Words, Words, Words

August 26, 1999

Some people find an MRI scan a terrifyingly claustrophobic experience, and the staff will sedate you if necessary. But for me it's just a matter of lying down on a platform, they slide you into a tube and play music for a while, and then they slide you out. At least, that's how it was the last time I had an MRI. This time was different.

To start with, they said they couldn't give me headphones because it would interfere with the magnetic field near my head, so I got earplugs instead. Then they decided that my head wasn't lying flat enough. They wanted to get it closer to the center of the tube so they could get a good scan. So instead of just propping my head up like I'd expected they ended up shoving pillows under my butt I'd tilt down and my head would be closer to level, and they put a bit of padding under my head and I told them that I was not going to be able to hold still for twenty minutes and I needed another pad and they said another pad would make my head too high and eventually they decided to give me another pad, but not before I suffered a lot more acute discomfort than I really had expected.

After that things improved. I wasn't exactly comfortable, but I could hold still. The tube really is small, and you can't move, no matter how much you want to. I'd either forgotten how that felt or I've grown a bit more phobic. But it wasn't so uncomfortable a feeling that I couldn't just close my eyes and make it go away. (I'm kind of surprised they don't put a mask over your eyes; if you couldn't see it would probably be less scary.) And the scan didn't feel like it took as long as it did, for some reason. They'd say, "The next scan will take three minutes", and it would buzz for a while, and then it would be over, and they'd announce the next scan.

Today I went to pick up my soft cervical collar. This is a foam collar that wraps around my neck, tucks under my chin, and transfers the weight of my head from my neck to my shoulders. It doesn't work as well as I'd hoped, partly because I lack a well-defined chin. (Damn those steely-jawed pulp heroes of yore. Is there nothing they can't do better than me?) I'll try it for a while, but I suspect that this will turn out to be a $17 dumb idea, which admittedly is cheaper than a lot of dumb ideas I've had.

Finding this place was fun. They're listed in my Preferred Providers directory as Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, and in the building directory under R&G Orthopedics. And, as my latest entry in the how-pitiful-am-I sweepstakes (this one just may be a winner), a guy in a wheelchair was opening doors for me.

Tomorrow I'm having hand surgery to fix the contractures in my left hand. My pinky is permanently bent at an eighty-degree angle, to give you an idea of how bad it's gotten. The surgery is done under a local anesthetic that puts my whole arm to sleep, and I was told I should take a couple of days off work, which gives some idea of how traumatic this operation is. My mother will drive me home from the hospital and I'll spend the weekend at her house, using my hand as little as possible. The doctor said he'd start me on physical therapy on Tuesday, so presumably the splints will be off and I'll be able to use that hand at least moderately well, although I reserve the right to whimper if it hurts a lot.

The big question is how much function I'll get back, but the other big question is whether the operation will leave a massive scar. A muscle biopsy in high school left a scar on my arm half an inch wide and a quarter inch high. I haven't had any surgery since then (except for wisdom teeth) so there's no way to tell if this is a general problem or if it was just a freak occurence. Part of my physical therapy will include massage to reduce the chance of scarring, and if a scar does develop they can inject cortisone, but of course any scar tissue in the joint could be problematic.

So that's what I've been up to--some of it, anyway. I'll update you on the operation and try to talk about some nonmedical stuff next week, after the splints come off.

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