“Are you claustrophobic?” the MRI technician now asked as we walked toward the testing room.
“Not really,” I answered both times.
So with that settled, he and I talked of Texas and trees and the dollhouse he’d built his daughter for Christmas. As he inserted the contrast needle, he said, “This’ll sting a little.” It did. “I’m brave, I won’t faint,” I joked. “The contrast will feel cold as it goes in,” he told me. It did. The cold began to slide up my arm, but I still felt only slightly light-headed, so I was proud of myself.
I’d expected, since the area to be imaged was on the inside crook of my arm, that I’d lie on my back and slide into the scanner feet first. That wouldn’t be hard. I could do that.
Then he told me that, instead, I’d lie on my stomach and go into the tube head-first, with my arm extended out above my head. OK, I could do that. But one last request: he’d need me to twist my arm around so that it would face bottom-side-up. (Just how could that work?)
On my stomach, with a pillow pushing my neck awkwardly back, I stared at my twisted, upside-down arm. My shoulder felt wrenched. My arm lost feeling and then turned cold.
Then the noise began: First, it sounded like a jackhammer, then a ship’s fog horn, then a tennis shoe pounding around in the dryer. Then a pause. Then a heartbeat. And a pause. Then all the sounds came at me simultaneously. One, two, three, four … eleven tennis shoe bangs. Silence. Fog horn. Heartbeat. Then all together again.
For 40 minutes.
Hand numb, shoulder aching, pillow pushing into my throat, I began to have difficulty swallowing. I began to panic.
I knew I must do something to take my mind off the desire to crawl out of the machine. So I began to think of the other time I’d been near an MRI scanner.
That time, Patrick went in feet first, on his back, and Phil and I got to sit huddled close to his frightened 8-year-old ears, whispering courage-giving words through the sound of the jackhammer.
In the tube, on my own, I wondered how he did it. He’d been so afraid of the needle beforehand. The machine had looked and sounded big and scary. But, he, in his frightened, little-boy body, had stayed still for almost an hour. How?
Because he believed his mama and daddy, who whispered in his ear that all would be OK. He’d been calmed as we’d stroked his head, reminding him that we were there for him, that we weren’t leaving, that it would be over soon, and that all really would end well.
The auditory overload that is the MRI tube faded away for me as I thought of our little boy and how he’d accomplished this same feat at age eight. Patrick endured his hour, even though afraid, because he believed the adults who loved him. They said he’d make it, and they seemed to know more about the situation than he did. They understood the after-MRI future better than he did. So he relaxed. He trusted our character, and the words we spoke.
On my MRI day, I didn’t have my mom and dad whispering words of comfort in my ear. But as I began to pray, I did have words from my Father, whispered into my ear by His Spirit. No one was there next to my head, but Someone was there with me in the tube. His words to me:
“Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
On my MRI day, I could trust my Father. When no one else could enter the tube with me, He could. When He spoke true words to me through His word, I could believe Him. For He does not lie.
Stop and think on His words from Joshua 1:9. Don’t read the sentence as platitude. Don’t skim it quickly and move on. Read the words as they are: the kindness of the Maker of the universe spoken to you. Don’t be frightened. Don’t be dismayed. God, who could not ever leave His child, is with you.
Wherever you go.
In and out of MRI tubes, and beyond.