My son was 2 years old when he had his first MRI scan. After a long, painful night in the emergency room, a CT scan confirmed what we feared: Andrew had a tumor behind his left eye. An MRI was needed to get a clearer and more detailed picture of the horror we were facing.
On that first occasion, the MRI tech took him out of my arms and I listened to my son shriek my name over and over again with his arms flailing as he was carried down a very long, very white hallway. "Maaaama!! Maaaama!!! Mamaaaa!!!" Hearing his screams left me heartbroken and incredulous. It seemed like unnecessary trauma for a child who had already been through so much. Following his MRI and a biopsy, Andrew was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
The next time Andrew had a scan, my husband and I requested that we be allowed into the room with him until he fell asleep (from the anesthesia). The anesthesiologist looked at us skeptically, but he let us in. When we walked into the sterile room with the big whirring machine, I think we were all terrified. Andrew was afraid to lie down, and my husband and I were afraid of what the test would find. I was trying to convince Andrew to relax on the table by rubbing his head and telling him he was safe and would be OK. But it wasn't working.
And then my husband was inspired: "The mask is part of your spacesuit!" he told Andrew. "You need to breathe different air because you are going to a different atmosphere!" He told him that the MRI machine was a rocket ship, and he would be traveling to different planets and visiting funny aliens who told jokes. He told Andrew that he if he could be brave, he would get to see amazing things. The tension in the room disappeared. Everyone was smiling. Andrew decided he would wear the mask and be brave. He relaxed on the table, quickly fell asleep, and we left the room.
Since that time, Andrew has had at least 15 more MRIs. He currently returns every six months as part of his follow-up care. With each one, my husband tells a new story. "The mask smells stinky because you are going back in time to see dinosaurs! They fart A LOT! It's OK!" The MRI has doubled as a time machine, a rocket ship to circle the earth, a UFO to visit alien nations and even a brain transfer machine. Following one of his scans, the anesthesiologist returned to our room to tell us that Andrew had done well, and that it had been the smoothest parent involvement he had ever experienced.
Andrew turned 7 this year, and now actually looks forward to his MRIs. (I wish I could say the same.) A month ago, as I was tucking him into bed, he said, "I can't wait for my rocket ship ride so that I can come back and tell my friends what Jupiter and Venus look like!"
Andrew had his most recent MRI three weeks ago. It marked four years post-treatment. His trip into outer space was a success! My favorite part of the story: His tests were all clear.
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