What to Expect at a Heart MRI



Caleb’s face personifies how I feel about the week of the return of my mystery fevers and the Friday full of doctor appointments that I have planned for myself tomorrow. Thank you, Caleb.

Yesterday was my heart MRI. It wasn’t bad, but we didn’t get to do it exactly as planned.

I had no idea what to expect, so I thought I’d write this for newbies like me who’d like a heads up, complete with my humorous commentary, of course. I’d had MRIs before, but a heart MRI is performed much differently than a musculoskeletal one, as I’ve had in the past.

What to Expect at Your Heart MRI

I was a little nervous to begin with about the IV and the dye because when I’m not feeling well or when I’m cold, it’s about impossible to get an IV into my veins. Go figure. Both problems were in place that day. They brought me nice, toasty hospital socks. I got to take them home with me too. Yes! Souvenir!!

So it was all very low-key. This is not something to be afraid of. I went back, put on my scrubs, and re-emerged. The scrub top was large enough for several of me, and it had one tie.

I go back to the waiting room, and in walks Mike, nice attractive man my age, there to run my MRI. Of course, all medical staff that must see me naked always seem to be male. Always. “Well, that’s okay,” I thought, “I get to keep my top and my bottoms on today; this one’s noninvasive. I can be calm. Calm. Stop smiling so much. Don’t be nervous. Be cool.”

“You have your shirt on backwards,” he said. “I gotta hook up the EKG, so it opens to the front. But that’s okay. We’ll get you a smaller one, and you can change first. Did they tell you anything about what to expect?”

No, obviously not…I changed shirts. The neck hole of the thing was cut all the way down to my stretched out belly button. Oh well.

I headed back out and hunted Mike down again. He told me, “Here’s the bathroom. You might want to go ahead and go to the bathroom first.”

“Nah, I’m okay.”

“You sure? This is going to last over an hour.”

Say what???

I decided it was best to be a compliant patient, and go use the bathroom. I laughed, “Ha! Yeah, I go through this with my kids all the time. I’ll go ahead and go.”

So this was a one man show. Mike had to coach me, explain the gown to me, hook me up to an IV, put the dye in, and take all the MRI photos.

Only we didn’t get to do exactly all of that as planned. I warned him about my veins. He scoffed at my warning, “Eh, I do this all the time. I pride myself on never sticking a patient twice.”

Oh, Mike. You just had to say it.

My veins were not having it. You can find my veins, but it’s not so easy to get into them with a needle. I’m used to this. They often have trouble, but it was so bad that day. He tried four or five different veins, and no dice. Finally, he gave up and took the MRI pictures without the dye.

Drat. I was so looking forward to having neon blood. Wait, no I wasn’t, so it was fine by me.

Besides the dye, which I didn’t get to experience, there are several things different about a heart MRI. You are also hooked up to an EKG machine, your head is all the way into the tunnel, and you have to constantly hold your breath. The tunnel is literally like two inches from your nose, and it bothered me for the first 5 minutes, especially combined with, “Take a breath, not a super deep breath but a shallow breath and hold it.”

“Okay, breathe.”

Over and over and over again. Literally about 30 times you hold your breath for various amounts of seconds and then let it go.

For a brief minute, towards the beginning, I felt like I was hyperventilating in a tiny tunnel. My chest started to rattle, and I wanted to drink the air as deep as possible.

But then my short little panic was over, and it wasn’t hard at all.

The MRI technologist was so nice. I felt bad for him that he had to deal with my hard, stubborn veins. I felt silly for having been so nervous about this really. However, I still stopped at the 7-11 on the way home and bought a Snickers ice cream bar as a consolation prize for my long afternoon at the hospital.

By the way, if you’re reading this in preparation for your own MRI, leave a comment and let me know how it goes! I promise it isn’t bad at all, a little draining with all the breathing stuff, but not bad.




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