The modern Iron Maiden
This is another personal post, with possibly TMI for some, but demanded by friends and family. Don’t be embarrassed to skip it if you only come to my blog for the geeky science goodness.
First, yes: Somehow I omitted The Seventh Seal from my list of movies to watch while sheltering from coronavirus. It’s a great movie deserving of more attention. For one thing, the experience of filming it seemed to have helped turn Max von Sydow into a believer of sorts. I consider that a good thing; YMMV.
So yesterday I went to Albuquerque for a series of imaging sessions to try to determine where I’m leaking cerebrospinal fluid. I was allowed to eat breakfast, and I made it a fairly ample one, since I would not be able to eat lunch: high-fiber chocolate pancakes with blueberries and sugar-free syrup; two strips of bacon; an omelette with sharp cheddar cheese; a glass of kefir sweetened with xylitol. It’s weird food, I cheerfully ackwnowledge, but it seems to help keep my diabetes under tight control and my heart reasonably healthy. Oh, I know, bacon, but I love the stuff. I’m trying to use a package of uncured bacon before it goes bad. I bought it for my daughter, who is also very careful about her diet because of fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis, but she seemed hesitant to have any. I buy regular bacon for myself.
Cindy drove me down since she’d have to drive me back. We arrived a bit late at UNM Hospital, due to long traffic lights and some uncertainty where I was supposed to be dropped off. I found the entrance guarded (there is no other word for it) but was admitted after they confirmed I had an appointment and that I was not presently running a fever. Almost everyone had masks, including me; my was homemade, by Cindy, doing her best. But since I wasn’t there to have my face measured, and she was short on elastic, it ended up being a bit too tight. Not her fault, but I found I had to give up on it halfway through the day.
I was checked in and then escorted back to the MRI machine, which I have come to regard as the modern version of the Iron Maiden. You have to lie very still, often in an awkward position, for good imaging, and the imaging takes forever. I was having my entire spine imaged, from tail to skull (the skull was previously imaged), and it took a full hour and a half. I wasn’t sure I could take any more by the time I finally got done. Parts of my arms were falling asleep and other joints were becoming very sore from being in unnatural positions from which they could not be moved.
I then had a three-hour wait for my next imaging session, which I spent in the waiting room reading. Seizing the Enigma, an excellent history of Allied penetration of the German Enigma cryptographic system; and Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson. It would be an exaggeration to say that the breaking of Enigma saved the world from another Dark Ages, but not that great of one. The Allies would probably have won anyway, but it would have taken much longer and cost much more lives and treasure. Paul Johnson has a sharp and not unduly sympathetic eye, and his description of Rousseau as an interesting madman seems about right so far.
Then it was in for the lumbar puncture. Since UNMH is a teaching hospital, I had a third-year resident putting the needle in my lumbar spine under the watchful eye of the expert. It seemed to go okay. The initial skin numbing was a bit painful; the injection of dye was a touch painful; but being tilted head down to let the dye seep down into my skull was the part that gave me a truly splitting headache. On the left side, and mostly right behind my eye. And I could taste something in the postnasal drip from the left side of my nose. I have a pretty good guess where the leak is, which means I have a pretty good guess all this came about because I managed to fracture the base of my skull last December when I cracked my head on the base of my staircase.
The cat scan was not too bad so far as it went. These go much faster than MRIs. The wait was actually considerably longer than the scan.
I had just gotten dressed when the radiologist came it and told me they needed to do the base of my spine again. Not enough dye had gotten down there, but since I had been standing for a few minutes, they hoped it would now. I had to drop my pants and get back on the CAT gurney, but the scan went quickly, and the radiologist pronounced it satisfactory.
From there I went outside for Cindy to pick me up. I was feeling a bit light headed and I still had the headache, but I managed. I slept most of the way home, I took it easy last night (no weight lifting or other exercise for a day or two) and decided I’d best make today a sick day. I’m still not feeling quite myself and I do have some difficulty focusing. My appetite seems a bit diminished; not exactly sick to my stomach, but not that eager to eat.
I don’t know the results yet, officially. But my guess is I have a crack in the left base of my skull. I’ll know more when I see the neurosurgeon Friday. If it’s a skull leak rather than a spinal leak, some fairly serious surgery may be required to close it. (Spinal leaks are much easier.)
The best I can say at the moment is that, for a man who has had a needle jabbed into his spine and heavy metals injected into his brain, I’m doing well.
Will keep you all updated.
Congratulations. Hope you’re improving. Those of us who don’t know you except through this site are hoping for lots more entries, and to perhaps meet you on the trail soon.