The Panic Button

For all of you who think I’m getting through this whole ordeal with flying colors I write this story…

When the MRI technician was satisfied that all was in order she placed the button in my hand. “This is the Panic Button. Squeeze it once if something goes wrong and you need me.” I smiled and confidently held the large round bulb in my interlocked fingers.

“This will be a breeze,” I smiled to myself. After all, I had already been through an MRI and PET scan (along with numerous other studies) the past three months. Claustrophobia in check, I not only survived in the narrow spaces but even dozed off during the PET scan. I was confident that this test would be the same.

The tech pressed more buttons and soon I was gliding into the center of the MRI tube. A light shone in from beyond my head and without my glasses the tube seemed actually quite roomy. In less than a minute the klaxon sounded letting me know the magnets were engaged. “Okay,” I thought, “I can do this.”

Have you had an MRI? Most everyone is familiar with the large magnetic machine. The tube is long and sure seems pretty narrow. In actuality there is plenty of room to relax your arms and your knees are bent up in a comfortable position. Most everyone is familiar with the myriad of loud sounds made by the magnets as they vibrate at different frequencies. The sounds and vibrations stop and start as the scan progresses. Some of the vibrations are such deep bass that you can feel the vibrations (like when you are next to that pesky teen with his souped up speakers at the stop light).

The technician had told me it would take about 12 minutes for the first half of the test. I’m sure she was accurate but something happened about midway through and suddenly time slowed. It was as though I was on the edge of a black hole or one of those space-time continuums that they always talk about on Star Trek. In any case I felt myself aging right there in the tube. Then, it got hot. I was roasting. “ACK! GET ME OUT OF HERE!” my mind shrieked to me. Still I reminded myself that I could do this and tried to relax. “Close your eyes…” Boing. They popped open. And then it really happened. The vibrations changed and sounded like a million bees buzzing in my head; the walls of the machine felt as if they were closing in on me. I was certain that within moments I would be out of oxygen. “Please…self…before it’s too late…” And I squeezed the Panic Button.

Instantly the vibrations stopped and the technician was in the room pulling me out. Of course, by then my mental state had deteriorated to the point that I was babbling incoherently. After reassuring me and an opportunity to breathe once again the fresh room air she told me the news. I was 30 seconds from being done when I pushed the button and she would have to redo that segment of the test which would take another 5 minutes. “Grow up you big baby.” I kept telling myself, “You’ve worked around this equipment for years… Five minutes? Even the underwear bomber was able to hold out in interrogation that long.” So I agreed. Five more minutes…just knowing gave some peace of mind. That’s 300 seconds…I can count that high. Back in I went. This time with my finger tapping as I counted the seconds. I got to 268 when she announced I was done.

As you might imagine, I was anxious to sit up when the technician pulled me out. “You know,” she said, “maybe it would be best if we have you come back tomorrow for the second half of the test…”

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