What’s Wrong With Me! Episode Four: Hell and Back…

When Episode Three  ended, a slew of strange symptoms were beginning to hold me hostage. That’s actually a pretty fair metaphor, since by the end of the siege I couldn’t go outside – not even on the balcony.

Stick around, it gets worse. I mean funnier. It gets funnier!

So I call my GP and tell her about the numbness and the pins and needles, and she says she wants to rule out shingles. Off I go to a dermatologist. (In 1997 it didn’t take months to get an appointment with one, like it does now!) Nope, not shingles. Well I kind of figured that; my mom had shingles and she had a fiery-looking rash with it.

Then I get to see Dr. Y., the second neurologist on my case. By now the numbness is down to my left knee and around my back. The pins and needles around my torso have morphed into knives and – let’s see, what else is really sharp, oh I know: razor blades! (I remember telling my mom at the time that the pain was especially bad at night, and asking her “How does it know when it’s night?!” And she said, logically, “It knows! It knows!”)

Anyway: Dr. Y. is still stumped. (In fairness, his specialty was epilepsy, and you know what they say – if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see everything as a nail.) Dr. Y. proclaims that he is referring me to another neurologist. (In the end I will be thrilled, as Dr. Z. will prove to be the all-caps BEST.)

Finally my MRI appointment (arranged back in June) arrives: September 9, 1997. Wow, it only took two months! I could barely lie flat on the table, the prickles in my back were so bad. And now – for those of you who’ve never had the privilege of having an MRI, especially back in 1997 when they were even noisier than they are now, I will give you a little taste of what it was like. (I’d already had one several years earlier; see What’s Wrong With Me! Episode Two: MRIs Don’t Tell LiesThis one was just as much fun. ←sarcasm)

RATATATATATATATATTTTTTTTTTTBBBBBBBBBBBBBB- “Mrs. Presner? How are you doing in there?”

TTTTTTTTTTTBBBBBBBBBBBBBB- How does she think I’m doing in here! I’m drowning in noise, suffocating in a wormhole, and cut off from the rest of the planet… RATATATATATATATATTTTTTTTTTT- “Urg.”

“Mrs. Presner, we’re just going to do one more series now. And then there’ll be the one after that. And then the last one. Please stay still.” BTAT! BTAT! BTAT! BTAT! BTAT!- Stay still, that’s a laugh. As if I could move if I wanted to, strapped in from head to toes. Also: regarding this jackhammer inside my head- BTAT! BTAT! BTAT! BTAT! BTAT! “Mmph.”

Photo (cc) by Jeremy Brooks
Photo (cc) by Jeremy Brooks

Forty-five minutes of this. Sigh. Yes, magnetic resonance imaging is a marvelous invention, it helps in diagnosing many conditions, yadda yadda yadda. All I know is that it consists of banging your brain around from the inside out. Results? We must wait, wait wait.

How did I get to this point? Let’s recap: pseudo-seizures/spasms, numbness, tingling, prickling, piercing pains, and a partridge in a pear tree.

But true basket-case status arrived in the next four weeks – from now, through two useless ER visits (nothing better for pain than Atasol), and until I finally got to see Dr. Z., we must add to the list of symptoms above, the following: severe dysesthesia.  I think that if ever the powers-that-be decide to invent a new punishment for evil-doers, they should bottle this and use it. On second thought, it would probably violate the Geneva Convention, so never mind. Suffice to say: I couldn’t wear clothing from my knees to my neck, therefore couldn’t go out… or have any blankets on me… or air – well, gentle breezes, such as the ones coming through my windows. The movement of the air on my skin felt as if a nearby porcupine were angry with me. I couldn’t sleep. And did I mention my entire left leg down to my toes was numb now?

The only thing that kept me going, saved my sanity in fact, was the Internet. We’ll take a brief look at that amazing lifesaver in What’s Wrong With Me! Episode Five – Saved by the Net. (After that, in the Final Episode, dear long-suffering reader, you’ll meet my shining light of a doc – and get my official not-so-shiny diagnosis.)

By the way, if you’ve read this far I owe it to you to explain the slight error in the title of this post. I wrote “Hell and Back” not realizing that “Hell” would take up the entire space/time I’d allotted for this ep. So the “Back” part has to wait. Sorreee! 😉

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