Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So Much For That Idea!

I've always been a little claustrophobic. Not very badly. Not enough to interfere with getting on elevators or even traveling from Chicago to Pittsburgh in a tiny sleeper car with a friend once upon a time.

But I've always found MRIs challenging. Even the so-called Open MRIs. For some reason, it doesn't really help me that it's open to my sides when there's still this big metal thing three inches from my nose running the length of my body.

I used to get through them by counting the seconds when they would announce how long each scan would last. "This one will be three minutes!" "This one will be five minutes!"

I was usually pretty close on my count to when the scan actually stopped.

But since getting sick and having so many places that hurt, it's hard for me to concentrate on the counting. I get distracted by all the places that start hurting worse because I'm lying on a hard metal thing with very little padding and I'm supposed to stay perfectly still. Hell, I can't even stay in one position to sleep in for 45 minutes, I don't know how they expect me to lie still for an MRI!

So I went yesterday, armed with my 5mg of Valium. I don't know if it's that I had to wait an hour past when my MRI was scheduled to start and therefore my Valium wore off too quickly, or if I was just to stressed and too achy.

I was scheduled to have back-to-back MRIs of my lumbar and cervical regions. They booked me for 90 minutes, and I think just knowing I was going to be expected to lie still that long had me stressed out before I even got to the hospital.

I did feel the Valium kick in as I sat in the waiting room. But man, if it helped, I hate to think of how it would have gone if I hadn't had any medical help!

I barely got through the lumbar MRI. In fact, after what they told me was the last scan, I begged to be pulled out of the tube because I felt like I wasn't getting any air in there. The guy then told me that I'd moved slightly during the second-to-last scan, so they had to do one more 5-minute scan or the torture I'd been through would be for naught.

The tech did give me a choice that I could walk away without doing the last one, and it was tempting. (He insisted he had no meds that they could administer nor any medical professional who could be contacted to give me some help.


Well, I managed to get through that last scan of my lumbar area, but I was sobbing by the time they pulled me out. It was just awful.

And then the incredibly cheerful tech asked, "Are you sure you can't handle doing the cervical MRI now?"

Um, no.

So I left. And today I called my neurosurgeon's assistant and told her my sad story. She told me I'd have to talk to one of the PAs about what other medication they could give me to get me through the cervical scan. (She sort of sounded like she had never heard of someone having a panic attack during an MRI, but I know it's not that unusual.)

So someone's supposed to call me tomorrow (Thursday), and once I have something set up that I can face getting back in that tube again, I'll call the hospital to reschedule the cervical MRI. I hope they'll be able to fit me in during the next week or so, but it's not a big rush because I don't see the neurosurgeon again until mid June.


Sherril said...

I had an MRI of my entire spine last year. It was the first time I've had one. It took 30 minutes. I don't even have claustrophobia but it made me a little anxious. I was glad I've studied yoga and meditation for years. They put lots of strategically placed pillows in the tube with me. I was able to focus on my breathing and on a clear mind while practicing progressive relaxation on the body, and by the time it was over I was a good place. There are some really good tapes & CDs for walking you through breathing & relaxation. I wonder if you could listen to one while the MRI was going on?

Also, my rheumatologist and my shrink will both prescribe Clonazapam (generic for Klonopin), an anti-anxiety med that lots of people w/FM take for sleep. Bet it might work really well for you. It is habit forming (NOT addictive) so I don't take it regularly but I'm glad to have it when I get really upset about something. It mellows me right out so I can avoid getting more sick from the stress, while I get to figuring out how to deal with it naturally.

Sherril said...

P.S. - I bet those MRI tech people see tons of people who are freaked out by the MRI, and the techs become inured to their discomfort.

I would go in there with the whole bottle of Clonazapam and I would take however much I needed to make me comfortable throughout. And I wouldn't stand for any guff about it from anybody, no matter how many medical degrees they had. You know what's right for you and if the people you're dealing with won't address you pain, physical or emotional, there's lots of other medical professionals out there who will be a better fit for you!

Kristi said...

Hey there! My mother-in-law has had several medical conditions that have required her to get MRI's (including spinal surgery several years ago). She is extremely claustrophobic. She can't handle an open MRI either. The only way she can get through it is to be under general anesthesia. That's probably not what you wanted to hear! I just wanted to point out that there are definitely others with claustrophobia/MRI issues and the techs or MDs should be sensitive to that to prescribe something stronger (perhaps IV sedation??)