Friday, June 25, 2010

Do you have Claustrophobia? ...maybe

Last Sunday, on Father's Day, I was scheduled for an MRI on my shoulder. The doctor was fairly certain I had a torn rotator cuff. I didn't think so; I felt there was some other cause of impingement. They had already ruled out a bone spur with an Xray. The doctors asked if I had injured it in some way. I told them that the pain began after the initial muscle pain of this year's seasonal flu shot subsided; I was left with not being able to lift my shoulder past a certain point similar to how it would be if you were to insert a stick of wood between a door and it's jamb. They poo-pooed the flu shot connection.

I arrived at the hospital, signed in, and was sent to the waiting room. I told them I would leave if they didn't change the channel to something other than Fox "News". I was able to stay.

I filled out a questionnaire related to medical history and MRIs. One of the questions asked if I had ever worked with metal tooling and another asked if I had ever had anything removed from my eye. Turns out the questions were intended to be related, but since I had worked with metal (30 years ago) and had a splinter of wood removed from an eye 35 years ago they felt an Xray was in order. They convinced me, rather easily, that I didn't want the magnet to draw a buried piece of metal through my eye to the surface. My eyes were fine so we proceeded.

I answered all the other questions with "no" except for the one that asked if I had claustrophobia. For that one, I made my own box with "maybe" and put an X in it. I'm OK with small spaces until I can't move or free myself and I didn't know whether that would be the case or not. Once I saw the unit, something akin to a big fat doughnut, I figured I would be able to handle it. It didn't look that confining; after all, I was certain that persons with larger girths than mine had to fit in there. Although the taper of the doughnut hole gives the illusion from the outside that there is more space than there is I soon discovered that I would be able to wriggle myself out if I wanted to.

Before being slid into the tube I was given earplugs to reduce the "jackhammering" sound and a panic button was put into my hand. Suddenly I was asking myself if I would panic, and started to panic a bit about that. That didn't seem fair. I was told it would be about 35 minutes and the technician slid me into the machine head first up to my thighs which left my hands at the outer edge. After about five minutes of lying in silence trying to decide whether I would deal with the confinement better with my eyes open or closed the technician's voice announced through a speaker that the machine had been warming up and was about to start. I called out asking whether that was included in the 35 minutes or not. No answer. Great, so she actually couldn't hear me. I'd try again, with a different question,"How much can I move?" No answer. Oh no, my nose itched; could I reach up and rub it? I could certainly crinkle it; that certainly couldn't mess up the imaging for my shoulder, but it really didn't make the itch go away either.

Then the noise began. It wasn't like a jackhammer, but rather what a loud repeating high voltage pterodactyl zapper might sound like. Did I have the genes of my grandmother who was tortured by a faucet dripping? Definitely. I was ready to give up secrets to the enemy. Thirty-five minutes? Had it even been a minute? All my innate time-keeping instincts were experiencing interference. OK, so I didn't have claustrophobia, but the question of amplified water dripping wasn't asked. Could I find my "happy place"? Should I squeeze the panic button. I decided to imagine being on a run, although that might be considered torture for some, a thirty-five minute run would be short. But, how would I know how far into it I was? I don't even like music when I run though and this was incessant. Suddenly, the noised stopped. That certainly wasn't 35 minutes; maybe it was the under promise - over deliver concept, tell them 35 minutes when it's only 10. No. Now it was time for the jackhammer.

To me it sounded more like a diesel on fast idle. Now I had something I could relate to; lying trapped under a low-rider semi. Could I ride this out? I still felt as if I were trying to endure a torture. The evilness of many tortures is that they allow uncertainty and fear to interplay with the subject's own mind. The worst of it here was I knew I was secure from everything, except my own mind. Then I noticed something; some time had passed and I felt almost meditative and numb as if I were about to doze off for an afternoon nap. The idling diesel was like a mantra. I was totally relaxed, as if floating in a sensory deprivation tank although I don't really know what that is like. I went with the flow; I was enjoying it. the diesel sound started a stopped three or four times and I was able to stay in the pleasure state. The voice came through the speaker again, announcing I was done.

The results came in the mail today: ...some tendinosis within the distal supraspinatus and suscapularis tendons with a little interstitial longitudinal tearing...the inferior joint capsule demonstrates significant thickening and edema throughout the capsule...the deltoid muscle is unremarkable (ouch, did they really have to throw in an insult!).

So, speaking with the doctor it sounds like, it sound like there is nothing to repair surgically, but things are somewhat of an inflamed mess in there. I have an appointment for Monday; I think a steroid injection might alleviate a lot of this; I think physical therapy is just going to irritate it more.


  1. I would have missed the self-reckoning experience and had nothing to blog.

  2. I am claustrophobic and wouldn't have had much to blog about either...I would not go in the tube without the valium.