30 minutes! After the tests were done, I got a nice souvenir coffee mug filled with candy.
How lovely! My "glamour shots" would be ready for professional evaluation by mid-week. I thought "Gee, maybe if I'm good, the orthopedic surgeon will give me a lollipop!" .
By: Holly Jahangiri