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What I Think About During an MRI

Dec 5

Posted by: ACHA
12/5/2012 1:25 PM  RssIcon

By Alissa Butterfass

Last month, I had an MRI. It wasn’t my first, though I can’t remember if it was my second, third or fourth (ugh, aren’t I too young for a “senior moment?”). For those of you who have never had this test before, I’d describe it as “definitely not pleasant but definitely not as bad as you think it’s going to be.”

The most common question I’ve gotten about taking an MRI is, “Did you get claustrophobic?” Not really. Here’s my trick. I closed my eyes before going into the machine and did not open them—not even for a second—until after I was out of it. Between the movement of rolling into the MRI and the change from light to darkness that I could sense even with eyes shut tight, I knew exactly when I was in the machine. But I did not realize that the tube was just inches away from my face (or so I’ve been told) and did not get the panicked “get me outta here” feeling. Phew.

The second most common question is, “Can you just sleep through it?” That would be nice, but sadly not an option. Even with the grating, incredibly loud buzz of the MRI, it normally would be easy for me to fall asleep—after all, I’m a mom who gets way too little sleep and the idea of being forced to lay down with my eyes closed for an hour is actually heavenly. The issue is that this test required action on my part. Every minute or so, the technician’s voice came over the speaker instructing me to “Breathe in. Breathe out. Stop breathing.” Over and over and over. So, if I wasn’t suffering from claustrophobia and I wasn’t not sleeping, what did I think about during the MRI?

First, I thought about whether there is actually anything on my person that could be affected by the MRI. I must have asked each doctor, nurse and tech whether it was OK to wear my contact lenses in the machine and even though they all said yes, I still pictured my eyes being pulled out of their sockets by the MRI magnets. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and after the machine was on for a few minutes, I finally believed I was safe.

Then I tried to take my mind off the fact that I was sandwiched into a large tube for an hour or so. I had just finished the third book of a romance trilogy by my favorite guilty pleasure author (not 50 Shades… really!), so I ran over the three different stories in my mind, recalling each of the three featured couples’ courtships. Mindless and distracting.

But not distracting enough, because as much I tried to focus on anything but the MRI, every 1-2 minutes I’d get my instructions again: “Breathe in. Breathe out. Stop breathing.”—at which point all I could do was count how long it was that I was not breathing and wonder if I could make it the required time until the tech said “OK, you can breathe.” The 16-second ones were fine but every few minutes he’d have me “stop breathing” for about 25 seconds and each time I thought I’d blow it (literally). My only motivation was the horrific thought that if I didn’t follow the directions properly, I’d have to start all over again. No way!

So I was relieved when the tech’s voice came over the speaker after about an hour and told me we were done… until he continued “with this part. Now we’re going to inject the dye and begin the next part of the test.” WHAT?!?!?

Alissa Butterfass was born with transposition of the great vessel, which was corrected with a Mustard procedure at age 2. In addition to being a mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, wannabe author and chocoholic, she volunteers as the Co-President of her local chapter of a nonprofit organization. Until recently, Alissa worked part time as a senior marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company.

Copyright ©2012 ACHA

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6 comment(s) so far...


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Re: What I Think About During an MRI

Your description about the breathing and thinking about if you can hold your breath that long cracked me up! That's exactly what I thought about when I got those directions. I was able to listen to some music during my MRI, but the disruption of the breathing instructions got incredibly annoying. I then turned that into a game and kept singing in my head to see if I was at the same point as the song when the music came back on.

By Katie on   12/5/2012 2:55 PM
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Re: What I Think About During an MRI

I had my first (and only) one about 1 1/2 years ago. It took almost 2 hours. I did close my eyes and dozed, a bit. It was noisy and I tuned it out the best I could. (I did have headphones on, provided by the medical staff.)

I have Tetralogy of Fallot and am going to have a valve replacement soon. I was last operated on 40 years ago when I was 6!

Good luck to you!

By Jill Schneider on   12/5/2012 3:12 PM
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Re: What I Think About During an MRI

I just had my first cardiac MRI on 11/27, well first MRI ever. I was quite pleased that it wasn't bad at all. I was diagnosed on Halloween (after my 2nd TEE) this year with corrected transposition of the vessels, mitral valve obstruction, and tricuspid valve regurgitation. So, at age 33, I just found out I had a congenital heart defect. The past 5 years, we thought it was just a regular old leaking mitral valve. I see you have the corrected transposition also. Good luck with your health!

By Shaylyn Broussard on   12/5/2012 3:12 PM
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Re: What I Think About During an MRI

So, they told me it would take about an hour. I didn't have a true concept of time but felt like it was much longer than that as I went through it. They took me in at 11am. When I got out of the MRI, I asked the tech was time it was. He told me "almost noon, a quarter of." Hmm. Felt like the longest 45 minutes ever.
Then I looked at the clock. It was 12:45, not 11:45.... It had been 1 hour & 45 minutes.

By Alissa on   12/5/2012 10:33 PM
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Re: What I Think About During an MRI

My 1st MRI was about 5 years ago at the Children's Hospital & they had Kids Bop 7 stuck in the MRI machine. It was the worst hour ever!

By Jen on   12/7/2012 9:45 AM
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Re: What I Think About During an MRI

I have never had a cardiac MRI, which sounds pretty awful...anytime someone mentions "dye injection", my PTSD starts up.... but I did have an MRI to identify my archnoid cyst in my head. This was years and years ago when I was writing "poetry"... Here were my thoughts at that time.

The House of Blue Lights

I walk into blue-lit room with white whale machine,
seen through twilight gloom, whose mouth gapes wide,
as the pump says faxspent, plantspent, fatspent in my head.

Into whale's belly on narrow tray, head in a basket, I slide, so
huge magnet kept frozen cold can read my bones in dim white,
as the plump says faxspent, plantspent, fatspent in my head.

My chest heaves and sighs, heart clattering ribs and sides,
muffled, microphoned voice saying to relax, lie perfectly still,
as the pump says faxspent, plantspent, fatspent in my head.

Don't move a muscle, as oceans rock my bed and eyes close, retreating
to horses galloping by,
as the pump says faxspent, plantspent, fatspent in my head.

I will myself to stillness as machine guns rattle my brain,
jack hammers bore holes clear through til light angel sounds
grace my cocoon,
as the pump says faxspent, plantspent, fatspent in my head.

At last released from thunderous cavity of twilight zone depths,
I surface to sanity, semi at best
to wait in limbo,
as the pump says I'm spent, I'm spent, I'm spent in my head.


By Toni Smith on   12/11/2012 8:58 AM

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