In which our Lady engages in Bathroom-talk.
It occurs to me that most of you out there have never hung out inside an MRI machine. I will therefore describe this great pleasure—it being my fourth time today. First, you fastidiously prepare by wearing clothes that have no metal on them. This saves you from the embarrassment and discomfort of having to change into a drafty and probably overly large hospital gown. If you are wise, you actually began the second phase of preparation the day before by drinking as much water as you can. This allows your veins to be nice and present when well-meaning nurses begin poking at you in order to insert an IV. Warning, this may present a (slight) problem later. But when your MRI tech happily makes contact the first time, you abandon all thoughts of later consequences and focus on the joy of tasting the saline they just stuck in you, which is a slightly salty taste. This is an uncommonly odd sensation, since you didn’t actually stick anything in your mouth, but the taste comes from somewhere else completely.
Next you lie down and ask for a blanket. It comes warm and keeps you nice and toasty for at least 10 minutes until you begin to realize that hospitals really need to invest in fleece. You have plenty of time to think about this, because you will by then have ear-plugs in and barriers on either side of your head to keep it straight and still. You are given an emergency call button to hold in your hand and are told that you can keep your eyes open. You don’t necessarily believe this, though, because you’ve been told twice before that it’s a big no-no to open your eyes. Besides, there’s nothing to really see anyway. A wide white visor is positioned over your head that is equipped with some sort of mirror, allowing you to see a section of the wall. It has two boring pictures on it that you can’t really see anyway because you left your glasses over on the table. You begin to slide into a three foot wide tunnel that arches up over you in a hemisphere. The bed part slides you in nicely, but the part your arms are resting on stays still, so you are forced to lift your arms just slightly. Briefly you think, jeesh, what do over-weight people do on such a narrow bed? That thought ends quickly. It is at this point that you suddenly realize that the tunnel is white, as are the ceiling, walls, and floor of all MRI rooms ever created. It is suddenly much colder in this sterile little unit.
The tech tells you over a microphone—which you can somehow still hear—that it will be about 20 minutes for this part, and that the first section will take about two and a half minutes. You close your eyes tight and pretend your head doesn’t itch as you lie still, still, still. A series of loud pops and bumps begin to echo around you. It sounds like a digital drum, and 80’s songs like “You Spin Me Round Baby Right Round” and “Safety Dance” immediately fly into your head, keeping double time with the regular beats and pulses. This is probably a good thing because your meditations are only interrupted occasionally by the tech’s voice, “Three minutes, now.” Eventually the beeping stops and you find the skin on the back of your arms sticking to the side rails as you are brought out into the bright light again, moved along as if you were processed food on some sort of assembly line. You are happy to be out until the tech reminds you that you have another 10 minutes to go. You are shot up with “contrast” solution, whatever that means. The sliding robot move begins again and you are back in the tunnel. Everything is going fine and you’re thinking, yes, I can make it, I can make it, when the noise once again ceases and you are told that it is all done.
Unfortunately, that one time you squirmed seems to have ruined exactly 4 and a half minutes of MRI-ness and you have to do it over again. You are now certain that an easy IV is not worthwhile, and consider pushing the emergency call button for just that—an EMERGENCY. But the thought of doing another 4 and a half minutes of MRI time, even without a full bladder is unacceptable. You hold tight and once again it ends. As the tech takes you back to your locker to retrieve your belongings and talks pleasantly to you about life and the meaning of the universe, you are secretly watching for signs of a bathroom.
3 Things that make MRI’s difficult:
1. The lack of a restroom in an otherwise fully-equipped MRI machine. (serious oversight)
2. The added pressure of your hands and arms draped across your mid-section.
3. That extra glass of water just before you left home that morning.