Writing Inspiration Comes from the Strangest Places

MRII was diagnosed with a congenital back condition when I was eighteen. I’d been having more and more pain, and finally I had to undergo a series of tests to determine the problem.

One such test was the dreaded MRI.

To the average observer, it looks like a medical machine. The knocking sounds it makes just come with the territory.

To someone like me, with claustrophobia, it looks like a coffin. The operating noises sound like a countdown to airlessness—and death.

It’s horrible. You can’t imagine the terror—the shortness of breath, the chest constrictions, the mental claws scratching to break free, the frenetic panic kicking your pulse into uncharted (and dangerous) rates.

During the aforementioned test, the technicians pumped music into my casket—er, the machine—and talked to me the entire time to keep me calm. At one point, what felt like days later, one of them said, “Almost done. Just a few minutes more.”

Clearly he didn’t understand the literary device of “coincidence”—a situation in which events happen in an unplanned or unexpected way. Every writer knows not to state something as obvious fact, because the exact opposite will surely follow. (Think every co-ed ever to say, “Come on, it’s totally safe.” only to be gored to death by some crazed serial killing monster.)

In my case, he told me I was almost done. Should never have said it. I don’t think the words were completely out of his mouth when the freaking power went out.

Two things happened simultaneously.

  • The techs all begged me not to move, because they hoped to resume the test right where it left off without loss of data.
  • I felt the weight of being buried alive settle on my chest, and I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Get me out of here!

They talked me down, managed to keep me from moving. I still don’t know how I didn’t leap out of there. I think the thought of having to endure the test again was the only thing rooting me there.

The power was probably only out for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. When the lights flickered, it only got worse. In the dark, I felt oppressed. In the light, I saw the top of the machine right above my nose and knew there was a reason I couldn’t breathe. Cue the hyperventilation.

Next, I heard unintelligible murmurs, then one of the techs spoke through the sound system. “Sorry. We lost everything. We’re going to have to start over.”

I don’t know if you ever tried to wiggle foot-first out of a coffin, but I did it in record time. Kind of torpedo-like, I’m guessing. After bending over and sucking in deep breaths of non-oppressive air, I managed a reply. “Nope. Not happening.”

I didn’t go back in the machine that day, but I eventually made it through the test. Got my diagnosis and a set of physical therapy exercises that didn’t work, so, you know, time and money well spent, and all that.

More importantly, I got a great story that I might one day put in a novel. I’m pretty sure I can write the heck out of a panicked woman in an infernal medical machine.


This post inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Magnetic.

Photo Credit: KasugaHuang [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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22 thoughts on “Writing Inspiration Comes from the Strangest Places

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links | Staci Troilo

  2. I’m right there with you, Staci – claustrophobic and had an MRI either before they could play music or just didn’t offer it as an option. Kept my eyes closed and went to my happy place on a beach. I can’t even imagine the power going out – but I wouldn’t have started over either!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can relate to your experience. When I was 33 I was tentatively diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I had my first MRI a few years later after I had a severe allergic reaction to the iodine based contrast dye used in CT scans. I thought I would be better off. Boy, was I ever wrong! Until you’ve experienced an MRI you can’t imagine how dreadful it is. I’ve struggled through each and every one. The music is barely audible over the loud thumping, the mirror leaves me staring at my own terrified eyes, and the washcloth made me feel even more suffocated. And for this torture they charge me thousands. Go figure.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My first MRI freakout is legendary in the halls of St Luke Hospital in Pasadena, CA. It didn’t stop when they took me out (only minutes after sliding me in). Oh no…I went total ‘next level’ meltdown and ended up sedated in the ER. It was not one of my shining moments. 😞

    I’ve had MRIs since, but with enough drugs pumped in me to knock out men…and I still wouldn’t close my eyes, and I broke out in a cold sweat.

    I had testing done recently using an open MRI machine. It wasn’t a party, but I was calm (thank you, valium). For some reason still unknown to me the tech insisted putting a washcloth over my face would help. She was wrong. It didn’t. Lesson learned. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Magnetic voices – Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me

  6. O! M! G!
    I’ve had several MRIs in my life, the most recent last month. I’m not overly fond of being thrust into that contraption, but I can usually make it through, especially now that the backs are open. After a few seconds of an accelerated pulse, I usually settle down and even try to drift to sleep (they take so freaking long). But a blackout?!?! My pulse kicked into overdrive just thinking about it. What an awful experience to get through.

    I do agree with superwifeandmummy though. The way you told it was hysterical.
    Now that you can look back on it, you definitely have one for the record books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! I’ve been looking back on it for almost 30 years, and my heart still flutters. I’m glad it brought you guys the chuckles, though.

      And I just might put it in a story someday. You never know!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh I’m so sorry! I’m giggling a little bit, though! You made it so sweet and humorous and you could definitely write the ess aitch eye tee out of that situation, for sure!! 😙😙😙❤

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Staci, that’s quite an unnerving tale. Glad you finally made it through the test. I’ve had a few of those myself. While I don’t like the constricted feeling and that I can’t move, I always take it as a challenge to try to go to sleep. I can almost make it and then all the clanking starts. It still gives rise to a lot of what-ifs scenarios and good writing fodder!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t say I’ve had a tremendously exciting life. It’s been pretty mundane and ordinary, all things considered. But enough weird stuff—not noteworthy, just weird—has happened to me that I can put all kinds of characters all sorts of weird situations.

      And I agree with you. I like to read posts like this, too. They let me know people better, and they spark all kinds of ideas. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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