Week of Facing Fears: Jen Epstein faces small spaces!

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It's a day of many firsts; my first time in scrubs; my first time in an MRI machine; and my first attempt at beating claustrophobia.

The plan is to conquer my fear of small spaces by getting into one. First, I need a clear understanding of what's about to happen. Lucky for me, Michelle McCormick of BayCare Outpatient Imaging Center has the answers to my many questions.

"The first thing we like to do is totally explain the exam to alleviate their unknown fears, then we can provide you with headphones so we can communicate with you during the exam," said Michelle. "You can talk to us we can talk to you. And we give you a call button so if you panic while you're in there and you need to come out and you squeeze it and we come running." 

The call button is key to me staying panic free; so is an exit strategy. Michelle has that plan too.

"It's open at both ends, so there's air flow through there. So you can always crawl out if you have to. Most people that are claustrophobic want to know that they have control of the situation rather than someone else having control over it, "said Michelle.

Michelle's been in radiology for thirty years, so I trust her. But I still had more questions. Like exactly how small is the machine?

"You're going to expect that it's about 60 centimeters around; the tube is really long; your head will go in, depending on what part of the body we are scanning," said Michelle.

When it's finally time to get inside, I take long and steady breaths to keep calm.

"I have had many people say to me that they either say their rosary while they're in there. Or they do their yoga breathing while they're in there," said Michelle.

It also helps that the technicians keep contact with me the entire time I'm inside. After a few minutes, I emerge panic free and have successfully faced my fear!