I have been trying to write this post for a few days now, but it has just been one of those weeks…
I happy to report that survived my MRI on Monday!
Not that there was much doubt that I would, but as with so many things in life, the anticipation turned out to be worse than the actual experience for me.
Many thanks to everyone who reached out and let me know about your personal experiences with MRIs and/or that you were thinking about and praying for me! It helped demystify what I was in for and allowed me to go into the procedure relatively relaxed. I thought about each of you and what you shared in the hours leading up to my MRI and even during the process.
Monday began early, when I woke up to walk with some neighborhood friends at 5:40 a.m. I got dressed quickly, ate my breakfast and headed out to meet them. As it turned out, for various reasons, no one was able to join me that morning. I did not have my ear phones to listen to my iPod, so I found myself doing something I rarely do anymore, I walked by myself around our neighborhood and just took in the sights and sounds. I had looked forward to discussing the events of the day with my friends, especially preparing for my first MRI. But in the end it worked out alright, having that time to myself to release some of my nervous energy through my power walk.
When I got home I said goodbye to Bob and Sean who were heading off for work and school. Sometime after that I showered and Abby woke up. I got Abby dressed and fed her breakfast. My parents were coming to visit and to watch Abby and later Sean too, as I was scheduled to be gone for most of the day. I got a call from my mom close to the time I was planning to leave the house for my weekly pelvic floor physical therapy appointment. She explained that they were stuck in traffic and didn’t think they would arrive in time, as planned. We were all frustrated with the situation, but understanding there was nothing we could do, I got on the phone in effort to see if a friend could help me out. Luckily, I caught someone whose children were at school and she graciously agreed to come right over and stay with Abby until my parents could make it here.
So I was able to leave our home and get to my first appointment of the day on time. Physical therapy was relatively uneventful, though somewhat relaxing, which helped me to remain calm in preparation for my MRI later in the day. Part of how my MRI ended up being scheduled for Monday was that our local hospital has an outpatient facility located near one of the places I sometimes go for PT. I was already scheduled for PT that morning in that location, so it seemed like a good fit to also have my MRI in that area, since our hospital’s Imaging Center was booked up that day. With my parents visiting, it made it easier for me to try to knock both out while they were there.
I had about 90 minutes in between my PT session and when I was scheduled to check-in for my MRI. I ended up going to Jimmy John’s for lunch and getting my “regular” order, a Slim #1. It tasted delicious and I read some of last week’s Us magazine to try to get my mind off thinking or worrying too much about the MRI. After lunch I drove, what ended up being only about a 1/2 mile from the PT office to the Outpatient Center. At that point I still had about a 30 minutes before it was time for me to go in.
Having finished reading the current US magazine issue, I moved on to beginning my friend Melissa Ford’s new novel, Measure of Love on my Kindle. I have wanted to read this for a few weeks, but for various reasons had not found the time. So it was nice to get started and pick up where the prequel Life From Scratch had left off. I read the first chapter and though I really enjoyed seeing what was happening with the main character Rachel Goldman, I still had some nervous energy I felt I should try to workout. So I spent the next 15 minutes or so getting some fresh air and walking around the parking lot.
Then it was time for me to head into the Outpatient facility for my MRI. When I got to the front desk to check-in, I proudly presented my ID and insurance card, feeling as if I was well prepared. Then they asked me for the order for the MRI from my doctor. Later I discovered it folded up in my wallet (so I wouldn’t forget to bring it), but in that moment I thought that I had left it at home. So they called my doctor and asked them to fax it over. I spent some more time filing out paperwork and signing releases before I was asked to sit and wait for someone to call for me in the waiting room.
I decided to read the next chapter of Measure of Love, which was interesting and helped keep my nervousness at bay. Finally, around 12:30 p.m., the MRI technician called me back for the procedure. He brought me to a room to get ready and reminded me to take off any jewelry I had on. The technician told me put on a hospital gown and leave the rest of my stuff in a locker there. When I was ready he brought me to the room where my MRI would take place. In those last moments before we got started my anxiety peaked and I tried to breathe and remain calm.
When the technician and I entered the room he told me that the machine he would be using to do my MRI was a newer model that is shorter and wider than previous versions, which gave me some peace of mind. I heard some noises coming from the MRI machine, which were not very loud, and asked if that is what it would sound like during the procedure. The technician laughed and said, “no, it will sound more like jack hammers!” I wasn’t quite sure what to think of that, but figured I would know first hand soon.
The MRI technician got me situated on the table with my head in the brace and blankets over me, to keep me warm. The technician gave me a bulb shaped thing attached to a cord to hold onto that I could squeeze in an emergency, if I needed to get his attention during the MRI. He explained that it would be very loud during the procedure and though he could speak to me and I him, if I tried to call out and he didn’t respond, to squeeze the bulb.
Then he gave me big headphones to put on and asked what kind of music I would like to listen to during my MRI. He suggested country or classic rock. Though I like both genres, neither really seemed like something that would help me to relax during the procedure, so I asked if he has something more low-key, maybe instrumental or classical music.
After he left the room and got situated on the other side of the glass window where he was controlling and monitoring the MRI, he spoke to me through the microphone and told me the first part would last only about 30 seconds and he would check-in with me before moving on. I was surprised and a bit scared by how loud the noise of the MRI was. I could feel my heart racing and tried my best to focus on my breathing and to relax.
The music began to play and I was very pleased to hear a voice and song that I instantly recognized. The song was Orinoco Flow by Enya. I had been in a dance choreographed to that song when I was in high school in our school’s dance company, called Esande. I believe it was my sophomore year and I was able to transport myself back in time, imagining myself dancing to Enya, which helped me to calm my heart and my mind. I have always found listening to Enya’s music very relaxing and am familiar with her Watermark album, which the MRI technician had chosen to play for me. That was huge,allowing me to move from feeling scared and unsure about the experience to a place where I could be still, breath, think and pray.
After those first 30 seconds, the technician told me the next part would last about 4 1/2 a minutes. I said “okay” and then I got a real taste of what an MRI feels and sounds like. I remember thinking that sometimes the noises did in fact sound like jack hammers, other times they sounded like gunfire and there were also ones that sounded like a very loud fire alarm. I had intended to try to meditate some during the MRI, but because the noises were so loud, I found that very difficult. What seemed to work best for me was to focus on the music during the approximately 30 seconds between each 3 – 4 minute session and then when the noises began, I found it easiest to try to keep my mind busy.
I started off by praying for my husband and our children. Then I expanded my prayers to our extended family and close friends. From there I found myself trying to think of groups of people who I know and care about in my life including those from our neighborhood, our church community, my hometown and the blogosphere. I would spend a few moments thinking about, picturing and praying for each person and then move on. That proved to be an effective way to pass the time and also fairly therapeutic to pray for so many who have touched my heart and blessed my life over the years.
The technician told me before we began that the entire procedure would last about 45 minutes. He explained that we would do about 30 minutes of MRI sessions and then he would give me an injection of a dye that would go through my veins and show up on the MRI, to help them determine if there was anything wrong with my brain, ears, nose and/or throat that might be causing or contributing to the nausea and dizzy spells I have experienced over the past year. The injection was not too bad and though he warned me it might feel cold as it entered my veins, I didn’t really notice that sensation. After that I was in the MRI machine for about 15 more minutes.
In the end I got through it and I would say it was a fairly neutral experience for me, as far as medical procedures go. I hope I don’t have to do it again in the future, but at least now I know what to expect if I were to need to. One strange thing since my MRI on Monday afternoon, has been what has felt like a bit of post-traumatic stress, in that I find myself thinking about being back in the MRI machine and how surreal it was. It was definitely one of those times in life that I just had to get through and I believe that your thoughts and prayers, as well as my faith and Enya helped me tremendously.
I was able to get the results of MRI this week and was relieved to learn that everything looked normal!
Though my ENT was not expecting to find anything wrong, it was hard for me to not let my mind wander to worst case scenarios, as I waited for the results. I am grateful that this time I got a best case scenario, at least related to my MRI. Though we still don’t know definitively what is causing the fullness in my ears that seems to be effecting my equilibrium at times, it helps to know that it likely isn’t anything very serious that an MRI could have identified. So for now, I will continue to follow my doctors’ recommendations to try to lessen my bouts with vertigo-like symptoms and hopefully in time I will feel better.
Thank you again for your positive thoughts, prayers, kind words, support and encouragement during this experience.