Monday, July 30, 2001

Being Ryne Duran

Over three years ago while lying down on the living room couch I noticed that Mr. Max had a preference for sitting on my left arm, lil nose facing the back of the sofa. At times it got a tad uncomfortable because the lil fella even at a spry 13 pounds weighs as much as a small bowling ball. But I hated to inconvenience a content kitty so I tolerated the discomfort. It was a matter of having my left arm fall asleep until one day I noticed that the arm never seemed to wake up. There was a persistent numbness.

Now there's nothing wrong with a persistent numbness as long as it's in certain parts of the body. But me being Mr. Paranoid (with a capital and bolded "P") immediately assumed I was a) either going to have a massive coronary soon; b) had already had a stroke; or c) had a large tumor enveloping the nerves around my shoulder. I mentioned my malady to my Mom and she said it very well could be a pinched nerve.

Mom said that she had a pinched nerve in her shoulder once and one day she dropped something, reached out to catch the object and felt an excruciating pain but the numbness went away. The nerve had somehow become unpinched. A friend recently shared a similar story of a person who fell out of his chair and had a pinched nerve disappear. It seemed a tad extreme but I thought about dropping a lot of things or falling out of my chair on a regular basis to cure myself. Now your normal human being may have instead gone to his neighborhood health care facility but being one who once tested positive for having no backbone, I figured if it wasn't killing me there was no need to bother our over busy medical personnel.

But the numbness never really went away and it seemed to not only be spreading down my left arm, but also I was beginning to feel a tingling sensation in my forearm and hand. Again, a tingling sensation in the right part of the body can be rather enjoyable if not nothing to sneeze at so I knew all wasn't right in Davesville. Recently I noticed my hand losing some of its function at various times so I figured if I continued to let this thing fester pretty soon I'd be even more droopy than normal and my whole left side would be noticeably slumped. I'm not one who enjoys a slump so I, with much prodding from an acupuncture survivor, decided it might be time to call the old clinic.

I'm also not one who has a whole lot of faith in the medical profession. My skepticism may have begun with one of my first memories- when I was three I was so excited to see my brother come home from school that I ran smack into the corner of a wall and split my forehead open. Mom hustled me down to the emergency room and I didn't know what made me cry harder- the sight of my own blood or the throbbing pain in my head (if I only knew what life would be like when I was all grown up I wouldn't have said a thing). The doctor wasn't exactly Mr. Friendly. He put a sheet over my head nary saying a word, and begun stitching up my forehead. Years later Mom still commented on how rude Dr. Death was not offering any comfort to a frightened three year old.

My next major medical experience was my secret government mission down to the Mayo Clinic where after a nightmare week I was told my prognosis wasn't exactly rainbows and lollipops and that the cure might involve jolts of electricity. Well call my crazy but I wanted no part of that so I skpped my next ceramics class and got the hell out. So years later going to the doctor and sitting in the waiting room shaking like a bad 8 mm movie wasn't exactly what I would call an enjoyable morning. But I went nonetheless. The doctor put me through some strength, flexibility and coordination tests that I seemed to do OK on. She said the next step was scheduling an Electromyography and not wanting to appear to be ignorant I nodded my head not exposing my lack of a medical degree. Then she said, "I have to warn you it isn't the most comfortable experience."

I went back to work and looked up what the test involved- small electrical jolts to the muscles to test the nerves. It seemed reasonable to me that there was something wrong with my nerves so I read on. I read what the test was given for which included everything from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to some serious sounding stuff like Becker Muscular Dystrophy and another familiar sounding illness .

If there's one thing worse than contracting a disease named after an athlete, it's being the athlete that comes down with a disease so rare (and by its nature potent and fatal) that you have a disease named after you. Indeed other than Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) I can't think of another disease named after an athlete.

It seemed to me the perfect irony that I would contract a baseball disease. The two weeks between the initial icky doctor's appointment to the "uncomfortable test" wasn't exactly the most joyous time of my life. The morning of the test I nearly backed out figuring that I needed to get some work done and a little numbness never killed a guy before.

The test was everything it was advertised to be. They hooked electrodes to my hand and zapped various parts of my arm. Ouch. Then the doctor came in and stuck a needle with a microphone in my arm and made me contract different muscles. Bigger Ouch. But the results were negative or positive depending on your outlook. I have nothing wrong with my nerves (snicker snicker) and I do not have Lou Gehrig's Disease. Then again I may be the lucky one who has come up with Wally Pipp Disease, the guy Mr. Gehrig replaced on way to his record breaking consecutive game streak. Never to be heard from again. Yup that glove fits well.

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