Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Joys of Modern Medical Technology

Yesterday was a blast! (Wink.  Wink.)  I got to spend almost five hours at Chicago's Northwestern Hospital either undergoing a test or waiting for a test to begin.

It couldn't have been a more perfect day to hang out inside a hospital.  Outside, a blistery rain fell without pause, clouds turned mid-afternoon into sunset, and the media went bonkers as only the media can with warnings about the first blizzard of the year.  I even wore my snow boots in case I had to trudge through a foot of snow.

I've trudged through two grand mal seizures in my life, the first more than twenty years ago and the second in 1998.  No one could figure out what caused my brain to go haywire the first time around.  I was under a lot of stress (separated from my husband and considering a solo move across the country).  Still, I'd been emotionally stretched to my limits before and never ended up on the floor, unconscious, flailing about like a live fish out of water.

The cause of the second seizure was a no brainer, you should pardon the expression.  My dear Dr. Rovner switched my anti-seizure medication because I apparently didn't need such a strong one that, among its many drawbacks, was hard on the liver.  I adjusted easily to Neurontin and thought I'd won the lottery until about eight months later when my husband (Yep, I kept him) found me unconscious AGAIN on the bedroom floor.  The force of the seizure catapulted me out of bed during my sleep.

"Does she have any of the old medicine?" Dr. Rover asked my husband.  "If she does, have her eat a piece of toast and then take a few pills with water.  And get her to the hospital as soon as you can."

I was shaken, afraid, and unable to drive.  Every little ping in my head sent me into a near panic attack. One Saturday not long after the second seizure, I darted out of a Pier One with my husband fast on my heels.

"I'm going to have another one," I said.  "I just know it."

My husband led me to the car, opened the door, and had me sit down, my head between my knees.

"Just breathe," he said.  "You're going to be just fine.  It's all in your head."

"Very funny," I mumbled.

I was fine and have been ever since.  Well, not exactly.  I've been seizure free, but my old/current medication has been shown to decrease bone density, lower libido, possibly ruin gums.  And wouldn't you know it?  I'm standing on the precipice of osteoporosis about a sliver away.  My readings used to be off the charts in the "right" direction.  But they ain't anymore.  And my libido?  Well, I'll leave that up to your imagination.  Have a ball!

So, after much thought and consultation, I've decided to bite the bullet and switch to yet a third medication that promises to prevent seizures while at least not lowering my bone density any further and actually improving my libido.  (I'll believe that one when I feel it.)

Thus, the reason why I spent yesterday afternoon having first an EEG and then an MRI.  My new neurologist wants to make sure that there isn't anything funny going on in that brain of mine that would dictate another plan of action.

My memories of EEGs past were not particularly pleasant.  Flashing lights, electrodes hooked up to head and chest, hyperventilating --- all in the name, I guess, of seeing if they could coax another seizure out of me.  Thank God, they didn't. 

Today, because I hadn't had a seizure in what seemed like forever, I determined not to be bothered.  But the hyperventilating bit got old fast, my mouth felt dry, my lips cracked.  And then the aftermath of trying to use a wash cloth with warm water to dissolve all the goop the technician had used to hold the electrodes onto my head left me looking more like Phyllis Diller before she had all that plastic surgery and a new hair stylist.

The MRI with all the banging and jackhammer sounds that even a good pair of ear plugs couldn't muffle got to me in the end.  At first, I greeted each new sound as part of an orchestral piece or the music for a new dance number.  But with only 4 minutes to go, the sound I initially heard as a boat whistle turned into a frantic bong that penetrated my head like rock concert speakers on steroids. 

And then it was over, and I was free to get dressed and go home.  Just like that.  Now, don't get me wrong.  As far as tests go, I know these two are no biggies.  And, unlike some of the people in the waiting room who were suffering from potential diseases  - maybe on pins and needles waiting and praying that a cancerous tumor had shrunk or an artery in the brain had been repaired - I was one of the lucky ones.

For that, I am thankful.