You or someone you know has probably had an MRI. If you suffer with Crohn’s Disease like me, you have probably had multiple MRIs. Honestly, I am convinced that I am now bionic and magnetic from having so many…but I digress. For a lot of people an MRI is a standard test that invokes no anxiety. For others, though, the mention of an MRI is likely to set off a panic attack. Regardless of which group you fall into, an MRI is a very effective tool for identifying issues deep beneath the surface of the body. Recently, I learned just how effective this tool was when it identified something deep within me that I had no idea was there. Ask yourself, if an MRI could expose all the things you carried inside, what would it show that you so desperately try to hide?
Around 6:45am on day 2 of my recent hospitalization, the hospital GI stormed into my room accompanied by the hospitalist. Given the time, I was still neatly buried under the cover. But, I quickly woke up when I heard the door fly open. Before the GI could say one word, I squeaked with my head still buried under the covers “let me guess, blood work and a MRI.” The GI looked at the hospitalist, laughed and replied “yep, at 9am.” Before he could continue, I threw the covers off, sat up in the bed, and immediately began requesting my supplies. See, this was not my first rodeo, so I knew exactly what I needed to get these guts ready for their photo shoot. I have had MRIs since I was 10 years old, and if I was going to do THIS MRI, I needed a few things.
To prepare for the MRI, I had a 2 hour window to drink a solution that smelled like cheap paint, and tasted like wall plaster. Don’t ask me how I know what plaster tastes like, because I told you in my last post that “normal” is not my thing. Just trust me when I tell you that it tastes like plaster. In order to drink the solution on a empty stomach, I needed to make it tasteless. When the smell and taste is combined with an empty stomach, you have a recipe for projectile vomiting.
After I removed the covers and sat up in bed, I turned to the GI and said “ok. I need 3 pieces of either spearmint or peppermint gum. Don’t worry, I know not to swallow the gum.” In response to my request, the hospitalist asked, “what exactly will the gum do”? I said “if you chew it between sips of the solution, it takes away the awful taste. I need three pieces because I need a piece of gum for each container of solution, and a final piece for when I am done to remove the taste from my mouth.” The hospitalist laughed and said “I’ve never heard of this, let’s see if it will work.” Annoyed that both doctors were still standing around and wasting time, I glared back and replied “I got the idea from a cancer patient, so I am confident it will work.” They apparently noticed the sharpness of my tone, because the GI quickly replied “ok, let’s get these orders in so we can get started because you don’t have much time.”
Once the doctors left the room, I mentally and physically prepared myself for what I had to do. “You can do this”, I said, as I took a ponytail holder from underneath my pillow and tied my hair back. Before I could finish tying back my hair, the nurse was standing in front of me with the two containers of solution and 3 pieces of gum. I let out a big sigh and said “alright, let’s get her done.” I mentally went into my zone and grabbed the first piece of gum. I quickly opened it and stuffed it in my mouth, and chewed as fast as I could. While I chewed the nurse handed me the first container of solution. I gently pushed the gum out of my mouth and onto the back of my wrist, grabbed the solution from the nurse, and drank two big gulps. After the two big gulps, the container was half empty. I handed the solution back to the nurse, put the gum from my wrist back in mouth, and again chewed as fast as I could. After about ten chews, I again put the gum on the back of my wrist. I grabbed the same container of solution from the nurse, and this time took four small gulps. The final gulp emptied the container, to which the nurse replied “nice!” I threw the gum from my wrist in the trash, and inserted a new piece. I chewed as fast as I could, and started my process with the second container. With 45 minutes to spare, both containers of solution were empty. So, I threw my second piece of gum in the trash and let out a BIG burp. I turned to the nurse and flashed my signature smile, when she grinned back I said, “yep, tell all your friends” as I inserted my final piece of gum.
Feeling cocky at this point, I stood up with my booty hanging out the back of the hospital gown and said, “grab a wheelchair so we can go”. The nurse left the room in a hurry, and quickly returned with a wheelchair. I hobbled over to the wheelchair and sat down, and continued burping as she locked my IV and wheeled me down to radiology. As we passed the nurse’s station on the way, I softly patted my stomach and playfully exclaimed “all gone and still in.”
When we arrived in the room with the MRI machine, all the excitement and cheer suddenly left my body. I felt my smile leave my face, and my body became rigid. Suddenly, I heard my heart beating loudly in my ears, and the hum of the machine sounded as if it had been magnified thirty times. With every heartbeat my hands shook. The nurse must’ve seen what was happening, because she kneeled down next to me and softly said “its ok, a lot of people get really nervous but this will be quick.” Surprised at how my body was reacting, all I could say was “oh no I’m good, I got this.”
Once I was all buckled in and the headphones were comfortably on my ears, the bed slowly descended into the machine. I suddenly heard the fan of the machine start and a unfamiliar voice said “ok, be real still, and take a deep breath.” When the voice stopped talking, the music started in my ears and I took a deep breath. Immediately when I took that breath it felt like my chest caved in. As I struggled to breath, I noticed that the walls of the machine seemed closer than they were initially. My heart suddenly sounded like a stampede of horses and I could no longer hear the music in the headphones. I began saying to myself aloud “calm down, you have had dozens of these. You are safe so calm down.” But the more I reasoned with myself, the closer the walls of the machine seemed to get. I struggled to breath and wiggled to free my arms, as I softly whispered “hello.” When no one answered, I wiggled harder and yelled “HELLO. PLEASE. ARE WE ALMOST DONE?” As I yelled and struggled to breath, my body became hot from the inside out. Completely panicked at this point, all the instincts in my body told me to run. I jerked my arm as hard as I could, and suddenly everything in the room stopped and became silent.
I laid still in silence for what felt like an eternity, then I heard feet shuffle across the linoleum floor. Suddenly the silence was interrupted by that unfamiliar voice, “Are you ok? We gave you pain meds before the test and you were so still that I thought you dosed off. But you started moving around a lot at the end, so I stopped the test because we had what we needed.” I thought to myself “heck no, I am not ok. I couldn’t breath and this test took forever.” Never one to show fear, I simply replied, “oh ok.” The unfamiliar voice replied, “I figured you were fine because you looked calm. Also, most people will yell or knock on the walls if they need something.”
The MRI that day showed more than my guts. It show me all the internal things that I try so desperately to hide. You know, internal fear parading outwardly as confidence, and a frantic plea for help demonstrated outwardly as a soft “hello.” I was amazed at how the inside of my body completely contradicted what I outwardly showed. I was also amazed at how my clear pleas for help were ignored because they didn’t resemble the norm. There are people like this among you, that silently scream for help. Hopefully now you will see them.
Friends, look for those silent screamers…don’t simply listen. Silent screamers start shouting, and stop whispering.