So, I was going to get an MRI of my shoulder (no worries, minor problem).
This started with the expert placement of contrast into my shoulder under flouroscopy (and Conray tastes like magnesium). Yes, you can taste the contrast even though it’s injected elsewhere in the body. (Conray was so the radiologist knew where the gadolinium was going, for better delineation of the shoulder structures for the radiologist).
Then comes the MRI. Never had one, but I’ve ordered several. I’m wearing my very fashionable gown, lie down and the two nice techs start getting me ready. I got some sort of contraption put over the shoulder that plugs into the table (pretty cool), get bolstered into place so I can’t wiggle, and some headphones playing classic rock.
They gave me a little black bulb ‘to squeeze if there’s a problem’. I thought that was amusing. All this happened out in the open, and life was good.
Then came the tunnel, and the first thing I thought of, looking at the fiberglass tunnel lining with two light strips embedded in it was HAL from 2001, which is weird. Then I realized my heart rate was up, my hands and feet were sweating.
“Wow, this isn’t going to happen to me, is it?” was the higher-brain function; ‘get me the heck outta here’ was what my midbrain was yelling. I’m a rational guy, so I can think my way through this.
Just by putting my chin on my chest I can clearly see I’m out of the tunnel from the knees down, I can see the control room windows, I could relatively easily wriggle out. “Not. Having. It.” sayeth the midbrain, and by this time the lower functions have decided to side with the midbrain, now I’m starting to hyperventilate, a little, and the upper brain had a realization that’s never happened before: “You’re not going to reason yourself through this, and you’re going to have a full on panic attack if you don’t get out of this tunnel”. Doesn’t matter I’ve never had one, if it’s imminent you know it.
That amusing little black squeeze bulb then got a touch of a workout. Quicker than I would have expected “Yes?” Surprisingly calmly I said “I need to get out of this tunnel Right Now”. Not being slow, and having seen this a million times before (they said later) the tray of doom began moving me out of the tunnel.
When I got out I was shaky, hands and feet dehydrating me involuntarily, and the relief to be Out Of There was palpable. I was effusively apologetic (I think I apologized to the tunnel and the door as well as both techs, several times). They were very nice, said not only was I not the first, I wasn’t the first today. One offered to stand at the bedside and talk to me during the procedure, but I was pretty sure I’d shot my chance for the day, and declined, apologized my way out the door, and went home. Humiliated. I’m a middle aged man, a doctor, I knew what this would be like, and it went almost as poorly as it possibly could.
I had no idea this was even possible for me. I’ve worn all kinds of restrictive masks/headgear, been in several spots tighter than that, etc. No reason to think my brain would stage a tunnel coup.
I’ll also say I now have more empathy for those who tell me they’re claustrophobic in the MRI tunnel (I have ordered sedation liberally before, and will continue to). But, I always thought, in the back of my head, ‘what’s up with that?’, and now I now. In spades.
So, I’m going to have to reschedule and repeat the thing, but this time I’m going to have some sedation. It’s not for me, it’s for my midbrain. Seems a little nervous about the tunnel of noise.