So for the last couple of months, I’ve been experiencing numbness around my spine when I sit down on firm surfaces, like tables and wood chairs. It’s between my shoulder blades and it feels like about 5 of my vertebrae are asleep. Well, I finally went to the doctor about it (after the marathon for fear that she would tell me not to run it) and she scheduled me for an MRI. For what it’s worth, she gave me a serious talking to for both (1) waiting to come in, and (2) for running with pneumonia a couple of months back. Apparently, when she first saw my lung x-rays and before she knew what she was looking at, she thought that they were the x-rays of someone with advanced lung cancer! I believe her exact words were, “you should have been hospitalized young lady.” Um, yeah, I was duly chastised.
Anyway, back to the current matter. For the last couple of days, people have been asking me, “are you nervous about your MRI?” I was really puzzled by this. I mean, it’s a non-invasive procedure, how bad can it be? My first indication that it was something to be feared was when I walked into the room with the machine and the technician handed me both a set of ear plugs as well as a panic button.
A panic button? Really? I was thinking that this was a little over the top, but I didn’t say anything as I settled down onto the machine’s gurney. At the last second, I popped out my ear plug and asked, “Hey, how long will this take?” I was thinking that I’d be in the tunnel thingy for 5 minutes tops until he said, “Between 45 minutes and an hour depending on how still you are.”
Um, what!?! I started to feel the first licks of mild panic, so I started doing deep breathing exercises mindful that the more I moved, the longer I’d be in there. As he pushed the button to move the gurney thing into the machine, I made the mistake of peeking and saw the the upper wall of the machine was no more than 3 inches or so above my face. Oh boy. Then, I felt the side walls brushing the sleeves of my hospital gown as I kept moving inward.
His voice came in over the speaker to tell me that the process would start in 30 seconds. When it started, I quickly saw the need for both the ear plugs and the padded cushions around my head. The machine was about 3 times louder than a vacuum cleaner even with the ear plugs in. It screamed a series of beeps and grunts as it did its thing. I couldn’t believe that this racket was going to go on for an hour!
It’s funny what you think about when you’re forcing yourself to lay completely still while not panicking. Here’s a sampling of my stream of consciousness.
“You’re lying on a beach. You’re completely relaxed. There’s a light wind blowing. You’re enjoying the soft touch of the sun. *Pause* But what if the machine breaks and starts to fry my insides!! Focus Cyn, just focus. You’re lying on the forest floor. There is an endless sky above you. You can see each individual star. You are very relaxed. *Pause* Have they forgotten about me? What if I’m stuck in here? I’m not sure that I can get out on my own. Crap!!! Damn it Cyn, this is no time for panicking. Do you want to be the wus who hits the panic button? No. No one is hurting you. All they’re asking you to do is lay completely still while they blast loud noises into your ears. You’re fine, now suck it up. You’re laying on a swaying hammock….”
Fortunately, I did not resort to the panic button because truly, there is nothing to fear but fear itself…and aliens. The procedure passed without further incident and while I have a lingering headache due to the noise (did I mention I don’t like loud, repetitive noises?), hopefully I’ll know what’s causing my numbness shortly.