Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm a big mixed woman in a tiny silver tube.

Have you seen Jumpin' Jack Flash? Whoopi Goldberg as Terry Doolittle, in the 1986 spy thriller that features espionage, mystery computer messages and Whoopi in a telephone booth screaming to the operator "I'm a little black woman, in a big silver box".

I remember this quote in particular because my mother thought this movie was hilarious and anytime it was on tv she would quote every memorable movie moment including, "I'm a little black woman, in a big silver box. You can't miss me" And then she'd laugh and laugh.

This is all I could think about as I prepared for my first MRI.
Random. I know.
After three months of physical therapy, my doctor decided he wanted to do an MRI to check out my shoulder. I'd never had an MRI before, but I asked around and the consensus was it was loud and slightly claustrophobia-inducing but nothing painful.

When the technician called me for my pre-test consult the first thing she asked was, "Do you weigh 300 pounds?" I don't, but I wondered what they would have said if I had. They asked about any metal in my body, surgeries, etc, etc.

When I arrived for the test a tiny petite woman guided me down long narrow hallways into an elevator and then surprisingly out these double doors that led to a free standing trailer that was behind the main building we had just navigated. I wanted to ask her why we had just gone through that whole maze just to get back outside, but I didn't. The long walk to the test had gotten my anxiety going. I kept thinking they were taking me to a dungeon or something dark and scary. Really it was just a little trailer in a parking lot behind the main Kaiser building.

A clearly annoyed man greeted us with a grunt as we entered, and I saw that my appointment had interrupted his lunch. The woman's super gentle tone made up for his gruffness though and soon I was lying on the table in an adjoining room ready to get... mri'd. Scanned? I don't know the proper terminology.

I was a little anxious as I looked up and above my head at the tube I would soon be lodged in. But the woman was standing next to me and patting my elbow and telling me not to worry about a thing, and that helped a bit. The gruff man appeared on my other side and hoisted this plastic contraption around my shoulder. He instructed me to turn on my side and he placed a big thick pad on my other side, to cushion me from the machine I assume.

"Here we go." He announced and pushed a button that started the beds movement into the tube. My head entered the little tube and then my neck, but as my shoulders start to enter I hear a squeaking noise as the pad slides against the inside of the tube. "Wait, I..., this is pretty tight." It was clear at that moment, I did not fit into the MRI machine.

"Slide her out. This won't work." The mans voice boomed into the tube and I emerged blinking and confused.

"I don't weigh 300 pounds." I blurted out.
"That doesn't matter."
"But on the phone they asked me if I weighed 300 pounds."
"It's just for the bed of the MRI machine. That has nothing to do with the tube."
"You mean, I'm too... fat for the MRI." I hadn't meant to say it that way, but I felt tears welling up in my eyes and my face turning red with embarrassment. "Don't you put grown men in these machines."
"It's not about weight. It's about... width." I could tell there was a speck of an attempt at kindness behind his gruff demeanor as he tried to find a word to use. I guess "width" was as kind as he could summon at the moment.

I turned to the woman still on my right as she resumed the patting of my shoulder. "It's okay, honey."
"But now what do I do?"
"We'll let the doctor know and then we'll get you scheduled for an open MRI."
"A what?"

I pause here, because at no point had they offered the option of an open MRI. Had I known this was an option I would have much preferred to be in something that started with open, rather than this tiny tube, big girth or not.

I got dressed and the woman led me back outside of the little trailer. I wanted to tell her I could find my way from here so that I didn't have to go back through the maze of the building, but she started talking to me. Surprisingly she apologized for her co-worker.
"I'm sorry he's not the most... sympathetic of people. That's why I'm here." She laughed nervously and looked up at me for some sort of response. I smiled the best I could but as soon as she was gone I stood next to my car and just cried and cried.

It was as if all of my anxiety about the "mystery test" and all of my frustration about my shoulder injury and the frustration about my weight and just all of it bubbled over into a slobbery mess right there in the parking lot.

"I didn't fit!" I blubbered this statement into the phone and it took about 3 times of me repeating it before my friend actually understood me. She'd been waiting for a call to hear how it went. After I explained the whole morning to her, she told me it was probably just because they had me on my side with that padding and the plastic contraption around my shoulder. I knew this was probably true but it still felt painful.

It took about 2 weeks to get the open MRI approved and scheduled and each time I thought about it I just felt nervous. The open MRI was at a whole other facility and the only maze I had to navigate to get to the office was the parking lot next door. The waiting room was warm and they even had hot chocolate and tea options for you while you were waiting. I was about to whip up some hot cocoa to sip to distract me from my nerves but they called my name and whisked me to the back and instructed me where to put my belongings.

The machine was the only thing in the large room and the first thing I asked the technician was whether I would fit. She kind of laughed a little. "Of course you'll fit."
"But I mean will there be...clearance, like all of me can fit"
"Honey we put line backers in here. We put 450 pound men in here. You're gonna fit"
I still didn't believe her.
But I did fit just as she promised. And after she reassured me that the two huge cylinders above and below me wouldn't move or smoosh me, I just tried to relax and breath and think about things other than the clicking and whooshing sounds around me for the next 45 minutes.

5 minutes after the test was completed they had my films. I dropped them off to my doctors office and I felt relieved and angry at the same time. Angry that I had to navigate my size in this way. And angry that I didn't know who I was angry at, the makers of that damn tube or me for feeling so heavy.

I find out tomorrow am about results from the scans. I'll keep you updated.

Closed mri image from here
Open mri image from here


  1. I am glad to hear you are angry. What are you going to do with your angry?

    Thinking back about the times in my life when I have been angry, I mean really angry. After I cry, I become determined. My stubbornness comes out and I say, "I'll show you!" which usually brings me to make a change for the better.

  2. Thank you Autumn! I totally agree, sometimes anger can totally help spur on change. It has already inspired a few walks!

  3. I'm sorry you had to go through that :( But it is so awesome you are making a change for the better!!! I am a new reader, I just started my weight loss journey two weeks ago! I hope you get good results and there's nothing to worry about!

  4. Thank you Kayla Sue for your comment and encouragement! And congratulations on starting your weight loss journey! So glad we can support each other here in blogland!