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What to Expect from an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaginging)

If you have ever had an x-ray where they have you lie down on a table. having an MRI is a little bit like that except the "table" is narrower. However, you will be snug as a bug in a rug once inside the tube, as your body will be comfortable embraced and supported by the MRI machine. If you have ever had a CT scan you know that your body is automatically guided through a large hole without you having to move or anyone having to move you. An MRI is similar in the same way, except the hole is smaller and is longer. If you have ever slept in a top bunk with the ceiling above your head, it is similar to that, except the ceiling is closer. For some people, this can be intensely claustrophobic. If you know that you can't tolerate tight spaces like a too small public bathroom cubicle then you should arrange ahead of time to have something to calm you. Perhaps a tranquilizer pill, for example. Occasionally an IV can be given if necessary. Be sure to discuss these issues with the ordering doctor.

One of the best MRI experiences I ever had was when the ceiling of the space I was lying inside of was painted sky blue and had clouds. They gave me a pair of earphones to wear and I got to choose the music to be played. I had soft pillows under my knees, a warmed blanket laid over me and a pleasant recorded Lady-Voice speaking to me whenever instructions were given. There was a soft breeze wafting that came from behind my head. The banging and rat-tat-tatting of the machine never bothered me. I played a fantasy in my mind that I was hiding inside a hollow tree as a child while a woodpecker tapped on the tree.

One of the worst was when I had to lie flat, no pillows, in a cold room with just a single sheet over me. They insisted I wear earplugs. It was dark inside with a little row of mild lighting on each side. The ceiling was gray. A fan blew cold air right up my nose which started up a Migraine Headache. Because they insisted I wear earplugs, the extra loud, commanding, recorded male voice telling me to hold still, even though I was frozen into place, was the most annoying of all! I had a fantasy of being the "Incredible Hulk" and wringing the neck of whoever had set it up that way. Just kidding about that part.

Now, whenever I go for an MRI I wear sweats, or a jersey t-shirt type fabric, pants, and top with no hooks, buttons, zippers, etc and ask to wear them. I wear warm, thick socks. I see no reason to strip down and lay there freezing beneath a skimpy hospital gown when I can be humanly comfortable. It makes no difference to the reading of the MRI, I have been told. I ask for double sheeting (if there are no warm flannel blankets) pulled up around my cheeks and shoulders. I tell them I don't like the earplugs as they aggravate my sinuses. (They do.) And could they please turn down the volume on the voice. Since I have done modeling for artists in the past, I do have the capacity to lie completely still for long periods of time, even though parts of me get tingly and numb, and sometimes painful. I spend the time praying, meditating, thinking beautiful thoughts, and/or fantasizing. I make sure that I have taken sufficient medication beforehand to allay my pain if I have any. That is if I am not required to be without food or drink overnight. If that is the case, I have used a mind-over-matter technique with pain,  and have found it useful for getting through situations like this.

That first time with the music has never been repeated and I have never been able to get permission to bring in my own. So, I never ask about music anymore. If it is really cold inside, during a break in the machine noises, I will ask for the fan to be turned off, sometimes. Some people think it gets too warm and stuffy without it. But, I've never had a problem with it. During longer breaks, I do move ever so slightly to take in a very deep, slow breath and stretch a tiny bit, but never disturb the part of my body they are focusing on. The main thing about holding still is to not hold myself stiffly. That's what causes pain to arise. When I hold still, I try to think of myself as soft as butter melting in sunlight.

The staff are usually quite accommodating if I ask politely. I always apologize ahead of time for being too bothersome, explaining that I have been through so much medical trauma in the past, and would appreciate it if we could do these things. I always thank them each time some request has been agreed with, and remind them how kind they are. I think they do appreciate it and will go the extra mile for a patient that is not complaining and bitching at them. They have to take that kind of treatment all day, every day, from some patients who are really unable to control themselves while they are suffering. And it can be refreshing to be treated as sweet angels of mercy for a change. (Male staff, too.) It can often bring out the best in people that way and bring on a more nurturing experience.

That is my personal philosophy about it. It may be different for others. Sometimes there are people who do not respond to this kind of treatment and remain aloof, cold, remote, sometimes arrogant, and so forth. That is their problem if they want to act that way. I am not going to let them turn me into a helpless little patient, even if they do have me in tears. I do complain to the right people if I have received unkind, inhumane or unprofessional treatment. I have been known to get up and walk out of a situation and leave them open-mouthed when I have been treated in less than a humane way.

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