Nothing For Granted

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I had an MRI the other morning.

It was early. 7:30am.

The only people in the waiting area were me and, sitting across, a mom in her forties and her son, a wiry kid with glasses who looked to be about 11.

He was still in his pajamas, squished into the chair playing his Nintendo as his mom filled out her forms.

I guessed she had nobody else to watch him that early, so she dragged him down to play video games while she went in for her scan.

The tech came out, called my name and theirs. We all got up and followed him inside.

Walking down the hall, the kid asked how long it would be.

About an hour and a half, came the answer.

Well, that’s better than 2, said the mom.

The tech handed me a gown to change into and I entered my room.

Minutes later, I stepped out wrapped in hospital blue.

The boy was in the room next to mine.


His mom whispered to the tech.

“You don’t ask him anything about what’s on the forms, right?”

The tech looked at her. Confused. “Excuse me?”

Even more quietly…

“I don’t want him to know what he has.”


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41 responses

41 responses to “Nothing For Granted”

  1. Beautiful piece of writing, Jonathan.

    I found myself in an ER this past week, ended up getting diagnosed with a fractured metatarsal bone in my left foot. While there, I witnessed one family bringing in a screaming child, clearly in some kind of pain, and a very tattooed man in his mid-30s, perhaps, limping in with burns all over his legs.

    This week, I’ve been hobbling around myself with crutches and a walking boot. This will get better, but for others it may not. For the first time in my life, I have real empathy for those who can’t walk, for those in some kind of chronic pain.

    Nothing for granted, indeed.

    • nora says:

      Maia, about a month ago, I had a sudden and totally unexpected back injury (still don’t know what caused it) – that left me unable to do much of anything other than lie on a yoga mat and watch TV all day for a week – I couldn’t even deal with sleeping on a bed. I got better – I’m back to working out somewhat normally now, but I’m with you, for the first time I REALLY understand what it meant to have back pain, and am a bit in awe of people that somehow manage to go to their jobs and/or do other day-to-day activities despite it.

  2. Heartbreaking, ugh, just heartbreaking.

    But I hear the message, loud and clear.

  3. Hiro Boga says:

    Oh, Jonathan–I hope all is well with you, and with that little boy. Wishes for healing and good health…

  4. Chris says:

    Jonathan, you have an exquisite way of putting forth a powerful message with very few words.

    It’s amazing what we take for granted. I was vacationing in Cuba last week (I’m Canadian) and what these people have pales in comparison to our material possessions. However, they more than make up for it with their unwavering passion and pride. I was truly awed by how amazing Cubans are even though many of them earn much less than $100 a month. One of the lifeguards on the beach remarked that my camera was worth three times as much as his house!!

  5. dave r. says:

    interesting observation…do you tell you child or not? if you do, how much?

  6. Kyle Young says:

    Jonathan, amen, is the only response I can give. Every minute of life is so precious, and at times like the one you experienced, that realization rocks your world. It was three years ago this week that I sat waiting for my husband to complete his first routine colonoscopy, only to hear the words ‘You have cancer’ coming out of his mouth. Thankfully, early detection saved his life, but the seismic shift that occurred that day redrew the landscape of our lives. Sending all good thoughts your way that your MRI brings nothing but the very best news. I’ll go through the day – and this week in particular – with a little more awareness, and a lot more thanksgiving.

  7. As a parent, that’s a dreaded scenario you presented, Jonathan. As someone who has been professional & personal support to parents in that situation, my heart muscle flexes. This is one of the reasons I left social services work, because I bring the pain and suffering home with me. In times of great need and minimal resources, the paperwork increases and the “waiting for assistance” red tape is endless. Thank you for sharing what “there for the grace of God go I.”

    Blessings Jonathan!

  8. Fred Leo says:

    In 2002, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. This story brings back so many emotions and memories about dreaded MRIs. I was very lucky in 2002, and my prayers were answered. But, it is great to receive a reminder to take nothing for granted.

  9. John Sherry says:

    Sometimes I think it’s best not to know certain things and other times I feel it’s imperative. The truth is when we can handle it we’re given it. I pray the young guy gets to be an old one and that everything is OK in your world too Jonathan. I never take for granted how much you contribute no less than in poignant stories like this. I wish everyone a healthy day in body, heart and mind.

  10. Jonathan,

    Very intriguing piece. What was your MRI for, if you don’t mind my asking? I hope you are well.
    Also, I have to admit that I am not sure what is going on with the mother and young boy, other than the suggestion that you had thought it was the mother who was there for her own treatment. But that is just fine, as the real take away is about getting the most out of every moment, which I wholeheartedly am down with more and more.

    Best wishes,


  11. Jonathan-
    I’m wishing the best for you and for that boy and his family.

  12. Beautiful post and really hits at the core of how our healthcare system is shifting. With my patients, I never focus on a diagnosis (it’s insurances that demand a “label”). According to Jeffrey Bland, PhD “the Father of Functional Medicine”, it’s a new form of discrimination to be labeled with an illness. The psychology of health and illness is such a powerful and overlooked aspect of care. Identity is important. What a supermom!

  13. Jonathan Fields says:

    Hey guys, thanks for asking. I’m fine. The post was really about what I witnessed and experienced. As a dad. A husband. A brother and son. And a person.

  14. Oof, that stopped me dead in my tracks. Thank you for this shot of intense perspective.
    So much power in this post, so much to be thankful for, so much to consider and such a good reminder. Always the challenge to stay awake and engaged and take nothing for granted.

    Good to hear you are fine.

  15. Much like Kathy your post left me a breathless with that shot of reality. I’m thinking of that little guy and his Mother. I really can’t imagine what that must be like for her.

    There is always so much to be grateful for and with that the huge gift of being able to pay it forward.

    Be very well.

  16. Yeah, I’ve been there. It was so strange and surreal to explain to Gracie, as we were driving to admit her to UCSF & get her MRI under the care of the pediatric neurosurgeons, that the reason we couldn’t go on vacation the next day was because there was something in her brain that didn’t belong there, that was making her throw up and have headaches and be dizzy and her body not work right, and so the doctors are going to take it out.

    Now when stressful crap happens I say to myself “well at least no one might die.” And I remember that moment when I was afraid she would, which gives me so much perspective.

    The most amazing thing is that Gracie handled it better than any of us. She was, and is, so matter of fact about it. Like her name, she handled it with grace.

  17. Kat Jaibur says:

    You had me with the title. You finished me with the last line. Beautiful, powerful, poignant, and so, so true. I am struck by the quiet dignity and courage of this mother, and her desire to protect her son. The good news: we can do more than just feel for them. We can send prayers. Amazing things can happen. As one of my friends says, “Prayer changes everything.”

  18. Thanks for this reminder, Jonathan. I am aware of how healthy and privileged I am and seek to make the most of my gifts.

    Which means not driving myself like a work mule all the time. Your post is a reminder to relish our lives and not get too wadded up about work.

  19. Brooke says:

    Can’t say that I fully understand their perspective, but I can certainly relate. Over a year ago, I had a freak orthopedic problem that has kept me out of work ever since (work-related, so I legally can’t work). Two months ago, I had a second surgery that “will fix it all”, but I haven’t been able to walk yet. Hoping for the best, so I can still continue to travel the world, and hike, and teach Pilates.

    I already lived a fairly minimal life, generous to those who tried their hardest, but even moreso now. And I have even more world-changing ideas, once I get the opportunity to get out there with them…

  20. Mary Jane says:

    Poignant and very well said. I worked as a staff nurse in medical oncology (cancer) for 17 years. I was always inspired by the grace and bravery of my patients. Life is very short and very precious. Your post is a timely reminder.

  21. Jenny Fenig says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. I have been inspired by my late sister Julie these last few weeks. Julie died of a brain tumor at 12 after undergoing surgery, radiation, chemo, you name it. She never complained and handled it all with grace, courage and humor.

    I was the sister gifted with good health … never had to deal with hospitals, never even broke a bone. Well, this month as I was getting close to birthing my second child, I had to come face-to-face with my fear of surgery and hospitals. My son was breech, which meant I wasn’t getting the au natural homebirth I had dreamed of. Nope, c-section was it. I was resisting big time.

    Then I chose to have a conversation with my sister to ask her why this was happening. She replied: “Jenny, there are some things we can’t understand.” From there I got the courage to walk through the fear, remember what she had been through, and know that I was getting a huge prize on the other side: my child. And I now have the battle scar to remember the strength that we all have deep down inside.

    Sending that mother and her child lots of love … and best wishes to you Jonathan for good health!

  22. Kristi Hines says:

    I saw an accident the other morning on the way to work, and I’m sure there was a fatality. I try never to take anything for granted, because even the most routine day may be the last.

    That said, I hope you receive good results. I had an MRI several years ago due to some nasty headaches, and fortunately everything turned out ok. Probably the relief of knowing I was fine and not worrying so much made the headaches eventually go away.

  23. Maggie Baez says:

    Wow is all I can say… Thank you for sharing your insight Jonathan… Every day I get an influx of newsletters, blog entries, etc into my inbox. I tend to get lost in all the info (sometimes that’s a good kind of lost). But these insights are why I subscribe to you.. Thank you

  24. Dakota says:

    Heartbreaking and motivating.
    My time is limited.
    I need to make the most of it.
    It goes back to the Steve Jobs address at Stanford.
    Hope the boy pulls through.

  25. Marguerite says:

    Jonathan, whatever brought you into that hospital, I wish for you only the best outcome and my prayers are with you and your family – as well as for that young boy and his family.

    I have several conditions that will only get worse over time. One of them took almost 9 years to diagnose. I’ll be back in hospital next week for a wee bit of a procedure on my lungs because they’re not quite sure what’s going on…including testing that keeps coming positive for a blood clot that no one can seem to find. It’s all good, though. I look at people in there on the days that I have to go in that have it SO much worse than I do.

    I couldn’t possibly imagine going through what that mother is going through. I’m beyond grateful both my sons are so healthy. We don’t always see the blessings gracing us every day and I thank you for this incredibly powerful reminder.

  26. Jen says:

    Wow. What a powerful moment. I hope everything turns out alright for the little one.

  27. amy volk says:

    heart out of chest. ugh. thanks for the gentle reminder that the days are precious.

  28. Kim says:

    Your words touched me so deeply – such a beautifully written post. I’m so glad you’re fine and the sweet woman and her son will be in my thoughts for some time.

  29. Matty says:

    Jonathan, what a curve ball. Based on your initial assumption in the waiting area, I didn’t expect THAT at the end. It goes to show that not everything is as it appears to be. As a parent and husband, it makes you appreciate what you have.

  30. Jonathan,
    I love your posts that are short and direct – to the point! This one was truly to the point and how funny your assumption to think that the mom was there for the MRI….normal reaction when we see an adult accompanied by a child at a doctors office,etc.

    The role of a mother, father, parent – to protect –

    Thank you and thank you for the subtle reminder to not take life for granted,

  31. azi says:

    Sensitively observed/recounted but oof, this chocked me up.

  32. Sam Maule says:

    I read this post as I’m sitting in the hospital next to my wife who just had a masectomy operation this morning. The post brought tears to my eyes. Couldn’t agree more.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Sam, sending healing intentions and wishes for a full and fast recovery to both you and your wife. Thanks so much for sharing your moment

  33. Jonathan,

    A touching and thought-provoking story to say the least. Thanks for sharing.

  34. I have had those moments with my son, wanting to spare his tiny body the pain of procedures and to shield him from the knowledge of possible medical outcomes.
    Now he is a strong, powerful, kind, 18 year old making his way in the world.

    This week I have had those moments with my father, wanting to spare his fragile body and confused mind the pain of procedures as he fights his way to the end of life.
    Thankfully I have many years of memories of the strong, powerful, kind man he has been to me and to so many people.

  35. Benny says:

    Short and to the point. Hope you’re MRI is well and hope that little boy stays strong. Definitely take nothing for granted

  36. […] Jonathan Fields recounts an early morning encounter in a hospital waiting room in Nothing for granted. :click: […]

  37. Mark Freddy Farrell says:

    I design and sell Medical Equipment. I often get over to the Kids Hospital here in Melbourne Australia. I have seen alot in my 6 years at the Hospitals I visit. But remember the first time I was at the Royal Childrens Hospital, I was in the Cafe having my morning coffee, when a Mother with 2 young children walked in, the son, active and full of Beans, the other, his sister I presume, Walking with a Drip Stand,Head Shaven, she was no more than 7 years old. The Mother, eyes red, very Tired looking, but trying to hold it together. My thoughts of admiration and Pity hit me all at once. In my days as an orderly I would see many patients walk in the Door, some with life threatening illnesses, waiting for transplants, cystic fybrosis patients waiting for someone to die, so they could receive new lungs in order to just Breath. 4 emotions I would notice on their journey, Self Pity, Anger, Acceptance, and then Fight. The silent heros are those that care for them, usually unnoticed,that deserve our recognition.

    Stay Happy, Stay Healthy!


    Mark Freddy Farrell.