Magnetic Fields Forever

I had an MRI on thursday.

It seems I have a herniated disk in my lower back. That would explain why I have taken to laying on my side on the floor and praying for death.

When the doctor scheduled the MRI he asked if I was claustrophobic. I didn’t know how to answer that. I have never had any claustrophobic freak outs but I am sure if I fell down a well and had my arms pinned to my sides I would attempt to kill myself by holding my breath. I guess you can determine how claustrophobic you are by how much you compare an MRI to falling down a well…

I told the doctor “no” because if you say yes they sedate you during the procedure, and requiring sedation sounded very wimpy to me, and if I sounded wimpy I would have to attempt to kill myself by holding my breath.

My appointment was at 8pm at an independent “imaging” office. The office was dark and lonely and manned only by a young hipster receptionist and a large technician with a fu-manchu who I think I saw once on an Ultimate Fighting Video.

To ensure that my dignity didn’t cause interference with the MRI I was instructed to put on a pair of size medium surgical scrubs. I looked like I was wearing skin-tight capris. The receptionist said I looked “ghetto fabulous” and that the look would probably catch on. I ignored her as I was concentrating on not splitting my pants or shirt by breathing.

I had an MRI on my knee once. I remember thinking the machine was very soft looking–curvy lines, friendly colors, a tour de force of soothing design. The room was light and airy, and I only had to stick my knee in the machine, which was also beautiful.

This MRI machine was a tribute to raw functionality, no misguided attempts at beauty here, and the room had almost no lights.

Ultimate Fighter gestured for me to lay down on the table, head towards the machine, a rather upsetting development. Feet first sounded much better, but I kept a brave face, even a nonchalant one, and lay down on the table.

I was unceremoniously raised up to the opening and slowly slid backwards into the machine. My shoulders grazed the sides of the tube leaving no room for me to move my arms. My face was less than a foot from the top of the tube. I was still calm on the outside, but if you were inside my head you would have heard, “Keep-it-together, keep-it-together, keep-it-together, keep-it-together, keep-it-together, keep-it-together, keep-it-together…”

My head was now seven feet deep into the machine, and I was looking at the light strip in the tube above my face trying to decide if I should flip out or relax. My decision-making was interrupted by the technician squeezing my foot and giving me a pat on the leg as he walked away. Maybe my nonchalant face was more ‘chalant’ than I thought, or maybe he just sticks enough people into a plastic tube everyday to know that it is a freaky experience. Either way, the gesture pushed my decision firmly into the relax camp and I was fine.

In fact, in spite of the banging noises of the machine, I even fell asleep briefly. The doctor hasn’t seen the film yet, so I have been trying to interpret it by myself. So far I have been able to confirm that I do, in fact, have a spine, and some areas of it look, to my untrained eye, ouchy.

I am sure the doctor will say the same thing.

Update: The doctor still hasn’t seen the films, but the imaging office sent a preliminary diagnosis. It was not a nice one.

17 responses for Magnetic Fields Forever

  1. John says:

    I think if they painted eyes above the tube and then did some felt teeth hanging down that brushed over you as you slid in it would help the process feel more friendly.

  2. lisa says:

    You crack me up!

  3. John Hesch says:

    Magnetic Fields Forever

    Laughter is the best medicine. If I ever need a pick me up laugh I know I can always count on Josh Penrod to deliver. Thanks Josh!…

  4. shawn says:

    Hachie Machie–that sounds wierd!

    I wonder if it was anything like being eaten by a Boa Contrictor–or being burried alive? Hmmm…I wonder if anyone has experienced two of them and survived? Only that would top this story.

  5. Adriaan says:

    I also always try to sleep and I do manage that fairly well. It is a narrow space and best not to think of that… Hope the film gives you some good news!

  6. Adriaan says:

    Hola! That scan looks like something from Alien! Get it out! Oh no, it’s too late! SCREAMS

  7. Dave says:

    Josh, I don’t know how to break this to you, but I hope you didn’t pay full price for that MRI.

    Didn’t anyone notice the little ghostly looking guy running across your spine (see top right of MRI), almost in a taunting fashion?

    I think a haunted MRI should equate to at least a 45% discount. In fact, in my experience, it should be discounted no less than 60%.

  8. Josh says:

    I am just hoping it is the MRI that is haunted and not my spine!

  9. Howard Roark says:

    Josh, this is what I do for a living. they now have open face MRIs. If that is an image from your scan looks like your L5S1 jt space. I wish you the best. Josh, my opinionis don’t by any means let some hack MD talk you into surgery. In my 11 years of doing this, experience has shown me long term, pts end up MUCH WORSE following surg. There is a spiral effect of all the disk above and below the injury, and they begin to crush. Take it easy, no gymnastics, and if the pain gets to be much, they can give you an epidural. good luck!!!, and I mean it DO NOT DO THE SURGERY THING!!!

  10. Gilbert says:

    Whoa, I didn’t know you can have red things in there. That is absolutely crazy! :)

  11. cooper says:

    Wow! Must have been the flashing lights and alarms from last Wednesday! The notice should have been sent sooner. It could have probably saved your back. It’s time to call in the workmen’s comp guys and put the two issues together. Just joking…

    Hope you feel better soon. And I agree with Howard. DO NOT let them start experimenting with surgery on your back. It is never a good thing.

  12. shawn says:


    Now tell me again, why is it so great to be tall? Seriously, you tall guys are always getting this kind of crud!

    From the looks of things you appear to have eaten a bent tiger’s tail. Nathan (our son, for those not in the know) would probably look at that picture and call out, “Oh Tigers! Why have you taken off all of your fine clothes?” (Quote from his favorite book “The Boy and the Tigers” aka “Little Black Sambo”) Yes, it looks that much like a tiger’s tail.

    Seriously Josh, that looks painful. I hope you feel better soon! Good luck.

  13. Benjamin Read says:

    I say go for the surgery if they offer it. After all, it may be your only chance to get an epidural. Plus, didn’t they do a great job on your knee a couple of years ago? If they don’t offer, ask them why they aren’t offering the back surgery.

  14. JUSTIN says:

    I just passed out after reading that story.

  15. youeffoh says:

    I have a herniated disc in my lower spine, it sucks. There’s some stuff you can do to alleviate the pain, but get it fixed before 3 years pass and you’re still lapsing into days where you can’t walk.

  16. Terri says:

    Great story, you are very funny! I have a herniated disc in my lower spine too, and it certainly does suck….Yours looks worse than mine….I can relate to rolling up on the floor praying for death, or for some good pills. Heehee. Good luck!

  17. dave says:

    Can’t you fix this in photoshop? Maybe get rid of the red arrow and clone the bad area with the healthy white area from above.