I’ll spare you the gory details but over the last 16 years I have had three MRI’s. The last one was last night.
#1 – creepy anyway, given the circumstances of even needing one. First they ask if you are claustrophobic and when you say “yes” they give you something…Xanax? I don’t know.
They put you in a Hannibal Lecter mask, tell you to stay absolutely still, and slide you into a cigar tube. I swear I have seen cigars in bigger tubes.
During this MRI they did talk to me, “don’t move”, “this next scan will be two minutes”, “this next scan will be three minutes”, and on and on. At least you know what to expect before you hear the pounding, the screeching, different cadences – all loud – while you go to magnet-land.
Some of the sounds might have been in Iambic Pentameter but I mostly counted, waiting for the time to be up.
#2 – 9 years later-ish. I went to a different imaging center. I said “I’m claustrophobic”. They said “tough crap, we can let you pick out some music to listen to”. I picked Hits of the 70’s because quite honestly that was all I recognized.
Imagine being stuck in a tube, having to pee, pounding going on all around you, and Johnny Cash screaming in your headphones “You’re gonna die! You’re gonna die!” I probably pretty much stumbled out of that one.
#3 – last night. I had an “Open Scan”. Ladies and gentlemen let me tell you that “Open Scan” is a misnomer. It only means the back end of the cigar tube is open. Why? I don’t know. Yes, the circumference is a bit wider so that part is good.
This was a back scan so no Hannibal Lecter mask. I was the last patient being seen and I went in at 7:50pm. Although STILL claustrophobic, I refrained from taking anything because I had my son with me. I did not want to drive home with him while “relaxed”. He stayed in the waiting room reading “Best Bars in LA”. I kept my eyes closed the whole time. Great.
This time the technician did not talk to me at all. He handed me a bulb wrapped in tissue, said “this is the panic button” and instructed me to squeeze it if I wanted to come out. He said that was all he could do, he wouldn’t be able to hear me begging, singing, counting, whatever.
Again, pounding, screeching, tinking (not tinkling, think of ball peen hammer on a bannister in a horror movie) metallic sounds all around me but I couldn’t count how long they’d last because he didn’t tell me, and I couldn’t come up with any poetry to match the rhythms. What a gyp!
And quite frankly I wondered if he was even in the other room or if he was sharing a pizza with the night janitor. (Seriously, these guys are great but I was feeling a tad paranoid).
We got out of there at 9:30pm. All the lights were out. A janitor had to show us how to get out of the building, and it was done. We drove through for a fast-food dinner even though I wanted Corn Pops and vodka. But I’m a mom, I couldn’t feed that to a 13-year-old.
I hope that’s it for another 9 years. But you never know. Damn, a waste of a perfectly good night I could have been writing poetry; MRI’s are just not poetic!
Tobi Cogswell is a two-time Pushcart nominee and a three-time MRI victim. Her new chapbook “Lit Up” is hot off the Kindred Spirit Press. She is the co-publisher and co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.sprreview.com).