Had an MRI yesterday morning. My appointment was at 6:45, an ungodly hour for a nightowl like myself. Truth is, though, the painkiller cocktail and the pain itself both have been knocking me for a loop for almost two weeks now. I've been getting to sleep at 10 p.m. and barely waking up with three alarms going off. Last night, though, I watched a little Adult Swim and crashed out at midnight. I kept thrashing around, unable to find a comfortable position, but fell sound asleep at last around 1 in the morning.
Around 2, though, I was brought fully awake by the sound of sirens - lots of them - passing rapidly by on Strathmore, the road that connects Rockville Pike and Connecticut Avenue and runs just two blocks behind my apartment. The sirens continued on and off all night. I barely slept and kept twitching. I thought of Kramer on "Seinfeld", talking about his inability to sleep with a restless girlfriend because she had what he called "the jimmy legs." I had the jimmy legs, for certain, and the sirens seemed to make it worse.
By the time my alarm went off at 5:45, I could hear helicopters overhead. I switched on the news only to find out the cause of the uproar - a house fire that took the lives of a couple in their 80's. What a horrible way to die after so many years of life. The reporter said the wife was wheelchair-bound, and her husband struggled to free her from the smoke and flames, but they were both lost.
I left for the radiology clinic in a somber mindset, and I was glad to hear the helicopters fade in the distance as I drove north up 270. The clinic was right off the highway and easy to find, although I took a wrong turn. Like one of Pavlov's dogs, I turned into the lot where I go for periodic blood testing, across the street from the radiology folks. Still, I walked in the door at 6:45.
If you have never had an MRI, let me tell you - it's loud and, at least this morning, it's cold. Lying stock still for 45 minutes on a back that screams with pain and begs you to writhe around is quite the ordeal. Fortunately, I had the soothing sounds of Canadian songstress Sarah McLachlan to help me through the session. If you've gotta do this, I recommend the folks at Rockville Open MRI. Friendly, professional, and they'll let you bring your own CD to listen to while the magnets work their imaging magic. Of course, I didn't know about the music thing. They'd forgotten to tell me. But I got to choose from an array of music they had available.
Enya? No, thanks. I think that would make me feel like I was about to be turned into Soylent Green as I slid into the apparatus. Alanis Morrisette? A little too angry for such an early hour. Sarah McLachlan? Okay, I can go all Lilith Fair for 45 minutes. No problema. Still, even with the soothing music, somewhere in Minute 30, I wanted to squirm. I practiced deep, cleansing breathing. I counted the lines in the plastic that wrapped the MRI's hood above my face. I counted heartbeats and seconds and sang along with Sarah, quietly, quietly. I got colder and colder and pulled the "blanket" (a sheet, really) up over my shoulders. I was allowed to move my head, neck, and arms, but nothing else. I created patterns of movement to keep my mind focused. Breathe, move hands, move head, breathe.
When it was over, I could barely stand. The pain in my back made sitting up difficult. The numbness in my leg made standing one hell of a trick. I walked to the locker room hunched over, like a pale, obese Yoda, but without the wisdom or the Jedi tricks. Or the hairy ears. Thank god.
When I finally made it to work, I was subdued. Not my usual perky self. I just plowed through things on my desk, trying to find the wood surface I knew was there, somewhere. By the time I got home, my regular doc had received and read my MRI images (man, those guys in Rockville work fast!) I have some bad nerve compression and a couple of bulging discs in my lower back, and some disc degeneration, too. Great.
My doc doesn't want me to undergo surgery at this point. I may have to have some periodic injections to help me with the pain. She does want me to go to a chiropractor or have physical therapy. Problem? My insurance only offers a very modest discount (10-20%) on such services. With my current financial picture, that's out of the question. Guess I'll be taking a lot of cleansing breaths, eh?
Maybe it's time to start listening to more Enya...