SURRATT: The anxiety of having an MRI

Published 4:00 am Friday, August 19, 2022

Why can’t Vicksburg have an open MRI?

I ask that question after returning from the wilds of Flowood where there is an open MRI. I won’t deal with anything else — I’ve learned I can’t. And by the way, I’ve had an MRI done locally when, to borrow from the Rolling Stones song, I went “running for the shelter of mother’s little helper” (a “little yellow pill” for those of you too young to know the song).

For those of you who are familiar with the term but don’t know what the letters mean, they stand for magnetic resonance imaging; a marvelous scientific machine that shows a physician more information on the interior of the human body than an X-ray or physical examination.

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But MRIs can also be intimidating. You walk into the room or trailer containing the machine and one of the first things that strike you is this rhythmic wheezing and pumping. Then there is the machine; in many cases, a large cylindrical tube that resembles something the evil empire in “Star Wars” would use to extract information or send you to a galaxy far, far away. It seems to have no end and the narrow opening seems ready to swallow you up.

For many who are claustrophobic, it is an image of pure terror — a confined space where one is forced to spend multiple minutes while being subjected to strange sounds emitting from the machine.

I’ve never considered myself claustrophobic, having spent time touring the interiors of Navy ships for stories and under the family cars making repairs, but there is something about MRIs that intimidate me and put fear in my heart.

I remember my first experience with one of the machines; it took me several tries to get in the right state of mind and that came after some chemical assistance.

The fact that I was having an open MRI (which really isn’t completely “open”) helped, although I was still apprehensive about having something so close to my face and still am, and still need some chemical assistance.

At first, I felt a bit self-conscious about feeling so intimidated by an MRI, until I talked with other people who have had the same experience and lived to talk about it. I don’t think a phobia has been developed for this fear of the MRI. There are, I suspect from my conversations with others, many people who suffer from MRI anxiety and need help to go through the process of having their insides photographed.

I have lived in Vicksburg for 11 years. My personal physician is here. So is my dentist, orthopedist and probably my cardiologist, if I needed one. I visit a local pain specialist to help me with back pain and I visit a local physical therapist. My neurologist is in Jackson because we don’t have one here and my dermatologist is in Clinton.

And while I like the occasional trip out of town to Jackson (but hate the traffic) to see one specialist and for an MRI, I’d much rather stay home to have my “innards” photographed. I hope one day I can.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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