Jimmy Tomlin: The ABCs of MRIs

Sep. 23, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

Here’s all you need to know about me and claustrophobia:
As a child, I was chosen to be the national poster child for
claustrophobia, but when it came time to shoot the photo for the poster, I went running out of the studio screaming like a schoolgirl, because being that close to a darkroom freaked me out.
So you can imagine my excitement when my doctor suggested recently that I would need a couple of MRIs — one of my brain, and one of my neck and spinal column.
“Thanks a lot, Doc. And while you’re at it, I’m gonna need something for these heart palpitations that just started...”
For the uninitiated, an MRI is a diagnostic medical procedure in which the patient is stuffed into a body-length chamber that has about the same circumference as a cardboard toilet-paper tube.
Unless, of course, you opt for the freedom of an “open MRI,” which is much wider — it’s more like, say, one of those aluminum vent hoses on the back of a clothes dryer. I chose the open MRI because, frankly, I am a wimp.
Furthermore, being the wimp that I am, I told a few friends I was going to have an MRI, because I was seeking their sympathy.
Their support.
Their sedatives.
Instead, I got their silliness. One friend even suggested the brain MRI was going to be an exploratory procedure to determine whether or not I actually have a brain.
Excuse me, former friend.
Anyway, on the appointed morning, I went for my MRIs with only minimal assistance from the pharmaceutical industry. I didn’t want to be too doped up, so I would still be alert enough to scream like a schoolgirl if the need should arise.
Medical professionals will tell you MRI stands for “Magnetic Resonance Imaging” — a fancy-schmancy term for the high-tech pictures they’re taking of your innards — but that’s a bunch of hogwash. MRI actually stands for “Minimal Room for Itching,” because once you’re lying there in the machine and your nose starts itching, you won’t be able to reach it to scratch.
Not to mention the fact that if you move so much as a quarter-inch, the MRI technician will chastise you for ruining the whole procedure. I’m not kidding. Breathing is permissible, but only three breaths per minute ... and only when the technician tells you you’re allowed to breathe.
And it’s even worse for a brain MRI. The technician picked up a mask of hard plastic and nonchalantly locked it into place over my face, as if maybe I wouldn’t notice what was happening. I don’t want to overstate this, but my head was essentially being bolted to the table. I felt like Hannibal Lecter.
“Um,” I said.
“Are you OK?” the technician asked.
“Um,” I repeated, to make my point.
“I’m sorry,” the tech said, “but I have to put this on you so your head will remain perfectly still.”
“Look,” I said, “I promise I won’t move my head if you’ll just take this thing off.”
No such luck. For the next 20 minutes, my head remained bolted to the table.
I’ve since gotten my MRI results, and the good news is that my brain is — from a medical perspective, at least — quite normal.
The bad news is that I have this incredible hankering for fava beans and a nice chianti.
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579