Visiting “the big robot” as a 5 year old

The Big Robot (MRI)Today was Lily’s yearly MRI, and it seems fitting that my “Big Medical Tests – When Kids Have to Be Brave Beyond Their Years” post from last year popped up in my memories on Facebook. This year, her brave pillow looks much more worn, and her face looked super nervous as we entered the hospital for the test.

We chose to wait until the last minute to tell her about the test. Last year we tried to prepare her early and that backfired. All she did was worry about it for days (and days, and days).

She cried when she found out that she was going to have to go inside “the big robot” again, so we talked about it throughout our pre-dawn 30 minute drive to the hospital.

We talked about taking pictures, and that the robot just takes pictures REALLY loudly. I asked her if it hurt when mommy took pictures of her. She said no, but that she still doesn’t like the robot.

Talking about taking pictures led to a lot of questions…

“Why do they need pictures of my back?”
“What part of my back?”
“What part of my head are they taking pictures of?”
“Why do they need pictures of my brain?”

We ended up having a great conversation. I reminded her of the boo boo on her back and the surgery she had when she was born. We talked about her shunt. I had her feel her head to find it. She said she could jiggle it a little (this brought a smile and a giggle). We talked about a lot of things, and I’m reeling over how much older she seems and how much more she understand versus last year.

I tried to remind her that the MRI machine is like the tunnel we go through downtown (she LOVES the tunnel), but she wasn’t buying it.

“Mom, it’s a TUBE, not a tunnel! They are not the same.”

When did she get so big? She told me,

“Mom, I’m feeling nervous.”

The word nervous surprised me. I’ve never heard her use that word before.

We talked about feeling nervous that that being scared is OK. We talked about being brave, and that being brave doesn’t mean you are not scared. Everyone is scared. Being brave just means that you are scared, but you do it anyway.

By the time we got to the hospital, the tears were past. She still seemed nervous, but OK at the same time.

She asked if she could hold my hand during the test, and I had to say no. My husband and I held her hands last year, but as the MRI moved her farther into the tube, she couldn’t reach us, and this seemed to cause her a lot of stress. This was why we ended up having to sedate her. When she wasn’t holding our hands, all she could focus on was getting our hands back in hers.

So… no hands.

I told her we would be in the room with her and that we would be able to see her with our eyes the entire time.

I told her we would fill her brave pillow and her stuffed cat with our love and hugs, and that any time she needed us she could hug them and know that we were hugging her back.

She asked me what I would do if I put all of my love into the pillow and didn’t have any left inside of me. Confession: My heart melted a bit at this question. 

I assured her that people’s bodies never run out of love or hugs… That my body would make more as soon as the pillows were full.

By the time the nurses were taking vitals, she was happily coloring her sparkly troll bag & chatting with the anesthesiologist (we follow all preps for anesthesia, just in case we need it).

I started feeling more confident in our decision to try the test without anesthesia (again). It’s so hard to know if how we choose to handle situations like these is right or wrong. In the car, these questions kept swirling in my head…

Will asking her to do this just make her fear worse?
Or will it build resilience within her?

Would putting her under anesthesia be the kinder,
more humane thing to do? Is it worth the medical risks?

Is the choice to sit in the room,
but not hold her hand or touch her legs the right one…
or will she just feel more alone and more scared?

I had to give myself multiple mental pep talks…

  • Go with your gut!
  • Don’t second guess yourself!
  • You know your kid!

But it’s always hard.

Today, I’m happy to report that she ROCKED this test! I know she was scared during the test, because when she was done, she hugged me tighter than she ever has, and didn’t seem to want to let go. However, she also had a look of pride on her face… and I knew we made the right call.

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