Known Johnson

March 12, 2007

Back to the brain

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:42 am

I am playing the waiting game right now. Last week I had another of my bimonthly neurologist visits, usually very short, quick, in-n-out type things, and it basically was the same as usual last week except that I brought up something unusual to my doctor. See, I always assumed that something I deal with was part of my migraine experience, because it manifests itself in so many ways. I have mentioned this to my doctor in passing before and he didn’t make much of it so I figured that if it didn’t get taken care of after a while on the migraine medicine, it might be a good idea to mention it again. The way I figure it, I’m getting those allergies taken care of, why not get back to the brain again?

When I try to explain these things, they make me sound completely crazy for having waited to ask somebody, but having lived with them for years, it’s just become a part of my nearly daily life. I wake up in the morning and within a few moments, I start to feel very mild jolts in my head – through my face, my ears, sometimes down my arms. It’s about the strength of a near-dead 9-volt battery – a very small jolt, but they happen several times usually, and sometimes quite a lot (one morning last week I counted over 20 in a four minute time span.) And then I get up and they go away as far as I know, or I just don’t notice them.

In addition to this, I have another unusual thing that happens – every once in a while, less often than the jolts I feel, my eyes will spasm. I don’t mean my eye lids, I mean my eyes. Completely at random, my eyes will suddenly shift from side to side in a split-second, my vision becoming scrambled like what cable channels you didn’t get used to look like – squiggly lines. LIke this (there is a 5-second delay so it’s a little more random feeling):

And then it’s back to normal. This may happen a few times a week, maybe even a few times a day that it happens, and then it doesn’t happen for a while. And, most of the time, they’re so fast I just forget they even happen.

I decided that, with this appointment, I needed to press the matter and see if the good Dr. Brain had any idea what this was. I mentioned them to him and he asked quickly, “These spasms, do they happen when you move your head, such as when you bend your head down to your chest or from side to side?” I tried it, nothing happened, which I knew from experience nothing would, and told him – and that’s when he became very serious. He quickly thumbed through my folder, reviewing my information, asking me questions, and ultimately decided to send me for an MRI.

Here’s the thing, doctors out there. Don’t get all serious like that and not say anything. I asked if this was something to be concerned about and he just said that nothing in my history suggested there was anything to worry about, but I have never seen a doctor leap into action like that before, nor get that serious. It also doesn’t help that I got a call to schedule my MRI the next day – these things usually take a couple of weeks to clear the hurdles insurance throws in doctors’ way, but I know that when they say “this is a priority” it means “emergency” and they clear them immediately. As a consequence, I have been fretting about this all week.

I have since had my MRI, and it was quite an experience. Forty minutes trapped in a tunnel only slightly larger than myself, listening to sounds created by the world’s most uncreative Phillip Glass imitator. At times, I entertained myself trying to figure out what the sounds were, only to regret it – at one point, I decided the machine sounded like it was a computer yelling “duck” at me, and then couldn’t stop hearing it, and for many minutes heard a computer voice yelling that word at me over and over. At another point, I heard the world’s most uncreative Phillip Glass imitator took a break while the world’s most uncreative punk band took over, counting in 7 times, then playing 7 notes, counting in 8 times, then playing 8 notes – and repeating this pattern a good couple dozen times. When it was over, I emerged from the cave, removing the foam earplugs they gave me only to find that the world of sound was still dulled – so loud was this machine that, even with ear protection, it was like being next to the speakers at a concert. I asked the technician what would happen without the ear plugs. “You’d go deaf,” he said. Duly noted.

And now I wait. I’m supposed to wait until Friday, five days away, to call for my results. I half hope the doctor will call me instead, but I also fear that – I’d guess the doctor calling me would be bad news, not good, but there’s also a fear in getting a clean bill of health on the MRI: what the hell is going on to cause these things if there isn’t something going on in my brain? While undergoing the MRI, I tried to read the technicians for any clues as to what they’d seen, but it was impossible. They were all business while they switched out the table (I had both a head and neck MRI done, so the table has to be changed) and my initial reading off of them was terribly grim. I imagined their all-business attitude was simply their way of dealing the The Doomed, because that surely was how they had to deal with people for whom they’d just seen a giant tumor, or an aneurysm, or something else awful, and, not being doctors, they’re forbidden from actually telling the patients anything. I can’t imagine dealing with that, all the people they know come through their desperate to know something who leave not knowing anymore than when they walked through the front door. I’m one of them and it’s frustrating. But I understand.

So now I wait. It’s going to be a long week.


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