This here is what you call two blog posts in a row, folks.
Yesterday was a whirlwind of appointments and cancellations, and reschedulings of that same appointment. At one o’clock, I spent an hour with Dr. Hasan, the neurologist who might just be Danny DeVito. His assistant, a chatty Leesburger-by-birth, turned both my arms palms-up on a lap pillow and doused me with a good amount of conductivity gel and proceeded to send varying degrees of electrical shock through my arms. The shocks felt like snick, and then like tick, and then like WHOP. My fingers twitched, and snicked, and then spasmed. All the while she kept a running commentary, I think, to keep my mind off the fact she’d been brushing my arms against an electrical fence for 10 minutes.
I noticed there was still sticky residue on the armpit of my elbow, from the tape that held my IV in place, along with a golf ball sized bruise. I mentioned this to her, and she went at the sticky residue with an alcohol wipe and a merry stream of chat. My elbow armpit protested mightily. It hates being touched, fondled, pricked, spindled, handled or even breathed on. She left the room and told the doctor I was all finished. I was still sitting, bathed in panic sweat. “You sure sweat a lot,” the doctor said when he seated himself. He said the same thing the day before, when he was releasing me from the hospital. “Your palms are sweaty. Why?” Jeeez. Right back atchya, Mister DeVito. And because THEY WERE TOUCHING MY ELBOW ARMPIT. They’d just drawn blood the day before… Doesn’t everyone do this? If the cat tries to groom me there, I punch the cat. Nobody gets a free pass. Yeah, so that happened.
He then took me through a battery of tests that consisted of hitting my arms and fingers with a rubber mallet, poking me with an acupuncture pin (“Can you feel this?” Uh, YEAH I feel that…) and noting my sweatiness at least once more. Good times.
Then he had me change rooms and called Judi in while he got his case organized. A literal case. A black leather satchel of the type you saw doctors using in movies from the distant past. Also he prepared my diagnosis. Judi, always perceptive, immediately noticed the current-conducting arm jizz and asked me what the world was going on in there.
Two Discoveries. I have severe to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome, especially in my dominant (left) hand. This was a complete surprise. But apparently Igor’s zaps were enough to floor a small donkey, and I barely felt them in my left hand. This explains the numbness, tingling, and weakness in my arm from my Saturday episode.
A totally unrelated diagnosis was that my sweating, my extraordinarily high red blood cell count and my descriptions of my Saturday fainting fits all led him to believe I had sleep apnea. Would I be able to do a sleep study? they do them right there in the office.
I have to admit that I was relieved on both counts. Also, apparently he wasn’t just being a short balding bag of dicks by noting my sweating on three different occasions. It was a symptom.
So, long story short, after a whirlwind of appointments and cancellations, and reschedulings of that same appointment, I went into the sleep study center last night at 9:30, wearing the closest thing to pajamas I own, and carrying my special pillow that my mommy bought for me. Yes, she really did. It’s not nice to mock one’s mommy so lay off, haters!
The young guy in blue scrubs had me wait in the office while I filled out 4 pages of forms with questions like “are you irritable at work?” (damn right I am! and proud of it!) and “do you fall asleep in the middle of conversations?” (It’d explain a lot wouldn’t it, Lady?) and then brought me back into the sleep center.
He took me to a chair next to an IV stand, where my crazy wig of electrodes was hanging. He wrapped two belts around my middle–one around my stomach, and one around my chest. He put two leads just below my collarbone, a dozen electrodes he fastened to my scalp with paste, along with two on my jaw muscles and two right next to my eye sockets. He stuck an O2 monitor in my nostrils and then he asked “Do you need to use the restroom?” too little, too late buddy. I’m peeing the bed now…
Then he ushered me into a quaint little room across the hall. It had a double bed, a couple night tables, one on each side, a few benign pictures, and a tall locker that said “Please organize all drugs alphabetically” on its duct tape label (maybe it’s a test of some kind…).
He told me to lie down. I scrunched up my pillow really good and did as he asked. Then he plugged all my electrodes into the interface next to the bed. Last, he taped an O2 monitor to my fingertip. He had me blink five times, take 4 deep breaths, lift each leg three times, swallow twice, and then he shut off the light.
Now, I was supposed to sleep 4 hours between 10 and 5AM. I didn’t think it would be that much of a challenge. At 11:30 I finally put my iPhone down and decided I was sleepy enough to do this. Of course, with my eyes shut, my body went into hyperawareness of the sheer amount crap that was hanging off it. If you think it might be hard to sleep with wire dreadlocks and toothpicks in your nose, you might be right. But the worst thing was my own confounded morality. I had tried to fall asleep with my clothes on. Remember earlier, when I said I arrived wearing the “closest thing I owned to pajamas?” My own sweatpants and a tee shirt slowly began strangling me. The blankets kept tangling and sliding off the bed. I tried every technique I could think of to clear my head and reach a REM state. I traced old trails along the Pistol River, turning over every rock in my mind. I spoke in tongues, trying to drown out my inner monologue. I tried to imagine the nose prickings were an aeronautics mask and I was flying an F-16. I tried to recall every Japanese word form every anime I’d ever watched. Finally, I gave up and lost my socks and sweatpants. I left my undies on because there was an infrared camera in the room to record my movement at night, and nobody needs to see that.
With the removal of the lower clothing, I finally fell asleep. I woke up a couple times to flop to a less-done side, felt wires dragging all over my face, like insects crawling about me, but managed to keep my stuff together long enough to make it until around 3:30AM. That’s when I finally had to pee.
I hit the intercom button and the guy responded. “Got to use the restroom?” Yep. He unhooked me from the morass of wires and let me do my thing. He told me “I’ll wake you and end the study in another 90 minutes or so.”
No good. That’s the last time I slept last night.
At 5 AM he came in, unhooked me, and had me fill out a post-study questionnaire. (“How did you sleep?” Like a rock. A very very, active, annoyed rock that needed to pee for 6 hours.) He scheduled a new appointment for me to go over the results with the doctor.
I got into the car, and just as I was settling in, I looked up to see him standing at the door of the sleep clinic with the pillow in hand. The pillow my mommy bought me. Don’t judge. I doubt you’d have done any better, and I’m just a sweaty guy who can take a hell of a lot of electrical shocks.