Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It all started with a simple eye exam......

No, not THAT eye test!

THIS kind!

photo credit

I went for my annual eye exam at one of those eye places in the mall, like Lenscrafters. We'd gone to this particular place for a couple of years. Because I have diabetes, I make sure the optometrist dilates my eyes for a thorough exam. The doctor said that my optic nerves were swollen, a change from last year's exam.

We were in Arizona at the time, and it was allergy season. The pollen was pretty bad, and I was suffering with sinus congestion. I asked him if this could have caused the problem and he said "no".

He wanted me to check further into it, describing scary scenarios like fluid build-up in my brain, stenosis, and shunts. He wanted me to see my regular doctor and get an MRI of my brain.

Holy-moley! Talk about scaring the bejesus out of someone!

I tried not to panic and figured that I would get the opinion from an ophthalmologist when I got back to Illinois.

In April I made an appointment with a local ophthalmologist, who said that my optic nerves were "elevated", but not "swollen". Oookay then. He wasn't too concerned because he had seen patients with this before. But because I was a traveling gypsy (my words, not his), with no consistency in doctors, he would feel better if I had an MRI of my brain.

The following week I found myself in that situation where you try to cram 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag. Or at least it seemed that way.

Did you ever have an enclosed MRI?

Okay, to start with, I didn't think it was nice that the technician was humming, "If I only had a brain!"

I had to lie down on a table that looked about 4 inches wide.....I'm sure it was wider than that (okay maybe 4 1/2 inches!) The tech was nice and put pillows under my knees to help out my bad back situation. She put some foam rubber under one elbow, my head was cradled in more rubber, then she put a cloth over my eyes. Next she snapped down what looked like a facemask. Then she informed me that she would prop up my other arm after she shoved me in the hole. It was a tight squeeze. I just got in when she realized that she didn't give me the headphones that I requested, so she had to pull me back out, unhook the mask, give me the earphones, and redo everything.

I had to talk myself through the procedure. I kept my eyes closed, tried not to panic, and concentrated on the music. But the pain in my back was intensifying, which caused me to tense up, which caused the pain to worsen. It was a vicious cycle. After about 20 minutes the tech pulled me out and I thought I was done. But no. She had to inject a die into an IV. I had to stretch because I was in so much pain. So she had to unhook the mask and let me sit up a bit. I'll admit, she was pretty understanding. After a couple of minutes, I figured that I'd better get it over with and just suck it up. I had another 10 minutes of pain and then it was over.

The ophthalmologist called me a few days later and said that I should see my regular doctor. He didn't understand the report; it was not his field of expertise. Records were sent, calls were made.

My internist then referred me to a neurologist. After seeing him, he felt that I should have a sleep apnea test. The MRI showed a couple of white spots on my brain, like small mini strokes. This could be attributed to sleep apnea.

My internist had wanted me to have a sleep apnea test for a couple of years now (because of my heavy snoring and always being tired), but I had been putting it off. I did not want to sleep in some lab like a rat with somebody watching me.

I told as much to the neurologist.

"I don't want to do this."

"Why not? I've heard all the excuses. Try me. I've been doing this for 19 years now," he said.

"Well, for one, I always have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night," I said whining.

"No big deal. You just unhook one thing. Go on."

"I'm always so freakin' hot! You know....menopause! I have to sleep naked!" I exclaimed.

"Well, I'm telling you right now, you are NOT going to sleep naked!" He laughed."Besides, there are fans in the room!"

I laughed, too, and figured it would probably be alright.

So Monday night was the big night.

I arrived at 9:20 pm.

The tech's name was Ivan, like Ivan-the-Terrible. Only he was really nice.

I asked him if I could take pictures for my blog.

"Oh sure, go ahead! Take all the pictures you want!"

Here is my room for the evening. (Notice the fan in the corner. Yes!)

Notice the camera up near the ceiling. (I tried not to think about it when I was in the bed!)

All the stuff that was going to be attached to ME!

Ivan told me to relax and that he wasn't going to be ready for me for about an hour. In the meantime, I was to fill out pages and pages of paperwork (health history, questionnaire, etc.,) and watch a DVD about sleep apnea.

About 10:30 Ivan came in and told me to get ready for bed. The bathroom was right next door to my room, but I had to share it with another patient across from my room. That was the only part that I didn't care for, although the whole procedure was done with the utmost discretion. I never saw the other patient until the next morning.

I came back in the room in my nightgown and Ivan proceeded to hook me up. It took about 40-45 minutes to get ready. Ivan answered all my questions. First he washed my face where he was going to attach the leads. He used some kind of exfoliate to remove the dead skin cells. Then he put on some goop, then attached the leads. He measured my head, then marked it with a red clay marker where to place the leads. Next he washed where he was going to put the leads. The marks didn't come off.

I had 15 leads on my head, 6 on my legs (3 on each) 4 heart monitors (EKG), tube in nose to measure air, a monitor on my finger to measure the oxygen level in my blood (not shown), belt on upper chest with lead to measure depth of breath, and lead on abdomen to measure depth of breath.

It wasn't as bad as this:

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector
but it came close!

No laughing now! This is a public service announcement! Do you realize how hard it was for me to put this photo on the internet?

The leads on my chin would measure if I grind me teeth in my sleep, the ones near my eyes kept track of eye movement and would register when I was in REM. In fact, the test could identify 89 different sleep disorders! The leads on my legs would register if I had restless leg syndrome! I was truly amazed.

I crawled in bed carefully and tried to get comfortable.

Ivan explained that if I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, just to call out and he would hear me.

I opted to go right to bed and not to read or watch TV, so Ivan turned out the lights when he left. But I had to do one more thing.

Ivan's voice piped into the room near my head.

"Pat? Can you hear me?" He asked.


"Okay, I want you to open your eyes and look at the ceiling."

I did as he instructed.

Ivan talked me through some more eye exercises, then some breathing ones, and finally I had to move my toes on each foot.

Finally it was nighty-night time.

As if!

The good news was, the bed was pretty comfortable. The bad news was, I felt like I had on a too-tight bra. And I had something shoved up my nose. But pretty soon I drifted off to sleep. I remember tossing and turning a few times and then, uh-oh, the dreaded I-have-to-go-to-the-bathroom time.

"Ivan?" I called out.




"I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!" I said a little louder.

"Okay, I'll be right there!" My guardian angel piped back.

Within seconds Ivan came into my room. He grabbed this black box that all the leads were attached to, approximately 12" long x 3 " wide x 1 1/2 " deep, with a long handle, and hung it around my neck. (It was a little heavy.) Then I schlepped my way to the bathroom, looking like some robotic middle-aged zombie in a nightgown. I glanced at my watch. 3:30 am. I managed to pee without electrocuting myself (I don't know if that was even possible to do), and came back to the room where Ivan was waiting patiently. He removed the black box and put it back on the nightstand.

"Good night!" He said cheerfully and departed.

Only problem was, he didn't fix the wires like he did the first time I got in bed. So the leads coming off my legs were too short, and I was lying in bed like a damn puppet with bent legs. I should have just called out to him to come and fix it, but I didn't want to bother him. So I finagled the wires myself to at least the length that I could straighten my legs.

I heard Ivan wake up the patient across the hall; I knew I was next. Sure enough within the next 20 minutes Ivan was knocking at my door.

"Time to get up!"

It took him a lot less time to pull all the paraphernalia off of me than what it did to put it on!

I was out the door by 6:20 am.

I survived my night as a lab rat.

Results to follow.


Anonymous said...

Ok, I must confess I snorted out loud at the hummin of if I only had a

Im keeping my fingers crossed my brave friend

Furry Bottoms said...

OOOOH. I hope the results are good!

KaLynn ("MiMi") said...

I had that done. NOT FUN! A colonoscopy is more fun because they actually MAKE you sleep then.

I have sleep apnea but I am also claustrophobic so the wires make me feel chained down. Alas I did not get the box to sleep with.

If you do let me know how it works.

Brian Miller said...

so do you hunger for fava beans and chianti now...with liver? smiles.

glad you survived it...smiles.

Eva Gallant said...

Mr. Eva had a sleep test years ago, and yes he has sleep apnea. He has a CPap machine and now sleeps like a baby!

Donna said...

Hahaaaaa....sorry....I was doing alright until the photo of what's his name, crawled up within view! You poor Thing!!!
Hope everything will work out just fine!!

Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

LOL - you poor thing! You know how I did at the attempted enclosed MRI. I have my IV sedation one in the morning (I have to be at the hospital at 6:30 am). Ron says I need to have a sleep apnea test. He sleeps with a bi-pap and is sure that I need a c-pap. not sure i can do it. we shall see. be sure to let us know what you find out.

Lynda said...

I know others who have had this test but you are the first to explain it all. The ones we know who got the test and then got the oxygen mask to sleep with said they are amazed at how much better they feel. My mom had the problems with her eyes but the ophthalmologist said she had had a CVA (Cerebral Vascular Accident) - - - mini-stroke. Sleep apnea will cause that I have heard - - - so maybe they will find the cause AND the cure!

Ami said...

My enclosed 'huggy' MRI was made very easy by the use of Ativan. I just... laid there and went ho hum.

And wow, all your description... as usual... just like being there.

SquirrelQueen said...

I've been trying to talk my hubby into getting the sleep apnea test but if I show him all the wires you were wearing I'll never get him to go.

Hope the results are good.

Valerie said...

Poor you, Pat. It all sounds very complicated. I've never had an MRI and if possible I never want want one. What an awful, awful experience. Happy Solstice.

becky said...

Oh, Pat I felt bad for you hooked up to all that stuff! I hope your results turn out good, probably kinda scary to have to see all those people, the MRI, etc. Thinking GOOD thoughts for you!

Nancy said...

I've been through both of these procedures and I feel your pain! Anxious to see if you have to wear a C-Pap (sp?) mask....

Gail said...

Yes, the torture tube...been there. NEVER opened my eyes because I was sure I would panic. The lady who went before me had to be sedated!

I posted your tractor picture.

Carletta said...

Another event in the life of Pat!
I've said it before, you really should write a book. :)
I hope the tests have all good results for you.

Ruth said...

You know you wanted us to laugh, so don't make me feel guilty! Your timing is impeccable, always. Hannibal!

I hate hate hate situations where I feel like I'm going to bother someone who is just doing their job, but I force myself to not bother them and I am miserably uncomfortable! Too many medical procedures . . .

Lynette Killam said...

You have my sympathy, Pat...the MRI test is barbaric! It looks somewhat benign when shown on television so I wasn't prepared for the horrendous noise it produces...yikes!

I do hope you find some answers and feel better soon...:)

Imagination Lane