Randi Kreiss

MRI: meditate, ruminate, imagine


I decided to think of my recent MRI, to check out an uncooperative leg bone, as an opportunity. It was much more productive than thinking of a magnetic resonance imaging the way I usually do, as a version of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Premature Burial,” or a white tunnel of no return.

I could do better than that.

Many years ago I had an MRI, and, in anticipatory anxiety, I took an anti-anxiety pill, which turned out to be quite delightful. I wouldn’t have known if they’d slid me into an MRI scanner or a pizza oven. I was so chill.

But in the interest of self-improvement and a desire to deal with stressful situations more resourcefully, I decided not to take any medication this time. I was goin’ in cold turkey.

You can do an MRI lying down, sitting down or standing up in a machine that is open or enclosed. These advances address the fear factor: being shoved into a long, narrow tube from which there is no escape other than the small rubber bulb they put in your hand and tell you to squeeze if you freak out and need to bust. I presume the “rescue” bulb is connected to someone observing outside the exam room, but I did have the thought that maybe it wasn’t connected to anything. You can also talk to the technician over a microphone when the machine isn’t making awful grinding noises, which is most of the time you’re in there.

Since imaging is a fact of life, especially as one’s body matures (falls apart), I figured I should be able to handle my MRI without any personal drama.

You get to keep your clothes on, which is always nice for a medical experience. You do, however, need to remove every bit of metal, including jewelry or clothing with zippers. Apparently, if you go into the MRI machine wearing, say, a tiara, the entire room begins to shake and you get ejected into the parking lot. OK, so I don’t know exactly what would happen, but flying metal apparently messes up the machine and possibly the patient.

I went in feet first, which is a plus in the claustrophobia department. The minus is me; even feet first, I was engulfed by the machine.

In the waiting room, I had meditated for 10 minutes to get my breathing nice and slow, and as discretely as possible, I did some yoga stretches. By the time they took me in, I figured it was down to 50-50 that I would slide into the machine, open my eyes, see the walls just inches away from my face and go for the rubber bulb.

“No,” my inner Deepak Chopra said. “Do not go there.” So I thought instead about my Thanksgiving menu. After the turkey was in the oven, I moved on to virtual closet organizing, travel planning and budgeting. I decided what plants to buy in the spring and what gifts to buy for the grandchildren, and thought of all the ways to cook eggplant.

Still had 30 minutes to go. I was wearing headphones, which were playing Vivaldi, and eyeshades, so that if I did open my eyes, I wouldn’t see the wall an inch away. The noise inside the tube was jarring, extremely loud and bizarre, as if Bob the Builder was jackhammering into my ear.

“But it’s just noise,” my inner Deepak said. “You’re safe. Nothing hurts. You can get out of here as soon as the nice lady opens the 300-pound door and presses the button that slides you out of the machine.”

I thought about the 10 best books I’ve ever read, and planned my next imaginary trip, and it all was fine. I also wrote this column in my head, so please let me know if you think it’s OK or if I should go back to my keyboard.

And then the voice on the microphone said, “Good job. You’re done.” And the nice lady came in and rescued me.

If an MRI is in your future, or whatever stressor lies ahead, I wish you a vivid and unconventional imagination, a few minutes of preparatory meditation, a basic knowledge of yoga and some mental chores. Don’t give up. It isn’t always easy to find your happy place. Sometimes you take a wrong turn.

My first idea was to reimagine the MRI tube as a rocket heading for outer space. Big mistake. Apparently, I have no inner astronaut. That idea never left the launch pad, but it’s OK. There were plenty of other crazy distractions right behind it. Can you count backward by 3’s from 100?

Copyright 2018 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.