My medical status continues to be a non-stop parade of bad news, and no one still has any idea what the hell is actually causing my symptoms. The latest was an alarming finding (delivered in a probably over-alarmist way by the doctor, who implied that I might drop dead at any second - I have since been told that this is wildly unlikely)... which may well have nothing to do with my actual symptoms. In other words, I may have TWO quite serious medical conditions, one asymptomatic and discovered by chance, and one causing severe symptoms and still undiagnosed. Obviously, I am hoping that the one is actually the cause of the symptoms, but it probably isn't.
[Unless you are a doctor, any amateur diagnoses or advice will be deleted with great prejudice. DO NOT EMAIL THEM TO ME, EITHER. Without exception, they have been both unoriginal and useless, in addition to NOT WANTED. I am not naming the alarming finding in the hope of warding off that. If you are
a doctor (or a nurse, etc), feel free to email me and I will tell you so you can give it your best shot.]
But what I am actually here to describe is something of possibly general interest, which is a very unusual medical test I just had, which was an MRI of my abdominal veins and arteries.
I have now twice had doctors say, "You must do this scan INSTANTLY before you drop dead/need emergency surgery!" only to do it and then find that no one's rushing to get me my results if a weekend's approaching. Guess maybe it wasn't such an emergency after all?
That was a truly challenging test. They dress you in a hospital gown, put a needle in your elbow, put heavy weights on your stomach and chest, drape totally inadequate blankets over you (the room was freezing), then slide you into a narrow tube. It lasts over an hour-- I think mine lasted about one hour, fifteen minutes. (It was done both without and with contrast, which may have been why it was so long.)
I asked if I could listen to music, but they said no, because I would be getting constant instructions to breathe in a specific rhythm or speed, and also to hold my breath. It turns out that when I am trying not to stress out (possibly also because I have done a lot of meditation) I tend to breathe very slowly. So I was mostly being told to speed up. And also to hold my breath for up to 30 seconds, often multiple times and in quick succession. With weights on my chest and stomach. In a tube with a completely white ceiling about four inches from my face. For over an hour.
So there I am, trying to breathe fast (as instructed) but without hyperventilating, WITH WEIGHTS ON MY TORSO, right after holding my breath for 30 seconds at a time, three times in a row in quick succession.
I think, "I could really use some music to psyche myself up for this… Well, I'll play it in my mind."
Me (in head): I am not growing old in Salem's Lot!/Success is my only motherfucking option, failure's not!/You can do anything you set your mind to, man.
Radiology technician: "Hey, you just changed the rhythm of your breathing. Can you make it faster and more evenly paced, please?"
A few minutes later, while I was really hitting the wall for basically the same reason, I tried again:
Me (in head): I am not throwing away my shot! I am not throwing away my shot!
Radiology technician: "Can you breathe faster, please?"
Me (in head): I’m takin this horse by the reins makin’/Redcoats redder with bloodstains!
Radiology technician: "Can you breathe slower
? This test has thirty minutes to go - I don't want you to wear yourself out."
Me (gives up on musical inspiration.)
Me (thinks): "This will be a great new way to torment DJ when I write his third book." (He's my character from "Werewolf Marines," who is actually a DJ, uses music in his head to psyche himself up, and also has ADHD, hyperactive variety.)
Meanwhile, there were intermittent but frequent and extremely loud banging and screeching noises. It sounded exactly like someone was hammering on the tube.
As I said, it was a genuinely difficult test, and I know it wasn't just me because I am not used to finding physical/mental challenges of that sort difficult. For instance, I'm not claustrophobic. But after an hour plus of lying absolutely still in that tube with the roof four inches from my face, with weights on my chest and stomach, unable to think of anything but the test because doing so messed up the test, while breathing in a way that I would use to induce a panic attack in the office so I can teach people how to cope with panic attacks… I was getting a little claustrophobic.
When I got out of there, my gown was drenched in sweat. I think 90% of that was from physical exertion. Breathing fast and deep with weights on your breathing apparatus is hard
After the test, the radiology guy told me that it was probably the second-hardest MRI to do and it was especially tough to have it as my first one.
"What's the hardest?" I asked.
"Well, this is pretty rare… but there's a cardiac MRI where people have to hold their breath for one minute."
I asked, "Can people really do that? Cardiac patients
can do that?"
"People always think they can't do it," he said. "But then they really put their minds to it, and they find that they can."You can do anything you set your mind to, man,
He then added, "Sometimes they can't, though. And then we do it for 30 seconds, have them take a breath, and do another 30 seconds. But you did great! We got perfect images!"
But after all that, it will probably be yet another insanely expensive test that shows nothing. (I won't get the results till Monday, probably.)
It's either unfortunate or just as well that I politically opposed about 90% of all American military interventions since WWII, and also have an issue with following orders that I personally find stupid or pointless or are issued by people whose intelligence I don't respect. Because I am really good
at following difficult orders. Hopefully I will not have cause to discover whether or not I can hold my breath for one minute if I really set my mind to it, man.