Don’t go fishing in a perfect storm
No time to wallow in the mire
Try now we can only lose
With an efficient wirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring sound I’m raised towards the ceiling. With a gentle chunk! The platform stops.
And our love become a funeral pyre
Wirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, now I’m moving backwards, head first, into the crypt-like tube. A blue line appears on the tube’s ceiling, so close I expect my nose to touch the smooth white sci-fi metal.
Come on baby, light my fire
The edge of the tube pushes my arms gently towards my body. I had reassured the tech that I didn’t suffer claustrophobia. I close my eyes, fingering the panic button, and let my mind disappear into the music. Jim Morrison of the Doors flows into my headset. In hindsight, I should have asked for R.E.M. because R.E.M. in an MRI would have made a great post title. But the Doors CD was already in the player, and it sounded like a good choice.
Come on baby, light my fire
Try to set the night on fire, yeah
I’m to lie still for 15 minutes. Am I breathing to heavily? Is that a leg cramp coming on? Damn.
Girl, we couldn't get much higher
Come on baby, light my fire
Come on baby, light my fire
Other noises filter through the music. A sound like a truck backing up: Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep! Heavy thumping noises: Thunk! Thunk! Thunk! And then the tube starts to vibrate. Under my back the table starts to get hot, while icy cold air blows in my eyes, a vent right above the bridge of my noise. I close my eyes again and disappear into the music.
Try to set the night on fire
Try to set the night on fire . . .
. . . it all started 12 hours earlier . . .
I’m lying on my right side in bed. The problem is, that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to sit up in bed and read for a little while on my Kindle. I’m nearly through with Robert J. Sawyer’s Rollback, and it’s pretty damn exciting. But I am unable to move. At all. Even the slightest shift of my leg shoots blinding lightning bolts of pain throughout my back. Breathtaking pain. Pain so bad you think you will pass out, pain so bad that you wish you’d pass out.
This is not good.
I crank up the TENS unit. Beyond the tattoo-parlor pain setting. Beyond the pissed-off porcupine setting. Beyond the burn-your-self with a blowtorch setting. Beyond the pass a gallstone setting. All the way to the max. Yes, I’m now quite sure that electrocution is verifiably a cruel and unusual punishment.
But even totally maxed out, the TENS unit cannot overwhelm this pain.
The problem in my back has clearly gone to a new level. But a Friday night is not the time to go to an Emergency Room.
I don’t have the writing skill to relay to you what my night was like. Words fail me. The slightest twist or turn, a breath slightly too deep—all of these send my lower back into rolling spasms. I can feel the muscles seize up, a monster’s grip. My body screams and shakes, possessed by pain demons.
And then, at six in the morning, a have to pee.
But I cannot get out of bed. I can’t roll, I can’t scoot. This is not good for the home team.
After an hour of quarter-inch-by-quarter-inch struggle I finally leverage myself to the edge of the bed where I can tumble off and crawl to the bathroom, my bed sheets only wet from sweat.
Finally, vertical, I know what to do. I need to head to the hospital. I look in the mirror and behold a frightful sight. Having been stuck at home and having electrical pads taped to my body, I have neglected myself for three days. I wear my beard closely cropped to my jaw, but now thick stubble covers my cheeks and neck. My hair, overdue for a haircut, is long, stringy, oily. My skin is pale, pasty. A ghastly, ghostly white. My eyes are blood shot.
I spray my body with Axe leather scent, to mask whatever I must smell like and go find the only clean shirt I have: a black banded collar. It makes my face even paler.
I leave a note for Deb, who’s still sleeping. I think once I get into the car, I will be able to drive it. I don’t want her and the little one having to spend all day in the hospital. If they dope me up too much to drive back, I’ll call for a rescue. Then I take my father’s walker to help me get out of the car on the other end, and head out into dawn’s early light.
The drive down our rocky road, even at two miles per hour is torture. Every jolt makes me gasp. Finally, on the smooth pavement of Interstate-25, things improve.
I head to Santa Fe, about 75 miles from home rather than the closer Las Vegas hospital, which is 24 miles away. If you are bleeding, I always say, the closest ER is the best one. Otherwise you can choose based on reputation and experience.
On the road over it occurred to me that I’m going to walk into a northern New Mexico ER and complain of back pain. Now, what you need to understand, is that we have a problem with prescription narcotics in this part of the world. Some folks are addicted to them while others go to great lengths to acquire them to sell to the folks that are addicted. We politely call these drug dealers “diverters.” In both cases the best way to get prescription narcotics is to convince a doctor, or an ER, that you have horrible back pain. Back pain can be hard to get to the bottom of, so it’s a great choice for pill-seekers.
And sure enough, even though the sun has just come up, a new shift has come on, and I’m the only one in the waiting room, I’m put on ice a loooooooooooooong time before they bring me in.
The triage nurse is ummmmmmmm, less than friendly, even rolling her eyes when I tell her why I’m there. She moves me several times from various rooms, presumably to evaluate how well I could, or could not, move. If I could move at my usual speed, I’d choke her.
On the bright side, a upper-middle aged Doc comes in within a few minutes. I’m his first encounter of the day and he’s in a chatty mood. I’m able to overcome my appearance with my oratory skills.
And he decides to start with the MRI. “It shouldn’t take long at this time of day,” he says reassuringly.
Well, I don’t know how long it normally takes, but I sat for the next two and a half hours. Finally a young man with a wheel chair shows up to take me to the MRI lab.
At this point you’d be forgiven for thinking our story had come full circle, but not quite yet. You see there is still the CGM problem.
Right now I’m wearing a Dexcom 7+ System. The previous sensor crapped out on me in about 14 hours. All CGM sensors have problems from time to time, but for the most part I’ve had very little trouble over the last few months. Clearly, Dex has the problems that were plaguing their production during their growth spurt straightened out.
What made this a more-than-average hassle for me was that this was my second-to-the last sensor and my #%$^&#$$@ insurance won’t send me the next 90-day supply until I’m actually on my last sensor. I have no spare.
Now, Dex will replace the “bad” one for me, but I won’t see that one until Tuesday. If I pull the last sensor out of my arm I’ll be unprotected for three full days. That’s a hell of a long time for the hypo unaware. Too long.
I’ve disconnected my Cozmo, setting it for the max away-from-body time of two hours. It will track the basal I lose while I’m off getting pictures of my insides taken. When I hook back up, it will deliver the lost insulin. I also leave the Dexcom receiver behind. Along with my rings, which I had to pry off my swollen fingers with the help of hand lotion, my watch, my medic alert, and my shirt.
They are making me wear one of those awful hospital gowns that is two sizes too small, opens in the back, and is missing the ties to close it. Well, I guess that’s the service you get when you are a drug seeker.
I leave the CGM sensor and transmitter in for the time being. On arriving at the MRI lab I discuss it with the tech, who has never heard of CGM and can’t find any in his master book of all things medical. I manage to pull off the transmitter, which appears mainly plastic on the outside, but who knows on the inside. Pulling a Dex transmitter off one-handed, while leaving the sensor in place is quite a trick. You have to pull both “arms” away from the transmitter at the same time, while lifting it upwards. Even a well-trained octopus would have trouble doing it.
All that is left is the tape, plastic, and very small coil-like wire inside my arm. I’ve explained to the tech why I’m reluctant to pull it out. But he’s reluctant to put me in the machine with it on. Apparently the risk is I could get a helluva burn if the metal in the sensor is the kind that is attracted to magnets.
I had always thought the machine would just rip it out of your body.
But a burn… subcutaneous…
I pull the damn sensor.
To his credit, he then takes the day-and-a-half old sensor into the MRI bay to see if it will stick to the magnet. Nope. “Well, I guess you could have left it in after all,” he tells me.
Well, better safe than sorry.
“At least if you need another MRI you’ll know it’s OK,” he says, “and I’ll know the next time a diabetic comes in with one of these.”
And then he wheels me into a space-station looking room with a giant thick metal doughnut, the MRI. With great difficulty and excruciating pain I’m able to get out of the wheel chair, and with his help, onto the table. I’m left gasping for breath, my legs still askew.
“Here, let me help you,” he says helpfully, grabbing my legs and lifting them into position.
I’m in too much pain to punch him in the nose.
“What kind of music would you like?”
I’m stumped. What have you got?
“I’ve got the Doors in the player,” he tells me.
Sounds good. I put the head phones on and lie back. Exhausted to the core.
You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we could get much higher . . .
Next time: answers, plans, and proof that bad days can get worse