If i were a secret agent or a spy for India, god help our country! Why you ask? Know how enemies have indepth knowledge into the fears of all the spies and agents? When they come to know of mine, it would just be a matter of stuffing me into a teeny tiny cupboard and shutting the door. Give me 2 minutes of screaming my head off i beg of you and then i will sing like a canary!
I have claustrophobia and of the extreme variety! There was one time the lift i was travelling in shut down and for a full minute i clawed at the door, punched the buttons wherever possible, screamed in absolute fright and almost fainted. When the door opened, the tumbled out wild eyed while the store staff stared at me wide eyed! They still snigger when i visit the store and yes i always take the stairs.
I have absolutely no idea when this disaster of a phobia took root. As a child i remember happily hiding under beds, staying covered in a million quilts for eons, hiding in the smallest wardrobe and even stuffing myself into a gap in the store. Now? The mere thought of someone else getting stuck in the lift gives me panic attacks. I once had a claustrophobic panic attack mid flight...but that's a story for another time! On with the tale of the MRI!
So I've busted my knee in all its glory and considering how much i run after my son (now a hyper toddler) i don't think it's ever going to be ok! My orthopedic consultant checked my knee up and down, rotating, flexing, squeezing...then he looked me square in the face and uttered four dreaded words: "please take an MRI". Now my mum and i have a pact which i forced her to take. If for any reason, god forbid, i have to take an MRI of my head, i have asked her to kill me then and there! Push me off a cliff, run me over with a car, make me eat rotten fish, whatever. Just finish me off, that would be infinitely better than making me take an MRI!
So when the doctor asked me to take an MRI, i turned ashen and walked out without a word. Then i made my mum call up everywhere in Cochin to find out if there was an option of an MRI in a wide open space, a football fields, a national highway...anything; because getting chucked into that ominous black hole of the MRI machine was next to death itself! A technician at the place the doctor recommended promised, swore that my top half would be outside the machine. That gave me some breathing space. I considered giving it a shot. Half of me was out anyway so if i scream bloody murder they could hear me.
The next day found me nervously pacing the cold linoleum floor of an even colder reception area of the MRI centre. Counting down the number of unfortunate patients until the turn came for unfortunate me. The receptionist handed me my number. 13. Perfect. It was No.10s turn. A smiling woman sat next to me and she engaged me in a lively conversation and for a while my fears vanished.
"13!" Called out the nurse. "That's you" said the lady next to me said happily. I felt my stomach drop! I couldn't even stand up. By the grace of god, the nurse was a lovely human being and very sweetly she ushered me into the MRI room. I gave my dad, who accompanied me, a final furtive glance and bid him farewell. Then i went in. The room was even colder. There was a two way glass pane that separated the doctor and the technician from the MRI room and there in the middle of the room like a grand old whale stood that bloody hell hole! I could barely look at it. The tunnel looked like a black hole designed personally for me. I thought it would suck me in right away! Seeing my feverish expression the darling nurse calmed me down with pats on my shoulder. A stupid assistant receptionist came over and said "you should control your weight. Then you won't have such problems!"
I stared at her with absolute incredulity! Here i am awaiting certain irreprevable trauma and madam lazonga here lecturing me about my weight! Lady! I am about to die of a panic attack! If you have nothing comforting to say, shut your freaking gob! So said my brain, but my mouth just passed gusts of air and timid squeaks.
The nurse asks me to lie down on a long stretcher complete with straps and the works. It's like it was designed with my claustrophobia kept in mind! I started looking for the nearest exit. As if sensing my dilemma, the nurse insisted that i lie down immediately. Like a deer caught in the headlightsni agreed and i lay down. It was as if the nurse said "accio assistants"; three assistants apparated out of thin air. They strapped down my leg tight and warned me in deathly tones not to move a muscle. I started sweating bullets and shivering. Another assistant covers me with a thick blanket and warns me in even deathlier tones to stay as still as a rock. It was around this time that i started hyperventilating and whimpering. I flung out my arm to the sweet nurse and she held it tight. I begged her...so seriously...i begged her not to let go and she swore she wouldn't. The third assistant said "enjoy the music" and plonked on my eara mega huge ear phones. My ears registered Radio mango 91.9 and a stream of malayalam numbers that i desperately tried to keep in time with. Again the "don't move a muscle" but this time in sign language. Tears start leaking out the corners of the eyes.
Suddenly the damn stretcher starts getting swallowed by that eternally dark hole! With a thrill of pure terror i see that i was already waist in and the stretcher wasn't stopping! The next thing i remember is the attending doctor, technician, 3 nurses, the three bloody assistants and the receptionist standing in front of me asking me what happened! I was standing up supported by the sweet nurse. My face was wet with tears and sweat, my throat felt hoarse and i was struggling to breathe. They ushered in the next patient and i was asked to wait. A 45 minute wait. Sweet nurse sat next to me and said that the moment i reached chest high i had started hyperventilating and my heart rate shot up! I started screaming and clawing at the machine crying all the while. I kept screaming "stop! Stop! I can't, i can't!!" I made a such rucus they unstrapped me and well you know the rest.
"I'm claustrophobic" i tell her and she tells me i was not the only patient who has had issues with the MRI so i needn't worry. She asked me to calm down and take deep breaths and tell her when i would be ready.
Now my scream fest became quite popular thanks to Madam receptionist and soon patients and their by standers were flocking around me holding my hand, soothing me ( an idiot man actually said "you were scared of an MRI? Ha ha!" Moron!) And giving me tips on how to relax. After a long time...well 45 mins to be exact, i told sweet nurse that i was ready. All i had in my mind was my son Aarav. I was doing this for him i thought and immediately, i felt a wonderful sense of calm! I did make sweet nurse stand by my side and hold my hand for the full 15 mins of my scan. She did so faithfully and i thanked her umpteen number of times. So the scan happened and i had mild sweat sessions only when the horrid noises that filled the machine changed in pitch and tone and when the stretcher jerked a bit. But i was good. I did it!
Everyone laughed their heads off at my experience but i cannot tell you how badly it affected me! So the pact with my mum stands even stronger than ever! " kill me ok!" I tell her, "just take the MRI", she points out I'm sure you'll scare yourself to death!" Point noted.