“Take the sedative an hour before you come in for the procedure.”
I was certain I had heard the doctor say this.
Yet an hour later, I still felt my heart racing.
I squeezed the Son’s hand tightly and heard him whisper, “It’s going to be alright, mom. Just relax.”
I couldn’t remember the last time I felt what that was like.
My thoughts wandered to what had brought me here in the first place.
“I think it’s a meniscal tear, Bella, but I need an MRI to confirm it.”
The acronym alone made me hyperventilate.
“Bella,” I heard the receptionist call my name.
“Please proceed to Room 1.”
It sounded like what Alfred Hitchcock would call the place where strange things happened to unsuspecting victims.
As I hobbled over to Room 1, I felt my hands tremble.
Dear Lord, just how bad of a person had I been in a past life and why was I paying for that woman’s sins?
“Mom, it’s going to be okay. I’m going to be with you the entire time.”
How much good had I done in a past life to deserve such a loyal, beautiful child?
Swallowing hard and stifling the desire to scream for him to get me out of there, I patted his hand and attempted to take another step.
Five seconds later, I was being asked to lay down on a cold, hard surface.
I looked at the ominous tunnel that seemed to whisper, “Come into my lair.”
Again I felt my pulse race.
My breath caught in my throat.
“You can do this, Auntie B. You’re a gladiator!”
I remembered the sweet encouragement my niece had given me the night before.
Laying down on the table, I felt an intense wave of fear settle over my body.
I felt cold.
“These headphones will help with the noise.”
Fear continued to forcibly settle on my skin.
In my stomach.
In my chest.
I saw the technician hand the Son a headset.
At least we would be able to communicate through the ordeal.
“This is a panic button, Bella. Press it if you think you can’t finish the MRI.”
Can I press it now?
Can I go home?
Can we forget I was ever here?
Suddenly, the metal slab was being propelled into the tunnel.
Our Father, who art in heaven…
I could hardly remember the words to my favorite prayer.
My face itched.
My feet felt numb.
I wanted to cough.
“Please remain still for the duration of the study.”
The tech’s voice loomed loudly through the headset.
“It’s going to be fine, mom. When we’re done here, we’ll get coffee. Okay?”
I felt tears slowly creep down the sides of my face.
“I’m going to count down, Bella. Hang in there. Three, two, one…”
Boom, boom, boom!
The loud noises sounded like gunshots.
My hands continued to tremble at my side.
100, 99, 98, 97, 96…
I slowly counted back from a hundred.
Why wasn’t the sedative working?
Why didn’t I feel the buzz such a pill is supposed to give?
Pop! Pop! Pop!
“Stay still, mom.”
I heard the Son’s voice through the headset.
I should have known better than to rely on a pill I’d never taken before.
I should have taken a swig from the fancy Cognac bottle the Significant Other kept in his desk.
Bam! Bam! Bam!
When would the noise stop?
Why couldn’t I feel my lower back anymore?
Why did it feel like an elephant was sitting on top of my chest?
“We’re halfway done, Bella. You’re doing great.”
79, 78, 77…
Counting backwards had always worked as a soothing technique.
Why wasn’t it working now?
I had given the tech my Saturday Night Fever CD.
Why weren’t the Bee Gees crooning “Staying Alive” in my ear?
My heart felt like it was going to self-eject at any moment.
Hallowed it be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…
My brain and heart were on overdrive.
Any moment now, I would go into shock.
Total and absolute system failure.
My end was near.
I would meet my maker in this metal tunnel.
No white light to lead the way or deceased loved ones to take my hand.
And I would be dressed in ratty gray sweatpants and an old pink tee emblazoned with the word “foxy” for all eternity.
“Bella, we’re done.”
“Mom, it’s over.”
The room spun as the Son and the tech helped me to sit up.
I took a deep breath and exhaled.
I had triumphed over the metal monster who had held me captive for the past thirty minutes.
Claustrophobia was my kryptonite but still, I had beat it.
“Auntie B., you are a gladiator.”
I smiled as I realized that for the first time today, those words rung true.
Does claustrophobia have the same effect on you?
Note: While some of the inner dialogue written in this post may be humorous, it is not my intention to make fun of anxiety or claustrophobia. Writing this post was my way of dealing with the symptoms of claustrophobia that I felt during a recent MRI study. And I’m afraid the symptoms were all too real. Nevertheless, writing about the experience has allowed me to process the emotions that assaulted me that day and come to terms with my humanity.