“Is this the part when people usually freak out?”
After attempting to wow my MRI technicians with my standard attempts at charm, I posed that question just as they were covering me in those wraps that felt like a loose fitting straight jacket. They wisely responded negatively as they pushed me into the tube.
“The best thing you can do is close your eyes”. I did. I didn’t. Once fully positioned in the machine I was told to tip my head back so I could see the room through the open end of the tube. I thought wistfully that if I were only a bit taller my head would be sticking out the top.
I’d already cried once in the waiting room, when kind David handed me barium and told me I needed to wait two hours for my test. The barium didn’t bother me (should I be embarrassed I can chug just about anything), but I had expected to get back to work before noon.
I cried over missing work. Make of that what you will.
So once the MRI starting whirring, I tried not to cry anymore. I couldn’t wipe tears anyway, bound up as I was. I tried to imagine this was shavasana, but that didn’t work. Then I started singing hymns in my head.
Even with earplugs in, I could hear the MRI machine wailing away. When they handed me the panic button they’d told me they wouldn’t hear me talk (or scream). Why not go from singing hymns in my head to singing them outloud.
So I worked through a few of my favorites, starting with Thaxted and Hyrfrydol. The keys were off, I sang with half or even a quarter of my voice. What’s the musical version of muttering? That’s what I was doing.
I went on to arias. First the Embroidery Aria from Peter Grimes. Next I was moved to sing one of my old favorites: Je dis from Carmen. The long phrases soothed me. I changed octaves when I needed to. Then the speaker started to crackle.
“um…the machine goes with your breath, so..can you breath normal?”
The long phrases confounded the machine. So I ceased, unwilling to hold up the end of the imaging and my subsequent extraction from the tube. As the machine whirred and clicked I tried to come up with songs that were in tempo with the varying rhythms of its workings. Some were techno. One was Amazing Grace. I can’t stand this song, I thought. I sang it in my head anyway.
At the end of the test, once I was able to breathe however I wanted, I asked how long I’d been in my claustrophobic hell, admitting I only wanted to know so I could brag about it. “45 minutes…maybe an hour!” one of my new buddies said, though I suspect he may have been stroking my ego.
I got back to the car and my panicked breath started calming down. I cried, though I was feeling fine, because I’d been reminded for the hundredth time that I’m sick even when I’m well. I cruised through a drive through for coffee, the first thing I’d eaten all day. As I pulled out I took a deep breath and sang again one of my songs from the test.
Finish then your new creation,
Pure and spotless, gracious Lord,
Let us see your great salvation
Perfectly in you restored.
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heav’n we take our place,
Till we stand before the Almighty
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.