Friday, May 29, 2009

One day at a Time

My last roommate had an eclectic, but fleeting array of interests. He had books that covered a wild range of subjects. One book that I recall was a small book on finding invertebrate fossils. I told him the thing that consistently turned me against invertebrates was that they have no backbone. Spineless creatures all of them. Their only fossils, most of the time, come in the fossilized tunnels they created. Despite their seeming lack of substance, though, invertebrates do show how even they can leave a lasting mark on the world.

I do have a spine. I do have a backbone. There is nothing of jellyfish or worm in my day-to-day existence. I did get uncomfortable when the doctor told me he wanted me to get a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). This procedure would show different proteins in my cerebral spinal fluid that could serve as markers for multiple sclerosis. Apparently the fluid that cushions my brain and spine can carry markers for many problems in my central nervous system. I already discussed my old CT scans which revealed that my ventricles had closed up as slits in my head. I think maybe this fact may have implications for the problems I experienced yesterday.

As the day of my well anticipated lumbar puncture, I was assured that this is an apparently straight forward procedure. This is very true, except when it is not. I climbed on the table, and the doctor told me to curl up in a fetal position. I did as he told me. He started prepping my back. I felt as he lay covers across my back from the special, disposable lumbar puncture kit on the table. I could feel as he covered my back with Betadine.

The instructions were simple. I was told to curl up in a ball, so as to separate my vertebrae. I was then asked to tuck in my chin. The warning came before he started poking my back, loading it up with Novocaine. Then he started exploring. I felt the pressure as he poked, and poked my back again and again. It was clear that no spinal fluid came forth. Nothing whatsoever to indicate the health of my myelin sheath, the health of my nervous function as a whole.

The doctor gave up. He told the nurse that he needed to send me to people that could do what he could not do, divine spinal fluid. The people in question are the fine people in radiology with an exciting technology called fluoroscopy. With the fluoroscope, they were able to find with assurance the source of the fluid, and still the flow was slow. They tilted my table, until I was almost standing up, and still the flow was slow. It took minutes longer than the radiologist had predicted.

The spine is a low pressure system, and the one idea my mother suggested, is that possibly with my ventricles all shut up, the reserve of CSF was relatively small, and therefore making the downward pressure very small. This is only a theory, but after that I was sent to a room with a band aid on my back, and the orders to lie flat for two hours.

My doctor conducted electric nerve conduction tests, and sent me home. Still, after all that, walking was very difficult, and I went to bed to lie on a cold pack, and let my back rest. So, maybe there is an advantage to being an invertebrate. Grateful the tests are done, I await the news on what the results are.

Perhaps there are advantages to having no backbone.

I thank you for reading.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It is just a needle...

I called Northern California Catholic Social Services, and was assisted by someone who I met back when I was in San Jose. It is nice to know the people who are helping you. I am looking for an apartment, and I hope that with the people Im am calling are able to get me a place that is best suited for my personal disability. I am getting an application for one place, and I will be calling another organization to see what they offer.

But, in my search to find what is wrong, my neurologist has scheduled me two tests in one day, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), and a nerve conduction test. I have to get out of bed early for this one. They want me in the hospital at seven-thirty in the morning. My mother assured me I am ridiculous in my anxiety over the spinal tap. Being mocked does give me enough irritation to ease me into the doctor's office tomorrow at Mercy Hospital.

So, the doctor might have information to share about my condition... Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Today's Jungle Reflections

Wow! Now I have had my brain scanned, I have the quiet comfort of knowing there is still one in my brain case. It is Thursday, and I have scheduled my nerve scan so I can get all these things done before my vacation. I want a diagnosis, but I hope what is learned does not mess with my mood too much. Sigh. I am saying that I know that maybe the news will not be all to uplifting. Still, I am excited about my upcoming trip.

I am headed to a tropical destination and will be thrilled to hang where I have to change my shirt three times a day. I live in Redding, California, a small city (or a large town?) where many people living lives of leisure talk about “hanging out in the Tropics.” I would hear that, and was amazed at how many people here were into tropical vacations. Of course then I saw the Tropics with my own eyes.

I did not have to go to SFO. No 12 hour plane trips. Walking a short distance from the Good News Rescue Mission, I looked up and saw The Tropics.

I now know that the Tropics is a very popular dive bar in town, and I had my moment of clarity. I also noted that The Tropics is a short walk from the club where most of the Redding area Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are held. So, I read from my friend Anastasia who was sharing about the imminent extinction of Sumatra's people of the forest, the orangutan (Bahasa Indonesia: orang = people, utan= forest). So close to where I am headed, and so much of it is already gone.

Welcome to the jungle, indeed. The jungle God created is being destroyed daily to make way for palm plantations, and the poor orangutan is fast disappearing. I will not dwell on this small point. I am looking at teaching, and perhaps studying overseas. This trip will be a fine chance to explore this plan, and see what I have to do to make it a reality.

So, despite the fact that I can barely walk, I am sure I will find a way to hike a volcano, and reflect on the faux pas of American movie makers who named the film Krakatoa, East of Java. Krakatoa is a volcano, but it is not east of Java, and that mistake did cause countless dollars to be spent renaming the movie Volcano.

This time of reflection will be had while exploring Buddhist temples, and consuming fish with plates of nasi goreng topped with sambal (fried rice with hot sauce).

As for the brain scan, I have been scheduled for a nerve conduction test, and have heard nothing about a spinal tap (did I dodge this one?) I will find out.

In the meantime, I thank you all for reading.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Grey Matter

Today's selection is Grey Matter, by Danny Elfman. I am comforted to think my brain will be scanned again, this time on the MRI, Monday morning. I just hope they find what they need to make a diagnosis on me. This is a point of exhaustion. I started asking questions about my declining coordination over a year ago, and have experienced many problems since. I am tired of falling down.

So, today I listen to Grey Matter, and take comfort thinking maybe this investigation may reveal something. I can only guess what the doctor could find, but I suck at guesses. I am asking them to take the test, and determine quickly if I do need to have that spinal tap done.

So, I look to Monday, and I am staying patient. Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

This Is Spinal Tap

I am still in Redding, California, and have not yet found myself a new home. Soon, I will be leaving Redding, and am excited to see Jakarta. I will have a good camera, and promise to take many pictures when I visit Indonesia. I will get used to downloading pictures, because my friends in Indonesia, Philippines, and Malaysia take copious pictures, and set a standard I will meet.

After being here in Redding for the past eighteen months, I am thrilled to visit Asia from a point where I will be centrally located near the Philippines, Malaysia, and Australia. At two thousand kilometers, I will not be able to see Davao or Cagayan de Oro, but I will take comfortable knowing I am close to areas I recognize...

It is wild to embark on this trip, when, now I am functionally homeless, still working in a grocery store, still looking for answers in my health concerns. But in a month, I will come back to California to continue the rest of these investigations..

By the first of June, my neurologist will have my brain and cervical spine scanned on an MRI. They will do a spinal tap on me to test my spinal fluid for multiple sclerosis, and I will have nerve conduction tests to see how much the nerves in my arms are functioning. I have to admit that I look to my mother and the advice of the nurse at my doctor's office to stay ready for the spinal tap. It is not a comforting image the idea of anyone placing a needle in my tailbone.

Still, it is not the first time someone has done this to me. I just have to buck up and show up for the test.

The approval from MediCal came in, and now I get to see what the doctor can figure out after this line of tests comes in. So, though I do not have much to report, I remain excited.

Thank you for reading.