The Story of How Eye Sparkles and an MRI Machine Kindled a Brand-New Friendship

I’m so sorry I haven’t called, I’ve been dealing with some health stuff.

I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten to that yet, I’ve been dealing with some health stuff.

I’m so sorry I haven’t been around, I’ve been dealing with some health stuff.

I’m so sorry I haven’t written lately, I’ve been dealing with some health stuff.

About a month ago, I realized that there was a spot in my vision, and that had been there for days. It’s just a little spot, shaped like a teardrop turned sideways, and inside it sparkles, or shimmers, or – to use the medical term – scintillates.

The next day I left work on my lunch break to go to the doctor. The doctor ordered me down to UT Hospital that afternoon for a CT scan and an appointment with the eye specialist. A month and a slew of tests later, there’s still no viable theory. And the spot persists.

It doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t interfere with my ability to read or drive or work or care for my child, but there it is – my own personal “eye sparkles” as my best friend has named them.

My body and I don’t talk much. A few days ago I was even surprised by its reflection in the window. What was that? An image made on darkened glass – a hip, a pocket in blue denim wrapped across it, the hem of an old T-shirt. In a moment the pane is dark again. What was that? Oh! That was me, that’s my body, walking past the window.

Even if we’ve never been on great terms, my body has always functioned about as well as I could hope it to and has borne my neglect and disdain with surprising resilience. For the most part we have lived our parallel lives without too much conflict, and by this I mean that my body has silently withstood my treatment of it and I have steadfastly ignored its occasional requests.

The morning I first went to see my doctor, I sat in the exam room listening through the door to the nurse on the phone scheduling me appointments for a CT Scan and to see an Eye Specialist at UT Hospital that afternoon. She wrote them down in ball point pen on a green post-it note, handed it to me, and sent me back to work.

A few hours later I wandered the endless unmarked hallways at UT, clutching my green post-it note. Find the office door, push it open, first one waiting room, then another, a nurse, another nurse, What letter do you see? Look at the yellow dot. Click the cursor. Blink. Look up. A lot more winding hallways. Another waiting room. Lie down on the bench. This might be loud. Just a few more seconds.

When I opened my eyes, they informed me cheerily that the Radiologist had already read the CT Scan, that it was normal, and that I was free to go. They already read it? Who are they? They aren’t going to talk to me? I just leave? I got up and walked out of the room, out of the office, and out of the hospital where my dilated pupils struggled against the full springtime sun.

 

A few weeks later at a different hospital I showed up for an MRI appointment after deciphering another slalom of unmarked hallways and cryptically labeled maps. A man in scrubs called my name and I followed him through several sets of doors and rooms, each with its own caution sign on the door, each door giving a stronger warning than the last. The man in scrubs gave me a hospital gown and motioned to a closet with a curtain. Then he left. I sensed the expansiveness of the complex I was in, several layers deep in the center of the hospital without the chance of light getting in. There was no one else, and no sounds but the hum of large machines resting. I took off all my clothes but my socks, and folded them neatly on top of my boots. I tied the hospital gown as tight as I could.

Eventually the man in scrubs came back for me and led me through yet another set of warning signs into a small room with a huge machine in the middle, sleeping like a hungry dog. I understood my body was going to be closely restrained and pushed into the middle of that big machine. I started asking a lot of questions:

The form I filled out asked if I have any tattoos, is that going to be a problem?

No.

Are you going to restrain my head?

Yes.

How long is this going to take?

About forty-five minutes, once we get started (he glanced in irritation at his watch).

Are you going to give me contrast?

Yes.

What’s that like? Don’t some people get nauseous?

Some people do. Most people are fine.

He tried to start an IV in my right arm, but after a while said only,

“That vein blew, so we’re going to have to try the other side.

What do you mean my vein blew? What does that mean?

Sometimes it gets puffed up, and then you can’t get the IV in it.

He pushed earplugs into my ears, covered my eyes with a wash cloth, and screwed a restraint down over my head. At the last second he pushed something rubber into my hand. “If you need anything while you’re in there just squeeze this.” The bench raised up and I sensed the closeness of the machine.

I climbed deep into a rarely accessed chamber, where I wrapped a blanket around myself and waited for a sign that it was safe to come out.

After seeing four doctors and close to 20 medical professionals of varying titles, we still don’t know anything, no one has any ideas, and no one is calling to check on me. At some point in the middle of all of this, I started talking to my body. The dehumanizing experience that is inherent in the current Healthcare System put us on the same side of the struggle for the right to be cared for. It looks like we might end up being friends after all.

Ironically, the only test that’s returned any helpful information was an allergy panel that I requested myself on a hunch. The nurse who called with the test results told me that I “have multiple allergies” and that the doctor recommended that I “see an allergist, because you have so many allergies,” but refused to read me the list because “it’s like six pages and all I do all day long is make phone calls.” She agreed to mail me my results, but warned that it could take up to two weeks.

The list included a number of things I ate almost every day: Wheat, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, soy. Plus a bunch of things I rarely eat, like scallops.

So this morning I had to have a little talk my new friend, my body. It’s not that I don’t want to take care of you, or that I don’t want to work together, it’s just that we’ve never really had that kind of relationship before and I’m just afraid of commitment.

I’m three weeks into my new wheat-nut-soy-seafood-free diet, and while my eye-sparkles are not gone, they are sparkling at a much lower frequency. There’s still no conclusion – or even any ideas – from The Doctors about what it could be. But this is not a case study. Nor is it an essay about the many failings of American Healthcare. This is a story about how I finally, timidly, just maybe, am tip-toe-ing into friendship with my body.

 

 

 

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