It’s About How They Make You Feel
November 09, 2021
Maya Angelou quote


After weeks of delaying the inevitable, I finally went for my MRI.

Although I am OK with blood draws and x-rays, I hate the MRI machine. I don’t like the claustrophobic tunnel, the loud noises (sounds like a construction zone) and the general attitude of the radiography technicians. All of this is based on one previous MRI experience, right here in Singapore.

About four years ago, I underwent my first MRI. I walked into the freezing room feeling exposed and vulnerable about the results. Little did I know that the test itself would be traumatic. As I lay down and was swiftly wheeled into a narrow tunnel, I began to scream.

The whole episode was so memorable that I wrote one of my favorite essays titled – Why Do People Have Children, after the experience.

When it’s time to come to a decision
I was hoping to indefinitely delay going for the scan but the pain that began more than five weeks ago showed no sign of abating. It came to a point where the prospect of living with the pain was more scary than the fear of the unpleasant experience in an MRI tunnel.

It wasn’t that surprising after all. Isn’t that how we make most decisions?
By choosing the one which is less painful.

When the specialist recommended a particular diagnostic lab that had a wider bore instrument, I felt better. Soon I began exchanging text messages with Riko, the assistant coordinating my appointment.

In my typical direct style, tinged with nervousness, I fired several questions:

  • Why does my head need to go in the tunnel when I need a scan of my lower back?
  • How long is the tunnel?
  • What is the diameter?
  • Can you show me a video of how a patient enters the tunnel?

“Don’t worry, Ma’am – you come here first. We have a very nice office. We can play your favorite music and our MRI is the wide bore one where you can even watch soothing videos to take your mind off during the scan,” said RIko.

Tackling scary monsters
The well-lit cozy office was welcoming. They had comfy sofas in a pleasant pale green shade in a separate waiting area where a large screen showed soothing images of fish swimming in a blue ocean. There were teddy bears and other props within touching distance (to soothe nervous children, I supposed, not adults like me).

Riko received me warmly and made me sign consent documents, including my current favourite – declaration of pregnancy,. I’m not sure whether I should be flattered that I am considered to be of child-bearing age despite my grey hair (permanent) and old-woman gait (temporary).

Riko’s smiling disposition dispelled my queasiness and accompanied me to the changing room and explained where the three holes in the robe go even though I have only two arms (neat trick to cover your backside).
She asked me if I needed to go to the bathroom. And if I had any preference for the music.

When it was time for the tunnel. I was ready.

Not because I suddenly became brave enough to overcome my fears but because of how Riko made me feel.

And that’s when I recalled Maya Angelou’s quote ~

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Have you had such an experience?

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  1. Sudheer M

    Nice to read your MRI experience. Anybody who went through it would connect with you. I had my own experience too but I distinctly remember having to hold my sisters’s hand as she went through the “tunnel” (back in India they do allow visitors to be near the MRI machine). And me holding did help much. She didn’t scream but she was scared.

    It is nice to know that these days they let you listen to your favorite music. Who knows next time they might let you watch your favorite Netflix show/movie. I was expecting that you would share what music you picked.

    I hope all turned out well with you health and wishing you a speedy recovery so we can read more of your articles.

    • Ranjani Rao

      After sharing my MRI experience on social media, I realised, much to my delight, that I was not the only one who feared it. I chose instrumental music which I believe was played via Youtube. I also kept an eyemask on before being wheeled in so I could not see how close the tunnel was to my face right front he beginning. All my yoga and pranayama training helped to just focus on the breath and keep it slow and steady. In terms of my health, it is much better – thank you for checking in. Although, the MRI itself was unable to pinpoint the cause. Time, it seems (and rest), is the best healer, at least in this case.


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