Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unremarkable

I posted these on my other blog, but thought I could share it more broadly. Maybe my folks want to be updated on my medical status.

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Otorhinolaryngology. I didn't even make up that word. I've been trying to see an ear, nose, throat (ENT) doctor for 20 years now. Mostly I was un- or underinsured for it. Then I got insured, but an ENT requires a referral and how am I gonna get that if I can't even see my PCP when I have been hospitalized? Fortunately when I'm illin', I'm crafty!

While being seen for pneumonia at the "same day" clinic, I complained about my ears. I went into my big ol' long history of ear trauma and pathetically asked for my referral. Then I breathlessly insisted on it at my follow-up "same day" clinic appointment. I couldn't walk for long distances or stand up, but I was highly motivated even in my decrepit state. If I survived flu, cocci, and pneumonia, by gum I was going to hear!

Oh, the world of difference between the office for poor sick folk and the office for rich people who can afford hearing aids! The primary difference is the big yellow sign in all caps reading, "YOU WILL NOT BE SEEN WITHOUT YOUR CO-PAYMENT, CURRENT REFERRAL, AND VALID INSURANCE CARD [sic] THANK YOU." They are all about money. Other signs warned about service charges for bounced checks and processing fees if you left without making a co-payment. Lots of advertisements for hearing aids were on display. "TV Ears saved our marriage!" I had the vague fear that better hearing may negatively impact mine. I know for sure that Jesse's artillery ear has helped us avoid fights after I've muttered grumbley grumbles under my breath, behind Jesse's back, in a different room.

The secondary difference is that the specialist's office is plush. They had a television and it was on Paula Dean. There were magazines. The wait was only 20-30 minutes. Of course they both had special signage, welcome windows, and time slots for drug reps. Next time I get sick, I am going to make a drug rep appointment rather than trying to see a doctor for my health.

Long story short, the ENT looked into my ears and said I had a hole in my eardrum - not the head, just the ear drum. Then he sent me for a hearing test, which I failed. DUH! But my hearing loss had the pattern of a brain tumor or something that sounded like "manure's disease." I'll say. I'm real sick of all this manure about the best health care in the world. What he actually said was "meniere's disease" but I couldn't hear him because of the hearing loss. I later found out that Van Gogh likely had this disease and that's why he chopped his ear off. So either my brain is screwed or I'll soon lose my ear. Alternatively, and this is my own personal diagnosis, I'm perfectly healthy and it's just a hearing loss related to that hole in my ear drum. I suspect the hole is the result of an ear drum that tired of bursting and rehealing in the absence of a doctor's care and figured it might as well be permanently busted.

In the meantime, it's a hearing aid for me and an MRI. More on that later, but as way of a preview this story ends happily for everyone except my children's empty bellies. I'm currently teaching them the request, "More porridge, please."

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Last Thursday was my make-up MRI. Of course it required a needle and "contrast", which set me right off to the water fountain. I was going to be hydrated to the max to ensure my veins were pumped up and therefore less vulnerable to multiple puncture wounds. I didn't want a repeat of the hospital horror leading up to the CT scan. The radiologist assured me the kind of needle used was different and "the dye isn't nearly as dangerous." How trustworthy is someone who radiates people for a living?

My brother already had me freaked out based on his surmise that if the radiologists had trouble with something as mundane as scheduling that I might really be in trouble when that big magnet was turned on and my brain was pounded. To add to my anxiety, at this point in my telling Jesse the toxic dye story he said, "Of course it's fatal. Why do you think they call it die?" So I'm waiting for my father, son, or other important male in my life to say something slightly threatening to my life.

Needles aside, I was taken to a large room filled with a larger machine (I recognize that's not possible). "Do you have anything in your pockets? Do you have any metal objects lodged in your body?" No, no. "Do you have your hearing aid on?" No. "What kind of music would you like to listen to?" Didn't you just hear me say I'm not wearing my hearing aid? "Are you claustrophobic?"

Then they lay me down on the table. They lock my head in a mask. They give me a bubble to squeeze if I freak out. They strap me down, but insist the strap isn't to keep me down. I'm pretty sure if I tied my kids down in bed like that, a CPS call would be in order. Then they proceed to blast my brain to what I think could have been Fir Elise. The process isn't unlike early morning weekend sleep while the neighbors cut down a tree, tear down a storage shed, build another storage shed, or generally find something entertaining to do with power tools.

Halfway through -(dun dun DUN!)- The Needle. They slide the table out and stab me while still strapped down with the Hanible Lecter mask on. My arm goes numb and wonky. "You're doing fine." Really? It's true the needle wasn't as bad, but it wasn't all that great either. And what does not doing fine look like? I'm strapped down on a table with my head in a vice, shoved in a giant machine with my brains exposed ala x-ray goggles from the back of an Archie's Comic.

A week later, today, I get the results. The ENT's aid calls to tell me "I've got good news. The results of your MRI came back and you have brains. Further, there is nothing at all wrong with them." The gloating on my part was short lived. The letter from the radiologist with the results came in the mail. "IMPRESSION: Brain appears unremarkable...." The bubble bursts.

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