Me, Michael Phelps & The MRI

Well, I am so sorry I haven’t been blogging the past few weeks. I have been extremely busy. You see, I’ve been training for this summer’s Olympics with Michael Phelps. (I can’t wait to go to London!)

By training I mean running (scratch that, jogging), and for this summer’s Olympics I mean a 5k. Now replace Michael Phelps with my outdated iPod playlist and some worn Asics – and the above statement is true. (Oh, and I won’t be in London anytime soon. It was a nice thought though.)

I did, however, feel like Michael Phelps – briefly – when my family practitioner referred me to a Sports Medicine doctor for a running injury (okay, okay…jogging injury.) Although, I’m pretty sure Michael Phelps has never answered his doctor’s “What seems to be bothering you?” question with – “I can’t sit crisscross applesauce with my daughter at the county library story time.”

         And I’m pretty sure Michael Phelps doesn’t have a fourteen-year-old accompanying him to his appointments saying things like, “That doctor just didn’t want to make you feel bad by telling you you’re just getting old.” (Thanks Brennen!)

         But other than that, I felt exactly like Michael Phelps. And what happened next, I’m ninety-nine percent positive has happened to Mr. Phelps – on more than one occasion. I got sent for an MRI. And not just any MRI. I got sent to the special T-3 MRI machine. (I have no idea what that means, but it sounds fancy and sports mediciney, so it made me feel important…and very physically fit. The way I imagine Michael Phelps feels every second of his life. That is except when he’s getting caught smoking pot. But hey, even Olympians need some downtime, right?)

         Anywho…I left for my MRI appointment fully confident that this would be smooth sailing (or swimming in my Michael Phelps’ state of mind.) When the receptionist handed me the paperwork and asked me, “Have you ever had an MRI before?” I had to think for a moment before answering, “I’m not sure. But my dad’s a radiologist so I probably have.”


        Like, in my head I actually thought my dad would have taken me and my sister (or my sister and me…I could never keep those two straight) to the hospital and run our youthful bodies through the MRI machine for funsies?…. Or, he would have volunteered his two healthy children for MRI training at the hospital?

        I don’t think so.

  I did, however, watch – from the soundproofed control room – as my dad conducted MRIs on people…back in 1987. So I was completely confident that I knew what was about to happen. (Kind of like I thought I knew what was going to happen when Bianca was born after watching the video in birthing class.) So, really, I had no f#*$%ing clue.

        My tech – or nurse… I never know the proper terminology but I feel like these people deserve sainthood for tolerating people like me… and doctors. I can say that, because I’m a doctor’s kid and while I might not know anything about an MRI I do know how most doctors treat techs and nurses and generally anyone who works below them.

        I can very vividly remember going to work with my dad growing-up and him being completely confused when I would say hello to the techs bringing him x-rays to read. “Do you know her?” my dad would seriously ask. “No,” I would answer equally confused by his confusion. “I was just being friendly….” HELLO!!!!

        But let’s be honest. It takes a rare breed of person who can spend what seems like 37 years in school only to sit alone in a dark room all day dictating things like – fourteen centimeter mass pressed against the upper quadrant of the left femur appears to be hindering flow of the left ventricle arterial artery, period check into a phone with no one on the other end. (I totally made all of that medical jargon up. In case you can’t tell, I failed freshman chemistry in college ending my dreams of being an equine vet. But the period check – well that was totally accurate. And it was the highlight of my visits with my dad at the hospital growing-up. When my dad would dictate, he would include punctuation. And so the dictator would know it was the end of the passage, he would say period check. And my dad would always let me say that part. I’m sure a computer does that now, but this was in the Dark Ages (B.C.) Before Computers. – That’s a lie actually. Of course there were computers, but they weren’t the hand-held, satellite-powered, Jeopardy champions they are today, so an actually human had to type what my dad would say.


Somehow, I feel like I got off track…. period check, radiologist dad, MRI tech/nurse/Saint Patty…. Okay, I’m back.

         So Patty talked me through my MRI experience. She helped position me on the ever-so-comfortable gurney I would be required to lie perfectly still on for the next half-hour. She placed the belt of what I’m assuming were magnets across my pelvis (because, I don’t think I mentioned this before, but what I injured was my groin…an area of my body that up until this whole experience I was pretty sure was a bone.) And then, the highlight of my day, Patty offered me some cool, George Jetson goggles that would allow me to watch TV through this whole process.

         Now, you would have to know something about the women in my family to completely understand the importance of these goggles. We could watch TV through any crisis. If we’re sick, a good Real Housewives marathon makes me feel better. Bed rest with my twins was like a vacation for me – except for when I’d have to hoist my body out of bed to switch the DVDs. When a boyfriend would break-up with me in college, I would be catatonic…but I could still laugh at a good episode of the Golden Girls. And then there’s the infamous story my sister likes to tell about my mom taking us to the movies when we got the call that a family member had passed away.

         I don’t know what it is, but television has the ability to transport me to a completely different world where I can escape reality for a bit. So when Patty gave me a list of channels to choose from, I picked E! Entertainment Television. Because what better way to escape reality than watching reality television so far from reality that it’s more science fiction than The Jetsons.

         Then Patty placed my headphones on and slid me in the T-3. Once in the control room, Patty turned the volume up on my headphones, and I briefly thought I would go deaf. I was just about to press my call button and ask her to turn the volume down when the most God-awful sound began to attack my ears. Stupidly, I thought something was wrong with my headphones, but then I somehow got a bit of common sense and realized this was the sound an MRI machine is suppose to make.

         What the ….?

         I’m lying there, trying to watch The Soup in peace…and it sounds like a bulldozer is coming right at me. But how would I know, because all I can see is Joel McHale’s giant head pressed against my retina.

         So I’m stuck there thinking to myself, “Of all the advancements we’ve (and by we I mean, not me) made in modern medicine; and nobody can figure out a way to soften the literal blow to my eardrum of the MRI!” (Later, my dad explained to me that the sound is the magnets working, so without the sound there would be no M in MRI…But still…Geez!)

         So The Soup and my first session end. Patty’s voice comes over my headphones and tells me she’s about to start the second set of images. I’m about to ask her, “How many sessions are there?” When simultaneously the machine starts up again, and 15 Most Tragic Hollywood Deaths comes on the TV. Great, not only am I lying in what I assume feels like a coffin watching a show about death…but now this MRI sounds like a firing squad of Al-Qaida terrorists has just entered the building with AK-47s. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom!!!!

         And it doesn’t stop…for SEVEN minutes! Now, seven minutes seems like no time. It takes longer for me to run a mile, take a shower, and all sorts of other unmentionable things…But when you’re in a coffin-like space, watching a show about death, listening to high-powered weaponry…seven minutes feels like an eternity.

         My feet began to sweat, and my upper lip started to itch. My arms were folded across my chest (adding to the coffin-like ambiance), so I attempted to ever so smoothly lift a finger to my lip. When that didn’t work, I tried biting my lip with my teeth. When I realized I didn’t even have enough range of motion for my mouth…I began to panic.

         Breath, I tried telling myself. You’re perfectly fine. Inhale, exhale, inhale…But my chest didn’t feel like it was taking in enough air. And when my foot twitched and grazed the top of the MRI – solidifying my confinement – I reached for my call button. At the same time I was trying to establish an escape route from this contraption.

         When I heard Patty’s voice, I tried to maintain my composure as I told her, “It’s getting very warm in here.” Trying to fight back tears.

         “You only have one minute left,” she said. “Can you hang in there one more minute? If not, I’ll have to start over.”

         “Okay,” I said.

I was so embarrassed with myself. Here I’d survived 12-hours of labor with Bianca. I’d carried twins to term and survived a c-section, no problem. But one minute in an MRI machine seemed – at the time – like more than I could bear.

        Needless to say, I survived. Of course I survived, or how would I be writing this?

        And the next time a tech asks me if I’ve ever had an MRI, I can quite certainly say, “Yes!” Because that is an experience I’ll not soon forget. And I have a newfound respect for professional athletes. Because I would just as soon give birth to twins than have another MRI.