December 30th, 2008


My turn to whine

So after 2 weeks of being unable to comb my hair, shave, or feed myself properly, I hit the panic button. I have what they thought was a bacterial infection in the bursa of my elbow -- aka bursitis. So I've been on 3 courses of antibiotics, and haven't slept more than 4 hours in a row for 3 weeks. I had a 'followup visit' scheduled for next week and called up and asked to be seen sooner.

I started out with the ortho guy, then talked to the surgical resident, then the orthopedic staff surgeon. He was of the opinion that I needed to have an abscess in my elbow drained, via arthroscopic surgery. He ordered up a contrast MRI.

Now I spend all day at work looking at brain MRIs and CAT scans and PET scans and such, so I thought I knew the drill. I'd even had an MRI about 10 years ago. But this was a horse of a different color.

The radiology techs put me on my right side, i.e. laying away I've not been able to lay for a month because it's painful. Then he immobilized my elbow, putting pressure on the tenderest parts of my elbow. Then he asked to turn my right palm up, which, oh, makes pains shoot up my forearm. Then he said 'don't move.'

And there I was for about 30 minutes, as the did sagittal, axial and coronal scans of my arm. Then they injected contrast dye into my hand, which felt like someone stabbing me. Then back in the scanner for another 15 minutes.

What they don't tell you is that when you get an MRI is that they're bombarding you with high intensity radio waves. I knew this on one level, from working with them, but I'd never been subjected to a solid half hour of it before, and basically that motherfucker is cooking you, enough to raise your body temperature a couple of degrees. So there I am in this little tube, sweating balls, hurting basically everywhere, needing to cough, needing to sneeze, with this bloody banging noise, that sounds like bad trance.

Let me tell you, nothing felt better than getting out of that scanner. The only thing that kept me from screaming and trying to scoot out of it was to do breath focused meditation, and then only just. I sure wish they'd been clearer on the duration and discomfort of the procedure because I'd declined getting shot up with valium before going into the scanner.

So just to keep things cheerful, I've heard nothing but horror stories about orthopedic surgery that doesn't turn out well even if they do everything right. I may never play the 'cello again -- not something I do that much, but I'd like to keep the option, because it's the only thing people ask me to play in bands and on recordings.

So, yeah, sucks to be me, I know -- everyone has their health problems, something I've done a really good job of avoiding for the most part for the last 51 years. Just my cross to bear. But man it pisses me off. Chronic pain sucks. Losing the use of your right arm sucks. Dealing with doctors basically sucks as well, even though my wife's best friend is a GP who basically available for house calls any time if we give her dinner a few nights a week.

But man, this isn't just uncomfortable and inconvenient, it's boring.