An MRI, and being smart and brave

Last weekend I had an MRI on my knee, because of some funky stuff that’s been going on.  It was uneventful (though I did think to myself: I’m glad it’s December, because my requesting Christmas carols on the headphones doesn’t seem weird): I was chilly in my enormous hospital pants and double gowns, and Grace sat patiently in the waiting room for 30 minutes.  What the experience really did is make me respect, in a new and wild way, my daughter’s bravery.

Let me explain.  Over the summer, Grace participated in a study at MIT where they watched her brain activity on MRI while she did memory games.  She did it for a number of reasons, which included cool pictures of her brain, the opportunity to contribute to science, and an $80 Amazon gift card.  I had never had an MRI at that time, so I didn’t think much of it.  I stood in the room with all the controls and computers and watched her through a thick glass window.  She nodded as a stranger explained what was going to happen and then lay down obediently on the table.  She was slid into the MRI tube, and then I heard her voice over the speaker.  “Grace, say hi,” the technician prompted.

Her voice shook and I heard tears in it as she said, “Hi, Mummy.”  I said hi back and then the tech turned the microphone off and turned to me.  “This is when they lose it, if they’re going to,” he said with a shrug.  I left and spent an hour and a half building a marble run with Whit (not a surprise, is it, that the MIT waiting room had the best engineering toys ever?)  It turns out Grace didn’t lose it, and she spent an hour and a half in the tube playing games with the PhD students on the other side of the thick window.  When she was finished she bounded into the room where Whit and I were sitting holding print-outs of brain images, Amazon gift cards, and lots of stories about the games she had played.

For weeks after her MRI experience Grace regaled people with the stories.  I did not realize the extent of her pride in what she’d done – her justifiable pride – until I lay there on Saturday, listening to the loud whirr of the MRI machine even through the Christmas carols playing in my ears.  My head wasn’t even in the machine; my neck and face stuck out (thank God).

When Grace was a toddler, I always used to say that I wanted her to grow up to be smart and brave.  For some reason, these were the two traits I picked, mostly to combat what felt like the wave of emphasis on being pretty.  Smart and brave.  Brave and smart.  I thought of those two words as I lay there motionless in the MRI machine.  Whether it’s flying alone at the age of 5 or sliding into an MRI machine for two hours in the name of her own understanding and that of the world: she’s smart and brave, and I am proud.

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  1. Posted December 13, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Smart and brave indeed! Hope your knee is ok! I hope you are still able to run?

  2. Marina
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Oh she is, indeed, brave and smart. And you should be proud.
    Being a mild claustrophobic myself, and having researched the phobia, maybe it is comforting to know that such phobia increases in relation to two factors : age, and motherhood. So just to say that you are brave and smart too, just a bit older than sweet Grace.
    Many regards from Athens, Greece and a mother that always thinks your writing is like a warm hug.

  3. Meredith
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    One of my favorite posts ever, because the traits I wished for my eldest daughter? Smart and strong. Way to go, Grace!

  4. Posted December 13, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Lovely, lovely.

    I adore the traits you chose -and nurtured- and how very proud you clearly are of your girl!

  5. Posted December 13, 2012 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    What a wonderful and a great story. Your love for Grace is always so palpable. And yes she is smart and brave. BUt so is her mama. Love this post so much. And as someone fighting my own knee issues and avoiding the doctor right now, I sure hope everything’s okay.

  6. Posted December 13, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Wow. Yes. So smart and brave – both Grace and you.

  7. Posted December 13, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Is it weird that I read this post and thought, “Smart and brave. Grace would definitely be a Gryffindor!”

    admin Reply:

    Not at all weird. It will make her week!

  8. Alix
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Love this story. I always say I want my kids to grow up to be smart and kind, but brave is important, too. Sometimes you need to be brave to be kind (On a related note: Have you read Wonder? Beautiful story about being kind and brave. And the protagonist is ten, so you might be able to relate:))

  9. Posted December 13, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Very brave, that girl of yours. And I love your words as always. I read somewhere that the things you say to your children while sleeping really sink in. Every night I whisper to my little baby girl- “Be bold. Be brave”. I hope mine turns out as lovely as yours.

  10. Posted December 13, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Oh, this is wonderful! Smart and brave are, indeed, incredible things for a human to be. I’ve never had an MRI, but whenever I see them on TV, I think they look impressive and scary. Kudos to both of you for being smart and brave inside of that big, noisy machine.

  11. Posted December 13, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Yes, she is. She comes by it naturally and adds to it magnificently.

  12. Posted December 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Brava to both of you. I love the way that you were able to reflect back on Grace’s experience and that it gave you strength during your own. There’s some beautiful symmetry there. xo

  13. admin
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank You all so much!

  14. Posted December 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Just before I had an MRI (head in), and I lay down on the cold steel tray, they asked if I “wanted anything”. I had no idea what they meant. Then they moved me into the clanking machine and I asked them to move me right back out to give me “anything”.

    In her regular life cadence, Grace emits a strength and bravery. That she heroically mastered the MRI without “anything” besides her will is impressive indeed.


    ps: good healing thoughts to your knee. I’ve been there–hope it doesn’t affect your runs.

  15. Posted December 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    It’s the same two traits I wish for Mason — smart and brave! He is pretty much both, though he could work on brave. I have had an MRI and I know how much that took. The force is strong with that one!xoxo

  16. Tracy
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Love this post. My dad, a lifelong insomniac and lifelong claustrophobic — two traits he gave to his only daughter — has had to have a whole series of MRIs lately, and I feel I am the only one who “gets” that feeling he has as he’s sliding into the tube — absolutely fight or flee. So I know how really brave Grace is to have overcome that on her own at such a young age. Brava to both of you.

  17. Posted December 26, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    I always learn from you, a way to navigate the daily thickets, and even make them lovely.

  18. Posted January 1, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Yes!!! So smart and brave.