Mumbai: Man who was sucked into MRI machine and survived recounts his ordeal

Updated: Feb 03, 2018, 17:03 IST | Rupsa Chakraborty

Probably the only man alive who knows what it feels like to be sucked in by the powerful magnetic field of an MRI machine, Swami Ramaiah recollects his ordeal

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Every single person in the city was left shocked by the horrific death of Rajesh Maru, who was sucked in the MRI machine at Nair Hospital last week, but only one man knows exactly how it felt. And, when Swami Ramaiah, 43, opened the papers the next morning and read about the incident, it brought back all the traumatic memories from 2014, when he too was pinned against an MRI machine for four hours.

Also read - Mumbai MRI death: Metal detector outside Nair Hospital's scan room was not functional

"When I read about Rajesh Maru's death in the papers, I was extremely shocked. I felt nervous and all the trauma I had gone through came flooding back to me. I have tried really hard to forget the suffering that I went through. I went through series of counselling sessions. But when I read about the incident at Nair hospital, I went numb," said a visibly agitated Ramaiah.

Ramaiah is no stranger to MRIs; in fact, he works as an MRI technician at the Tata Memorial-run Advance Centre for Treatment, Research & Education in Cancer (ACTREC), in Navi Mumbai. Just like Maru, he was aware of the danger of carrying metal near an MRI scanner, but he suffered because of the negligence of a ward boy.

On November 8, 2014, he was operating the MRI when a ward boy walked in with an oxygen cylinder. In an instant, Ramaiah found himself pinned between the machine and the boy holding the cylinder. He remained stuck in this position for four hours, and the impact left him paralysed below the waist, as blood circulation to his lower body was compromised. His urinary bladder was punctured, kidneys were damaged, and he suffered massive internal bleeding.

Three years later, Ramaiah has finally recovered enough to get back on his feet, but is still under treatment to help him walk better. But Ramaiah is still haunted by the mental trauma from the incident, and all of it came flooding back to him after the Nair hospital episode.

Reliving the nightmare
"There have been nights when I would wake up in a cold sweat, just remembering those four hours. I can feel the pain that the deceased must have gone through. He was too young to meet such a fate. But I can't talk about it anymore; I just want to forget about it," he said. Ramaiah, who underwent counselling at the government-run JJ hospital for almost two years, continues to work at the MRI centre at ACTREC.

When asked why he went back to work in the MRI room, he explained, "During counselling, my doctor had told me to overcome my fear, and the best way to do it was to face it. So, even though I was scared to go back to the centre, I didn't give up." Ramaiah, who has a nine-year-old daughter, said his family members and friends kept him strong. "Even after the Nair hospital incident, people close to me feared that I would be traumatised again, so they kept calling to cheer me up," he added. Since the incident, the hospital has taken responsibility of all his medical expenses. Although his legs and hands still tremble, Ramaiah said he is doing better now.

Changes adopted
The hospital also adopted a three-level screening process to keep metal out of the MRI room - a change that Ramaiah highly approves of. "All hospitals should adopt the three-level process, so that even unknowingly, no one takes metal inside and suffers the pain that Maru and I went through. This rules out human error too," he said.

Ramaiah also suggested that the authorities must train all technicians, so that such incidents are not repeated in the future. "The technicians working inside the MRI room, or staffers who bring patients inside, need to be educated about the dos and don'ts," he added.

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