This, dear reader, is a strange week, medically speaking that is. The wife, with the wee baby progressively growing in her midst, is inexorably moving toward completion, at least of this phase of things, while I seem only further mired in a limbo of perpetual appointments and reappointments. While today the wife crossed a heretofore unknown threshold, having reached her seventh visit to the OBGYN, she need no longer hand over the obligatory co-pay, I continue to look ahead, or so it appears, to an unending exchange of eighteen dollars across the rails of the sliding-glass window in the reception areas of countless doctors in all shapes, varieties, and specializations.
Even as the preadmission paperwork was being filled our and the birth plan was being completed the MRI came back, following the example of all of my previous tests, with no results. I suppose I should be thankful that this particular test found nothing, but the wife and I, in a moderately perverse twist of logic, had actually been hoping for a tumor, as a pituitary tumor would at least explain the odd array of symptoms I am experiencing and is almost universally treatable.
Certainly I do not wish to begrudge the wife the recent smoothness of her transition towards completion of this phase of things; we are pleased as punch and are counting our blessings, to use only a couple of clichés. I must admit, though, that it feels odd to be moving so quickly to fruition on one front of my life while simultaneously performing the role of Josef K in another.
Indeed, this week I shall have an appointment with my psychiatrist with no other aim in mind than to request a piece of paper with the word *SANE* stamped upon it, perhaps in large, red letters, to present to the growing cadre of doctors, hopefully returning their diagnostic powers to the realm of the organic.
[Note: Everyone must say a hearty huzzah for the healthy progress of both the wife and the aquababy!]
Hadrons are composites; hadrons are constituents of hadrons; and hadrons are a binding force between hadrons (based on the conception of a force between two particles as an exchange of other particles; in this case the exchanged particles are conceived to be hadrons); the name "bootstrap" is derived from this picture of a set of hadrons which generates itself, that is, "pulls itself up by the bootstrap."
Over the course of this week I have officially entered a nebulous realm of the medical world; I, for the time being, defy diagnosis, though remain subject to easy hypothesis. On Wednesday I at last had my appointment with an endocrinologist, and once again the test results thus far do not, as we had been hoping, point to a particular explanation – though more tests have been ordered, more blood drawn. All of this is to be expected I suppose; intellectually I know, by this point, that it is unlikely that some diagnostic white knight shall be riding in through the doorway of exam room #2. The problem is, at least for me at the moment, that each doctor I have encountered thus far has, at some point or another suggested to me – usually right after we discuss my current medication list – that my symptoms may be being caused by depression and anxiety, things, dear reader, I don't mind confessing that I have been under treatment for – on and off – for the past fifteen years. Actually, the previous statement is not entirely true; not every doctor has suggested this. The one hold-out is my psychiatrist who resolutely contends that this is not depression, that the symptoms do not in any way correlate to my historic manifestations, that, seeing as I have not felt particularly depressed or anxious – especially not before the onset of these symptoms – it seems exceptionally unlikely. But this, dear reader is the problem: each and every other doctor, once they find that I have a history of depression and anxiety disorder, and lacking any immediately evident organic explanation, are quite willing to slough off my symptoms as psychological manifestations – though Bridget, at least, seems to have largely moved past this phase. Thus, my growing medical team leaves me with a conundrum to contemplate: that my symptoms may indeed be stemming from depression and anxiety that has only recently come up – just a little – as a result of the symptoms that the depression and anxiety are purportedly causing. Put another way, the anxiety that my continuing illness is causing is the cause of the illness that preceded it. Hence, I have moved on to hadronic illness and may need to make a choice between the Institute of Advanced Study or the Mayo Clinic some number of months down the line.
Yesterday morning, at the ungodly hour of six forty-five ante meridiem, the wife and I walked through the automatic doors of the local hospital, through an excessive maze of twists and turns demarcated by poorly photocopied signage, past the storage room where all of the broken wheelchairs apparently go to die, and finally arrived, hand in hand, at the specified waiting room where we stood and stared at the empty desks where the receptionists might normally be expected to be found. This was followed by more staring, and then a little more. This did not bode well, we thought.
Yes, dear reader, Tuesday was my day to go have my brain looked at by an unknown series of people in laboratory coats. And no, you need not point out that today is Friday and I am several days late in completing this bit of writing, but this time I have a decent excuse: I have been battling salmonella, or so my doctor thinks. I know, it seems a bit like piling it on, but that is the way life goes at times and I shan't complain, but I digress...
So, the wife and I stood there in the reception area of that obscure corner of the hospital dedicated to scanning our collective and my individual innards. The particular innard in question on this bleary, early morning was my pituitary gland, though they would be imaging my entire head/brain area in order to look at the little – perhaps malfunctioning – bugger. But, back to the reception area...
We stood there for a while; did a bit of whistling, perhaps a little swaying, and eventually we sat down. After a few minutes, which included a couple of mildly quizzical looks at each other followed by shrugs, someone finally entered the room and made his way over to one of the aforementioned desks and took a seat. I was quickly called over and the paperwork began.
I shall now fast-forward through this section of the morning, dear reader, in order to spare you the redundancy of describing the paperwork portion of the show, a process you all, undoubtedly, know all to well. I got the clipboard; I filled in lines and boxes; I circled yeses and nos; I returned the clipboard with papers and pen attached, which led to further queries. I sat back down and waited.
Eventually the technician came out from behind the double-door emblazoned with the large DO NOT ENTER sticker and took me, along with the wife, back through the double-doors to a small dressing room where I was divested of all metal – which was all quickly dispatched, except the wedding ring which no longer fits over my knuckle, as I had removed the piercing at home. A few more questions and off we went, the wife sent back to the waiting room because they don't let pregnant women hang out with the scannee, a fact that, I must admit, did little to inspire confidence. The last question that was asked, as we entered the chamber of secrets, was "Are you claustrophobic?" Luckily, no.
If you have never had an MRI before – not the new-fangled, friendly open kind, but the old-fashioned, slide-you-in-a-tube kind – I shall now give a brief overview. You lie down on a padded slab, head on a small, not-entirely-uncomfortable pillow. On either side of the pillow are large clips to which is then attached a plastic cage which is adjusted to hold your head in place. Another pillow is then placed under your knees entirely without irony for your comfort. Finally, as you now realize that you should have itched your nose beforehand, you are offered music – which should be refused unless you really like Enya or Steely Dan, god forbid – or earplugs – which, in my not-so-humble opinion should, too, be refused as they would obscure the best part of the show. Thus prepared, the slab slides, unceremoniously, into the large, medical-beige tube behind you and begin your half-hour long stare-down with the curved wall four inches from the end of your nose. A disembodied voice clicks on – the technician in the adjacent room – and asks after your well-being, instructs you to wave your arms – I don't see how, seeing as you are in a rather small tube – if you become distressed, and, finally, informs you that the scan is about to begin.
I thought I was prepared for this, dear reader. I had, in the past, accompanied the wife to her open MRI and assumed it would be about the same, but just a little more cramped. I was, in fact, wrong. Little did I know I was in for such a sonic delight. For a moment or so there was just a little, repetitive clicking from somewhere deep in the machine, and then, all of a sudden, without the slightest of warning or build-up, I was surrounded by a phenomenal WHHOM WHHOM WHHOM WHHOM. Whereas I might have been expected to have been startled, indeed, no, an enormous grin immediately spread across my face, and it was all I could do to not thrust a fist in the air – which would not have worked, obviously, because of the already discussed wall four inches from the tip of my nose. It was absolutely symphonic, which I suppose I should have expected as I was indeed deep inside a machine known as the Magnetom Symphony. I have been to this concert, several times, back in my high school and college years. I have stood in cramped, dank, sweaty spaces and watched ensembles of disaffected youth perform these very sounds. This was better. Thus I laid back – figuratively speaking, as I was already quite supine and caged – and prepared to enjoy the show, which, I must say, I did.
That is, until I was so rudely interrupted. After about twenty minutes, as calculated afterwards, the concert came to an abrupt halt and I slid again unceremoniously from my sonic chamber. The nurse who ended the waiting game in the reception area swiftly crossed the room and requested an arm, stating, "Now I have to inject the dye." Quick shrug and my right arm was extended, swabbed, poked, pricked, and filled with some cool dye that will, undoubtedly, appear in extraordinary patterns if and when I ever see the images of my brain. Mission accomplished the disembodied voice returned to announce that I would have ten more minutes in the tube and off I went, again to my great sonic delight.
More WHHOM WHHOM WHHOM, and then out I came again. The technician returned to uncage me, and a moment later I was off the rejoin the wife in the waiting room where I was assured, by said wife, that most people do not have the same response to an MRI.
Back down the labyrinth, out the automatic doors, back home with that scene from Kindergarten Cop implanted in my head. Cue Schwarzenegger. "It's not a tumor."
This past Thursday – again, I apologize for the inexcusable belatedness of this post – I went in, accompanied by the wife, to see Bridget once again. Readied for further confusion and uncertainty we sat down in our assigned examination room at about nine forty-five. We briefly reviewed the conclusions offered by Thor, and returned, once again, to the question, "What the hell is wrong with you?"
This, dear reader, is not quite why I like Bridget, but it is getting there. I am rather pleased that I, at long last, have a doctor who, when confronted with the quandary that is me asks this question rather than declaring that there cannot, indeed, be anything wrong with me since he or she does not immediately know what it might be.
At first Bridget started us along one track of thought as we talked about specifics of my symptoms. She asked questions; I answered. I asked questions; she answered. The wife asked questions; Bridget answered. Bridget wrote things down and began to order tests. Then it happened. Bridget stood up, excused herself, and left the room. I must admit we were momentarily befuddled, but when she returned a moment later, both my and the wife's eyes lit up. We smiled – or at least I think we did; we did so in my recollection thereof. Bridget sat back down in her little rolly, spinny stool with a right large medical text.
If you know me, or the wife, at all you will recognize the source of our pleasure. We both love a researcher, and firmly believe that the source of, well pretty much everything, is books. I love that I have a doctor that will bust out the ole textbooks right in front of me, who has no fear of admitting she doesn't have the answer, who is willing to roll up the old sleeves and stare at the fine print right in front of the patient instead of offering some platitude and double-checking under the cover of dark.
So, Bridget started flipping through the pages, eyes following her index finger as she scanned down diagnosis trees and lists of symptoms and correlations. After a few more minutes she popped up once again and departed again only to return once more with a thicker, larger book packed with yet longer lists of, to me, inscrutable words. More questions, answers, and occasional banter followed until, a further forty-five minutes later, the wife and I left the office with a trip to the endocrinologist in the works, another battery of blood tests scheduled, and an MRI of my itty-bitty pituitary gland in the offing at some god-awful early hour in the morning one day next week [and not the friendly open kind, but the sort in which they slide you into the exceedingly narrow tube for an hour and bombard you with whatever rays it is they cultivate from outer space to actually see inside of your brain].
I still may not know the answer to the now age-old question – "What the hell is wrong with you [me]" – but I do, at least like Bridget.
At last, the wife and I have completed the modifications of the back garden in preparation for the arrival of the dear Aquababy, thus providing her with a small world of colors and smells -- along with tastes I might add -- though she shan't really be aware of it until her next summer.
After ten days of nearly perpetual digging and planting our back garden has been transformed from this:
For this summer it shall be a -- hopefully -- a wonderful garden in which to sit with the Aquababy, and hopefully it shall be productive of delectable fruits and vegetables, but what I am really looking forward to is next spring and summer when it blooms with new delights daily for the wee one.