Claustrophobic Patient Praises FirstMRI Experience
June 2008 by Annaliese Jakimides
Orville Olson is a disabled Vietnam Marine veteran. A Waterville resident, he finally had to sell his restaurant in his hometown
when it became impossible for him to continue the heavy workload. Olson’s muscles are “dying” from secondary exposure to
Agent Orange, resulting in a long list of medications, full-time oxygen use, regular check-ups for “the cancer,” as he calls it,
and a number of tests, including MRIs.
The problem is that Olson is claustrophobic, a condition that worsened in 2001 after 9/11, and magnetic resonance imaging,
or MRI, requires the patient to lie still in a partially enclosed space. Olson has had a number of MRIs, all of them a terrifying experience. “I’ve had them in Florida, in Boston, and in southern Maine. Every time I was scared to death,” he says. MRIs
are not problematic for everyone, but for the claustrophobic they are acutely fearful experiences.
Recently, his doctors noted “something” they couldn’t accurately diagnose without the information an MRI can provide.
Olson was in a panic. They sent him to one place and then another. He couldn’t do it, he says. It was impossible for him to
stay in the machine, or magnets as they are called, even the “open” ones, which are far less confining than closed machines.
“I was scared to death,” he says. “And then finally they sent me to FirstMRI in Bangor.” In addition to using high-definition
magnets with state-of-the-art software, FirstMRI, founded in 1985, has more experience with the technology than any other
MRI service in the state.
But Olson says it doesn’t matter how good the equipment is if you “can’t stay there and get the thing done.” Olson and his
doctors now know that what they couldn’t see was a cyst. “If the people at FirstMRI weren’t so caring, I don’t know what
would have happened. We might never have known what it was. I had [MRIs] before where the people played music and
told me it’s gonna be OK. But it wasn’t OK. It was scary. My heart was pounding. I couldn’t stand it. But the people at FirstMRI,
they stayed with me the whole time. They just kept talking. They were funny and caring and professional. That’s hard to do all
at once. I couldn’t see them, but I knew I wasn’t alone.”
Kathy Merrithew, technical supervisor for FirstMRI, agrees with Olson’s description of his fear when he arrived at the office
on State Street in Bangor. But Merrithew says that their job is to make sure the patient comes through the experience as
easily as possible. “We do whatever is necessary. And he was so appreciative.”
And how did Merrithew know that? Olson sent “Kathy and the girls special chocolates I ordered right from California.”