Saturday, April 23, 2011

On Caves and Claustrophobia

When I was a bipster there was an incident involving a closet, and it led to a life-long avoidance of elevators.  Windowless, small, indoor elevators.  I've climbed a lot of stairs.  (However, I do love the glass-walled kind of elevator that speeds up and down the outside of a very tall building.) 

And I'm not a big fan of caves.  I've only been in one - Lehman Caves, at the Great Basin National Park in Nevada.  (No, the Tom Sawyer Island cave at Disneyland doesn't count.)  Lehman is a fabulous cave, they say it is one of the best.  And it was spectacular - colorful, beautiful, bold and cold.  But I broke into a total sweat about half-way through the tour - shortly after this photo was taken. 
I had trouble breathing calmly.  Couldn't hear what the guide was saying.  Sweat trickled down my back, and into my eyes.  I had to hang onto my husband's arm just to stay put.  I was shaking.  I wanted OUT.  Someone asked the guide how caves die.  With a smirk, he said "Well, they collapse, of course.  All caves die, eventually.  So!  We're now over 200 feet below the ground surface, and this is the room in which Mr Lehman and his friends used to hold dances..."   He swung his flashlight around the cavern, not bothering to pause at the big wooden posts that were shoring up the edges of the "ceiling"....and I lost contact with the lecture.  Gone. 
"O-U-T."  That's all I could think of.  

So I was nervous about getting an MRI this morning.   When they asked me if I was claustrophobic I said "A little," as calmly as I could.  I'd taken a couple of Percocet - pl-l-l-enty of relaxation for this particular medical event.  "It's an adventure!"  I told myself.  "It's another one of life's adventures!" 
Hahahaha.  And they told us to go to the elevator, and take it to the Lower Level. 

Of course.  The MRI machine is UNDERGROUND.  But, hey.  That's cool.  Right?   And absolutely no one was around.  Not a soul.  But today is Saturday, so that's to be expected.  This is the day that doctors and technicians try to squeeze in extra appointments, so patients don't have to wait too many weeks for a procedure.  Right?  It wasn't that 'everyone-else-was-smart-enough-to-stay-the-hell-out-of-the-basement.' 

The MRI machine was a bit intimidating, but the technician was very nice.  He let me take a photo, although I couldn't take my cellphone past the doorway.  Even there - do you notice those odd vertical lines on the picture?  Perhaps caused by the pulsing M-a-g-n-e-t-i-c F-i-e-l-d???  Ooooh.  The phone seemed to tremble in my hand...    Then I couldn't procrastinate any more.  I settled in, stuck in some earplugs, he raised that little bed up and BAM...there I was.  Down the rabbit hole.  So to speak. 

Couldn't slow my breathing down at first (gasping!), and I thought my heart was going to pump right out of my chest.  But Manuel's voice came over the little speaker, "You're doing fine, we're going to start with just 30 seconds..."  and it was reassuring.  I tried to close my eyes.  (NOTE:  if you ever get an MRI, say "yes" to the eye-mask-thingy.)  But I couldn't - they wouldn't stay shut.  I could only stare at the gray wall a few inches from my eyes. 

So I decided to pretend I was an astronaut, in one of those close-fitting, life-saving suits. 
My astronaut was floating in a beautiful night sky.

And she was a part-time drummer, so she really got into all the odd noises the MRI machine was making.  (The earplugs only muffle it a bit.)

Once my little fantasy settled in (and my astronaut knew she had to lay Perfectly Still), my breathing slowed down, and my heart got back into its normal rhythm. 

And we got through it. 

On the way home, I asked my husband if that wasn't the fastest MRI ever taken.  It seemed to last only about five minutes!  He said, "No, were in there for almost half-an-hour." 


Maybe I'm not claustrophobic after all.  


Anonymous said...

I have had a couple of MRIs and I too do not like tight spaces, especially when they tell me not to move. I always have to move. I fidget. Torture to have to stay still. I wasn't sure I would get through them but I did, even with that damned loud MRI woodpecker pounding away. I wasn't offered ear plugs or an eye mask... but then they were imaging my head. I sang to myself in my head and very slowly would stretch my toes so I could move something. Glad you made it through too!

Elf said...

Letting your mind take you elsewhere is the best way to survive those. I'm pretty good at keeping my eyes closed and just imagining that I'm taking a nap and imagining that I am completely relaxed so don't want to move.

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