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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fright of My Life

It's more than an hour after it happened, but my heart is still pounding in my chest, I'm shaking and my breathing is shallow and laboured. Goodness only knows what my blood pressure is right now. I'm still trying to recover from an anxiety attack, the proportions of which I've never experienced before. Why? Well, because they just tried to put me into one of these:

I went back to the doctor this morning about my shoulder as, for the past week, it seems to be getting worse again. He said based on that, and the fact the area of pain is spreading (down to my elbow and across my collar-bone) he believes now that there is a tear and not just inflammation. Four months later, we might just be getting to the real problem.

So, MRI time. I've been dreading this. He did tell me before that because of my size (yes, I'm a fat chick but I can still fit in coach class seats when I fly - and I'm talking Asian airlines!) it might be difficult but I did some research and if the table can easily take 350lbs, which I'm NOWHERE near, I figured it should be ok, that the bore must have some relativity to that weight allowance.

I'm also claustrophobic, so I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to get in there, but I know I have to fix this shoulder once and for all. And it could mean surgery. Well, if it's a tear it most likely will mean surgery. I don't even want to think about how I'll get into my bra with an arm in a sling and an immobilised shoulder. And trust me, there's not going bra-less with these puppy dogs!

Anyway, I say "Book it Danno" (even though his name is Julian) and he confirms a slot is free at noon. Today? Yes, today. Ummm all right. He describes what is going to happen and so on, and then asks that critical question - are you claustrophobic. Yes, most definitely so. You know those coach class seats I mentioned? I've no problem with the seats, it's the fact they're stuffed into rows where my knees dig into the back of the seat in front, and I'm contained in this small metal tube which is wrapped around the rows of seats, and I'm enclosed in that tube, that is what bothers me. Big time.

So I arrive at the hospital, go into the basement where they keep all the heavy equipment and register. They look me up and down and start whispering. And I know what it is. Against Hong Kong standards I'm ginormous. Head and shoulders, hips and thighs above and beyond your average person here. They don't have a ladies' gown big enough. After much muttering and more than a few giggles, I'm shown to the changing room and the radiographer says to take everything off from the waist up. As he closed the door, he mumbled: "The gown might be a bit long." I look at the label and it's an MXL. Oh boy I already know this isn't going to work, men don't have breasts, so no matter how XL it is, it's not designed for someone with the boobage going on. I take a deep breath and put it on and of course it goes around my waist but it only just covers the boobs. The damn thing is secured only by a tie around the waist and yes, you've got it right, substantial gaping is occurring above the waist. Plus, when he said it might be a bit long, he didn't say it was sized for a seven-foot male! With breasts all but on display, I can't even hold it closed across them as I'm having to gather about three feet of ridiculously heavily-starched fabric from trailing across the floor. Hospital gowns aren't meant to have a train!

I hop up onto the table, more than aware that this poor young man will probably never want to see another breast ever again in his life, and lie down. Another briefing by him and his female assistant, I'm arranged and strapped and goodness knows what else, then an alarm button is thrust into my hand. All along I'm thinking, Fiona you can do this, you're stubborn enough to will it away. I'd read a bit about it, the close proximity of the bore and the clanging and so on. Mentally I thought I was ready. Until the sides of the bore started pressing into and sliding along my shoulders and arms and I felt I couldn't move and, and, and, and.....major anxiety attack starts. I couldn't breathe, my heart rate shot up, I asked them to stop and they pulled me out. I was in tears, I could hear my pulse in my ears and I was shaking like a leaf.

He said that this is a common thing and lots of people have this response. But that with the degree and speed it happened with me, he couldn't even give me a Valium to relax me, I'd have to be knocked out to be able to take 45 minutes in the machine. And they wouldn't knock me out as I was alone. I was kind of glad about that as I was already in a mess and I didn't fancy being totally unconscious for almost an hour.

So now I'm here, still shaking, my heart still pounding and I have to call my doctor to look at my options. Apparently there's an open MRI machine somewhere here, but the quality of the imaging isn't as clear as he likes to work from.

I think it's going to be the only solution. And next time, I'm taking a t-shirt to wear!

It turns out I'm a fight, not flight person, except when it comes to MRIs. Someone just came to see me and asked if I was alright, so goodness only knows what I must look like!

Update: I woke up in a cold sweat last night, gasping for breath. I had a nightmare that they'd sedated me but that I came round while I was still in the machine. Oh boy!

Update Thursday: I'm booked in tomorrow for an open MRI scan at a specialist scanning centre. When I spoke with the doctor he said that he'd not put me through trying to cope with the traditional MRI machine as the report he'd had back from the hospital was that due to my very severe claustrophobia, they would have to give me a general anaesthetic! I still feel like a wimp!


Fusion said...

I remember sitting next to the MRI machines several times last year as they mapped my wife's brain. So loud, and yes that tube they slip you in looked so confining. I remember wondering if I could put up with that, and I'm not even claustrophobic.
Hopefully the open one will take care of it for you.
Sorry it was so unpleasant for you Fiona. It must be hard for you to fly so much, but at least you have a reward for it!

D said...

And breathe. You paint a wonderful caricature of what you must look like. Surely there must be some large men in HK that aren't 7 foot tall - where do all the over cossetted Brits go for treatment? (No that wasn't aimed at you ) Hope they find the real cause of your pains and it can be rectified easily.

Matt K. said...

My trick with the silly hospital gowns is to wear two of them, first one open to the back, second open to the front. Then I'm completely covered.

Open MRI is the way to go for you. I've been fortunate - I can occasionally have the claustrophobic reaction, like when I get stuck under the bed digging out dog toys, but with MRIs, I just close my eyes and fall asleep. (It helps when I schedule them after work - I'm too dog-tired to stay awake despite the noise, and the MRI places I've gone to even supply headphones with music to minimize the noise.)

just a thought said...

Picturing you in a gown that barely closes...sorry, where was I? Oh yes, I wanted to thank you for all your posts. They've been wonderful.

Jamie/foundme said...

I'm only SLIGHTLY claustrophobic, but your description just totally gave me chills.

And since I'm probably about the same size, I can't imagine already having that heightened emotion BEFORE getting in. And yes, I use the two gown trick for any of my patients who have to walk around in front of others, which is most patients, of all sizes. Those gowns are horrid, but they do serve a purpose to us medical folks!

Drink a glass of wine or something! You earned it!

Miranda said...

How awful for you. My experience with the MRI wasn't that bad. I had gone last year because of my stroke...but I had such a nauseating headache...the noise almost made me hurl.

Hopefully they will find something, not a bad something, but a very easily fixable something. Let us know how it goes. I have a right shoulder problem. I think its linked to using a mouse all day.

(((Big hugs))) at least its over now.

Gillette said...

Sounds intense...eek! Glad to see you made it through. Hope that't the last one for you!!!

While reading it I kept imagining you imaginging floating in puffclouds and sunny rainbows.

Anonymous said...

We usually give patients ativan who have are claustrophobic. You put it under the tongue and works quite fast.

It is a big problem with MRIs.

LePhare said...

I've never experienced a problem with a MRI machine, but I did have trouble with large breasts once...... but that's another story. Hope it all works out for you Fi.

Fiona said...

Thank you all for being so kind and helpful. I just feel like such a wimp. Claustrophobia is a mind thing and I've always thought I was pretty strong-willed. I've just been proven wrong on that score!

Fusion - I think I could cope with the clanging, but the feeling of being restricted just made it impossible for me to breathe. Flying isn't the easiest thing for me to do, and if I'm not in an aisle seat it's actually quite hard for me. The times when the air isn't flowing properly, I go into semi-panic. Yes, he makes every difficult moment worthwhile :)

D - glad you enjoyed *L* Well here 'large' is translated into 'tall' it seems. Where do the corpulent people go, hell if I know! I almost just want to say to him - get your laporoscope out and look around!

Matt - this thing was so stiff it could have stood on its own! Had I been given two of them, I'd not have been able to walk, plus dealing with two three-foot trains would have been too much of a trial for me. I still say, if I only need to remove upper garments, why can't I wear a t-shirt! They don't need to open the gown or anything.

Justathought - trust me, sexy it wasn't!!!

Jamie - it was a moment when I really did want a drink, or two. The two-gown approach seems very respectful but that damn thing was heavily starched cotton, so much so that to open it up I had to grab both sides and rippppppppp them apart, it was like it was glued together - boiled, starched and then pressed! Given there's no need to open anything (I understand with mammograms and the like, that there is) why on earth can't I just wear a regular t-shirt!

Miranda - I was ready for the noise, they even put in earplugs to help. But the moment that thing slid over my shoulders and down my arms, pressing them tight into my body, it was freak out city! Re your shoulder pain, try lowering the level on which your mouse is placed - is it desk-top? If so it can help to drop it down. Your wrists should always be even with or lower than your elbow hon and your shoulders should never be raised.

Gillette - puffclouds and rainbows sound so good! But I didn't make it through, I didn't even last a minute inside there. Am just waiting for my doctor to call me this morning to try and figure out how we do this now.

Deb - I've never taken anything like that in my life so I don't even know how I'd feel from it. I wouldn't go into it without having tried it first. Plus, I had a nightmare last night that I came to while I was still in the machine and I woke up hardly able to breathe. Even now, just writing these comments, I'm having trouble breathing!

Ian - LOL thank you for the laugh. I have trouble with them every day!!

Jonas said...

Oh, you poor dear! But...as they say..."where there's a will there's a way..." I'm sure you and your doctor will find the answer. As many have said, yours is not an unusual dilemma.

D said...

Fiona your no wimp girl and it's good to see that your doctor is providing the right service for you the patient. Hope the results are equally as positive.

Trueself said...

Boy oh boy. I'll bet I'd have the same problem. I've never had an MRI, but I've heard about them and decided they are a thing to be avoided unless there is no other option.

Matt's right about the two gowns, one on backwards and one frontwards. Unfortunately I didn't learn that trick until several more than cleavage revealing incidents.

Glad you'll be getting to do the open MRI instead of having to try that closed one again.

Lickety Split said...

I usually give ativan before as someone stated above. Go for the open MRI. If there's a tear, they should be able to see that.

I have had an MR and a CT scan and while not pleasant, I managed to close my eyes and do breathing exercises. Out of curiosity, did they give you any oxygen? Sometimes the flow of oxygen helps mitigate the claustrophobic feeling (assuming they're set up for it).

Miranda said...

I had the erogonomics girl in our office come and set my desk 'the right way.' the desk is now level with my elbow...I may just try it a bit lower. Lol...but since Im short, the desk is going to look like its set for a little person. its already maybe 3 feet up off the ground.

Fiona said...

Jonas - I hope we've found the answer today with the open MRI but I'm still very nervous, I wish I hadn't had that bad experience because it's haunting me!

D - I hope there's no tear because I was reading up on surgery and post-op time commitment to healing and it aint gonna work right now.

TS - It's not much better after four months, I think there's no alternative, I'm tired of living in pain and more than anything, I'd love to have just one night of pain-free sleep. And to wake up not going 'ouch ouch ouch'! Re the gowns, our XL here would be an M where you are so giving me the largest men's gown just didn't do the trick and it wasn't one of those nice thin fabric things, it was from the dark ages and made of some sort of heavy starched cotton, there's no way anyone could have worn two of them *L*. I'm bringing a thin t-shirt today and I'm just going to say, I'm wearing this!

Lickety - no oxygen, nothing except ear plugs and there was no easy immersion into it apart from being told they can do some anxiety management if I need it but they'll try first without anything - I mean come on, my form was marked with 'claustrophobia' and I repeated it to them to be sure. But I was just taken into the room and told to lie on the table and close my eyes and off they went. Fingers crossed for today, I'm hoping that as this is a specialist centre rather than a hospital (and a fairly antiquated one at that) department, they may be more set up to deal with all eventualities!

Miranda - good!!! I hope this helps your aches and pains hon :)


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