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Try walking in their shoes

I am no girlie woose...I've lived and worked full time for the last ten years with disability and RA. walked with a frame, been through major surgery.

The one panic attack in my life was in an MRI tunnel but I got over it.

Three years ago I had an MRI scan for my back, it was a breeze.

Two years ago I had another MRI scan for my back, had a panic attack and had to come out of the tunnel. The two young female operators were brilliant held my hand calmed me down so that I went back in the tunnel and the scan was completed.

Today I went for another MRI scan for my back. I had concerns this time around because of my previous experience and because I now have active RA. My GP gave me valium to take one hour prior to scan. I was concerned about lying still for 15 minutes, knowing it would cause pain, would I be able to keep still. Worried that I cannot grip with either hand so would I be able to hold onto the emergency button or indeed be able to press it should I need to come out..worried about the close confines of the tunnel.

I was taken through by a chap who asked if I had been MRI'd before. I replied yes twice, first time was a breeze, second time had a panic attack but did manage to go back in. I went on to say that I had taken valium but was still feeling very nervous. Throughout I spoke calmly and politely because I was scared not angry.

The chaps immediate response was well it's because you moved, if you move for only a second it will add five minutes to your scan time so don't move. Now come through here. He took my CD and told me to get onto the bed. I would like to go in feet first please ( on both previous occassions staff said no problem and moved the pillow to the other end.) This chap says oh everybody thinks feet first is best but you should go in head first your head will be near the end of the tunnel. Thats as maybe I say but it is a psychological thing, I want my head to be last in and first out of the tunnel. He continued to argue I just stood there feeling very upset but saying nothing. A woman came from behind the screen and said feet first is fine as she moved the pillow to which the chap said Oh I am going to see to the in-patient. I duly got onto the bed and said could I please try out the emergency button to which she said I will give it to you in a moment shoving the earphones onto my head. I pushed them off saying I need to try the button because ,.....whoosh the earphones were rammed back in place I will give it to you she says.....yes but I need to know ....can you hear your music, breathe deep and slow, don't huff or puff it will make you panic.......too late mate. Close to tears and fighting for breath I said I can't do this please get me off.....ok she says next time get a sedative!!

During my trainig as a nurse, we students were made to experience much of what the patients had to go through, we practised injections on oranges then each other, we bed bathed each other, passed naso-gastric tubes on each other groan, gag! It was good practise for making us more empathetic.

I think all these MRI operators should have to lie in the tunnel for 20 minutes having been given a dose of RA and compressed spine first..I wonder how they would cope.

When I relayed this info to my 38 year old son, he said he was sorry I had had such a rough time, though he didn't understand why I couldn't go in the tunnel, after all it is perfectly safe in there.....this from the tough guy father of three who still needs me or his wife to go into a blood test with him !!

Thought for the day

Don't criticize anyone until you have walked a mile in their shoes

that way you will be a mile away in a new pair of shoes if they react badly !!

wilko roger and out

Sue x

10 Replies

Hi Sue, I sympathise and so should the radiographers if that's what they are called not really sure. Anyway, not nice I know I've had a few in the past but if you have had a panic attack like you have experienced in the past they certainly should have been more sympathetic towards your needs.

What happens now? I would speak to your consultant and tell him/her exactly what happened you need this MRI to find out whats going on.

I know when I enter the tunnel I always close my eyes and never open them until I come out as I would feel very claustrophobic, very difficult to do though.

Hope you have better luck next time.

Take care

mand xx


Hi Sue, So sorry you had to suffer this disgraceful treatment, in my life before RA i had to have an emergency MRI and was having gas and air for the pain in my back, each movement made me scream, as we went into the room with the machine in the radiographer took the gas off me thensaid slide across on to the other bed, when I took too long for them they just pulled me. Ouch was not the right word. It turned out I had a full stenosis of the spine, with their brutal treatment they damaged my spine and I lost the use of my bladder and wee'd all over this womens hand and over the table on to her foot. So Sorry NOT....

Tricia x


Hi Sue,

I'm so sorry that you treated in this disgraceful manner:-(

It's not ok to treat anyone in this way - I don't know why people work with by definition 'sick and anxious' people (if they're having an MRI) if they are unable to feel empathy for them.

I would cut and paste your description of the treatment you received at the MRI department and send it with a covering letter to your rheumatologist and cc. your GP, NRAS and the PCT.

Cece x


Do you know if I was paranoid I would say that these type of people have been planted in their NHS jobs to create a feeling of hopelessness amongst the patients! Perhaps they believe if they act S**T towards everyone, we shall give up going to the doctors! Bunch of whatsits....


what a bppping idiot that radiographer. was patient care..??? .. what a mean moron.. sorry for getting cross ... Ihave more empathy in my little finger than he/she had in his whole body... shocked to say some of my dear colleagues are as bad...... yes maybe a sedative might have helped.... but the could have told you that in a nice way not made you feel threatened!! the way they treated you was appalling.. put a complaint in to your hospital pals ) so this is stopped or write a letter.. vulnerable patients. shouldnt not be bullied and frightened by medical staff... i work with some real uncaring hard cases.. thank good i worked in retail pharmacy.. and for a private care agency first..

told my manager.. staff would benefit from a customer care course.. he looked at me...yes patientts are customers... they pay nhs wages.. we have £$££.. attached to each of our heads....


Oh Sue, that was a truly horrible experience. I've never had an MRI myself but have been present on several occasions when my 17 year old son who has Asperger's has had them.

Asperger's means he is naturally incredibly anxious and also hypersensitive to noise and every other sensory trigger. Sadly there does not seem to be a universal standard of MRI operator. Some have been great and done everything to make him feel at ease. Some have been absolutely awful and made it the situation so much worse than it needed to be.

I think it's time the NHS brought in Patient reps to provide training to their staff so that everyone gets treated with respect and dignity no matter where they are in the country.

Hope the rest of the day has been a lot less stressful.




OMG what a horrible experience. I have never had an MRI scan but my Mum did and she hated them. Lets face it when you have a panic attack its just that, you dont choose to feel that way. The only time i had one in a confined space was crawling (many years ago) through a cave which was more of a tunnel. You couldnt go backwards cause of the folks behind and I thought I was going to die cause my heart pounded so bad. Yes I agree with Ann the NHS should provide better training so that staff can emphathise with their patients.


Hi Sue,

OMG! sorry you had to go through this treatment from others! I have had only one MRI too and I am very claustrophobic! So I too suffer from panic attacks.on mine I was told to lie still, but like you I have active RA and also have degenerative disc diease (which causes me more problems in getting comfortable) and at the time of my MRI scan I was struggling with costcocondriitis (if you have had this you will know how painfull it can be just to breathe normally) I told the nurse all this before getting onto the bed, which my dad walked in the room and helped me with, as he said he could see I was not getting proper help for someone who could barely move properly.

The nurse told my dad he couldnt be in the room, he told her he would go out of the room but only when I was lay down as comfortably as I could, so she let out a little huff!

Once as comfortable as I could be and calmed down as I was panicking. I went through once there I started to want to cough due to the costco I couldnt cough so really tried my best not to but I needed to let it out somehow, so I kind of tried to deep breath best I could to relive some of the uncomfortableness and pain. To which I was shouted at through the earphones and told not to move, I tried to explain and asked for a couple of minutes to sort myself out and was ingnored. Needless to say I had to move again, I was told abruptly this was my last chance move again and they would stop and give up! I tried my best and ended up with tears dripping down my face due to the pain of being stuck so still etc. So I know a little of how you feel.

I do agree with Alison though contact your hospital pals and put a complaint it, so others dont suffer the same as you.


Some people just dont have it in them to empathise unfortunately. Its something we learn I think as we are growing up. It gets learnt from our Parents eg how nuturing and emotionally responsive/sensitive they were with us.

Its a real problem.

I think when they recruit people for health and social care they should screen them for the necessary personal qualities as well as provide the sort of training Sue is suggesting. It takes energy to complain but if you can- and you stick to the facts it should get a good response?

Why not send them a copy of this blogg!!! Then they can see just how disgusted RA patients are with that kind of woeful service.

Take Care Sue and better luck next time. You can prob easily size them up at your next MRI app if you have one. Just dont let them operate the scan if they fall short of what you need to get through the scan?? I think thats totally reasonable.



Thanks so much everyone for your comments and support. It really helps.

and you are all brilliant.

I spoke to my consultants secretary today to tell her I hadn't managed to go through with the scan...she was so lovely telling me not to worry and said she would speak to the consultant about having an open MRI (semi cirle of tube)

My brother who has had several MRI's and hated them all, is currently recovering from spinal surgery but says if I have to try again he will come in with me and the scan will be done at my pace he is brill. But at the moment I feel I would never go back there.

thanks again rheum mates (a Lyn special)

love Sue xx


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