Close Encounters of My 5th MRI

The dictionary defines Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) as “a form of medical imaging that measures the”… blah, blah, blah. Basically, it uses radio waves and magnetic fields to capture images of your innards.

Have you ever had an MRI?! Wow, I just had my fifth MRI today. I imagine that getting an MRI is the closest a human being can come to being abducted by aliens. You are laid down on this skinny little slab that nuzzles really close to the outline of your body. Hopefully you are given an eye mask to reduce the potential of opening your eyes to see the impossibly small cave you’ve been pinched into, and ear plugs to protect your ears from the incredibly loud clanking, crashing, cramming noises of what sounds like metal being violently smashed against iron… over and over and over and over again for anywhere from 20-45 minutes. You may have an itch or want to adjust a tight muscle but you must lie completely still or you will be kept in this contraption all that much longer.

Twenty-five minutes in a magnetic cocoon is a very long time. Gratefully, I utilized breathing exercises and visualization as an easy default. This time when my mind drifted to my to-do list, no problem at all. But when my attention came to my physical self, a moment of panic would arrive. You wouldn’t want to spend much more than a breath of time in the present moment because that’s when reality kicks in… I went straight to my to-do list, imagining every nuance, every detail of tasks that need doing. At one point, my brain lingered in the present moment for a beat too long and recognized the snug settings, the occasional, unpredictable, mild shaking of the foundation I was stretched out on, and my mind reasoned that the importance of the breeze of cool air that was circulating must just be for the sake of keeping you from feeling like you were tucked into a wall in the morgue. I went back to visualizing. Unlike my usual inner talk guiding me away from the endless mind chatter, I gave myself some permission to muddle over the specifics of the mountain of sand that is my to-do list. A saving grace. I really have compassion and can fully understand why panic attacks happen and twilight drugs are needed for this procedure.

A few months after my hiking fall, I got an MRI of my full spine from brain to tail bone to see if all the fractures were repairing. That took 45 minutes with a break mid-session. When they sat me up at the end, they wrapped my metal back brace around my torso which I needed anytime I was upright. But I couldn’t stand. The whole room was spinning. I couldn’t tell up from down and my heart was pounding. I felt like I was on a roller coaster and I have never liked roller coasters. A few months previous I had endured a fractured skull and a swollen, bleeding brain. Was my brain exploding?! After we got home, I called my primary physician, my chiropractor, and my neurologist to see if someone could tell me what was happening. None of them knew what was going on but suspected it had to do with the 200-foot fall I’d recently taken. They brushed this immense dizziness off as vertigo and advised I pick up a prescription. It was my spine doctor that had an explanation. He suspected the MRI re-triggered my swollen brain and the length of time as well as the loud sounds threw these micro-pearls out of their little pouches in the inner ear where they reside.

I had vertigo for months. I was already using a cane to get around but when the whole world was spinning, I needed to crawl or hold onto walls for stability. Most people who suffer from vertigo also suffer from an upset stomach. Luckily, my stomach wasn’t affected but I could certainly see how it could be. Wearing a back brace was enough of a hassle but now when a loved one undid the back brace so I could lay down, the world would spin and my eyes would shutter side to side uncontrollably. When they sat me back up to replace the back brace, my eyes would spasm yet again. In time, I came across my remedy… the Epley Maneuver which helps to get these inner ear micro-pearls back in their proper pouch. I had the Epley Maneuver done twice by my physical therapist; once for the left ear, once for the right. After each treatment, I was required to sit upright while sleeping for 48 hours. Ugh. Lots of propping was needed due to the fractured spine and sacrum and misaligned tailbone. And after these two sessions my vertigo was gone and hasn’t returned.

I wanted to share my experience because MRIs are so common nowadays. It’s likely most everyone reading this will experience one at some point. And like going to the dentist for some, it may be awful while you’re in it but it’s forgotten once over (unless you are afflicted with vertigo for 3 months). I had forgotten how intense this procedure can be and yet I got through each of them. And now I’m curious about alien abduction to see which is worse! šŸ˜‰

2 responses to “Close Encounters of My 5th MRI

  1. Hi, Gina. I guess I’m a little weird. Everyone I know got freaked out when they had an MRI. I, on the contrary, have had one and found it to be no problem at all. I enjoyed being in that small space, but then I like small spaces. The clanking was a bit annoying but overall I found it to be quite relaxing. Call me strange, but that was my experience.


    • Not strange at all. We are all so different. My fiance gets anxious at the dentist where I have no trouble at all.
      I did find it relaxing in ways… there were just moments of potential freak-out that were managed with distraction šŸ™‚ It’s great to have the self-awareness that closed spaces relax you. That is a wonderful asset that can be sought out as needed and can bring you comfort.
      Thanks for sharing your experience šŸ™‚


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