Tuesday, October 13, 2009
"Hi guys." I said trying to sound cheerful and casual at the same time.
On my way from the bathroom I had stumbled upon the computer room where the men who would in a few minutes be shooting high intensity laser beams through my brain were waiting to go into action. I guess somehow I wanted them to know that the anonymous masked woman who would be floating around the treatment room was a person with a Nationality and a personality and was above all likable and worth saving.
I glanced at the computers. The screen showed an outline of a brain ( presumably mine) with ominous black dots on it. So it was really true, I thought, rebellious bits of melanoma had had the nerve to venture into my gray matter,a fact which I found hard to believe, but little did they know ...they were in for it.
In ten minutes I was lying on a table trying to work open my eyes through a lattice work of a plastic mask that was screwed down onto the bed beneath me ,while at the same time gripping a mouth piece that held a small camera. The music CD I had made began to play and the nostalgic tones of Josh Groban began to fill the room
" Try not to move your head"
How likely is this, especially when the integrity of your brain is at stake.
How long will I be here?
Oh an hour and a half , two hours.
What! Two hours of lying here like the phantom of the opera, grinding my temporo mandibular joints to a pulp and trying not to drool.
"We're going to start the treatment now."
(Gulp) The table whirred and started to glide me under a machine. I must have looked like some macabre Halloween effigy revolving around the room. I thought about my college age son, who drove me here relating what he thought would be some funny scenarios,like hearing a distant technician yell " Oh shit!" right after the treatment or falling asleep and letting the mouth piece topple to the floor like a discarded lollipop. These didn't seem funny right now, for some reason.
Will I still be able to play the piano or write poetry after this is done ? I wondered. Will I still be me ? Or will I stagger off wearing the dead pan expression of a post lobotomy patient?
After a while I slipped into a kind of spacey SciFi time warp
The nurse would come in and adjust the angle of the table. (Clunk)
"Taking a scan" ( whirrrr)
" Starting treatment" (bzzzzzz)
Bette Midler : "God is watching us"
After about an hour I started to get a headache. I waved an arm,
"OK we'll be right in, I think we'll give you a break now"
Sweet relief.. the mask came off. The Doctor and the two physicists, who had been playing star wars with my brain came into the room to check out the revolving mummy.
Then back into the costume for one last act. They left. I lay there. Nothing. No nurse, no comforting whir of machinery. Could this be my worst claustrophobic nightmare realized. Not just stuck in a room with no way to get out, but nailed to a table as well ?
I tried waving a foot and a hand. No response. Finally the nurse came in. Thank God they hadn't gone on a coffee break.
"OK just one more treatment and you're done."
I lay through one more zapping as the lazer lit up my optic nerve and I had the unusual experience of seeing light emitted from inside my head.
Then quite suddenly it was all over. Two hours had seemed like 30 minutes and I was able to leave hopefully with black dots obliterated and my brain back.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
A few weeks before a trip to Indonesia I happened to run into an article on jet lag. A fortunate co incidence, since I was not relishing the thought of sitting crunched up in a metal tube for 16 hrs while hurtling through ten time zones at 2.000 miles an hour. As I read further I came across a section on airplane yoga. Perfect. If I was going to be brain dead at the end of the trip at least I’d be able to walk again. So, for any of you Yoga practitioners planning a long plane trip anytime soon, here’s a synopsis what I read.
Fortunately, most of these stretches cam be done in your seat which minimizes the risk of looking like some kind of exercise nut or accidentally whacking an flight attendant carrying a coffee pot.
First are the basic breathing exercises or pranayama. I picked the less intense ones ( those involving heavy panting might single you out as some sort of deviant) and you can be re assured as you slowly fill your lungs with everyone else’s recycled air, you’re probably cutting your chances of death by stroke or other fatal circulatory disorder by at least half. ( which pretty much cancels out your risk of contracting some gruesome air borne virus )
This is followed by neck rolls ( delicious!), a serving of gomukasana ( a bit picante for my taste.), assorted arm stretches served with a helping of good hearty side bends (yum) . Round this off with ankle rolls and a few knee hugs and your blood will no longer be pooling in your boots but whooshing along your arterioles at a pretty fair clip.
The second phase of the airplane yoga experience is the standing poses. Timing is everything here A few minutes off and you could be spending an entire hour standing outside the toilets waiting for the drinks trolley to inch its way up the isle before you can get anywhere near your seat. Not wanting to look conspicuous I used the bathroom crowd for camouflage, well not crowd exactly but a motley group of jetlagged Chinese people was the best I could do.
The first exercise was inclining the body towards the side of the plane while reaching the arms up overhead and resting the hands on the wall. Here it’s probably best not to grab that bar that says “ Emergency Exit” Otherwise you may well end up literally going to that Yoga class in the sky, probably dragging a few reluctant participants with you. Anyway, this stretch combined with a few standing forward bends and numerous toe rises was at least enough to alleviate the restless leg syndrome ,keep brain death at bay and prevent me from being reduced to a hobbling invalid.
I would highly recommend airplane yoga. In fact given Yoga’s current surge in popularity I would go so far as to suggest that a section of the planes be cordoned off for this purpose. Why not? It could catch on. It would combat boredom and be a lot more beneficial than watching a movie you’ve already seen with head phones that usually only work on one side. Besides that it beats furtively sideling around the plane trying to avoid flight attendants and lunch trolleys.
Until then I exhort you to join the movement for the advancement of airplane yoga. ( MADAY) and next time you’re traveling give it a try.
Friday, July 10, 2009
“Tic tic tic tic tic tic......bfffffffff!” The sound awoke me from a drugged sleep. It was the middle of the night. I stared blankly at the ceiling , then reality flooded in. This was a hospital, I had just had surgery and I was now minus an armpit load of lymph nodes. My hand instinctively reached for my right shoulder. One half of my neck and right shoulder were encased in a plaster shell, making me feel like Elizabeth the first in repose. The clock said ten past twelve. I felt exhausted like only someone drugged up to the eyeballs can feel, but every time I felt myself fading into delicious oblivion that damn machine would start up again. “Tic tic tic tic …”and I would be jolted awake as I became aware of an increasing pressure squeezing my lower legs until I was sure that the machine was broken and my calf muscles were going to explode at any moment and then “Bffffff” the pressure would release and the whole process would start all over again.
After about half an hour of this the nurse bustled in. A person ! A rustle of pillows, a re arrangement of lingerie ( if you could call it that) “did I need any pain medication ?” and she was gone leaving me to the “tic tic tic tic.....bfffffff!”
I lay back in the darkened room. I began thinking about the immensity of the building and all the other hundreds of people laying back in their little darkened rooms, when I became aware that I was indeed in need of pain medication. The call button. Isn't that what you were supposed to use? But where the hell was it? I looked around as well as anyone with their head in a vice could look around, but to no avail. With supreme effort I pulled myself upright. Now I really did need pain medication. I felt a well of panic begin to rise. What if I couldn't find it, I could be writhing in pain in this dark and distant pod and no one would know. Then it dawned on me that call buttons were attached to a cable that was plugged into the wall. Wrenching my body around I saw the offending call button on a table, a few feet behind the bed. Well that was a handy place to leave it. After much painful shuffling, I hauled it in.
Finally the nurse arrived. Maybe it was the lack of eye contact or maybe the absence of any pleasantries whatsoever, but I knew right then I had the crabby nurse.
“What is the level of your pain on a scale of one to ten” she barked without preamble.
“ I had no clue how to answer this question. It was like asking a person who has just been hit over the head with a sledge hammer what time it is. So I decided on a non committal 5”
“ It says in your chart you can have Tylanol or Morphine” Hmmmm a Walgreen or a street drug ? Well being a purist I opted for the Tylanol of course, which was like trying calm a bull with a candy bar. So after another half hour I had to bite the bullet .... and make the crabby nurse even crabbier...
“She flurried in....dropping the morphine in the rush of her annoyance...by the time she sent it whooshing into the IV I felt like I would have been more comfortable hiding under the bed.
For the next few hours I was floating on a cloud of wooz,until I realized that I was really hungry. There was nothing else for it, I pressed the wretched call button. ' Could I have something to eat ?”
A small package of graham crackers landed on my bedside table about 5 minutes before the breakfast tray. Food ! I began to salivate at the thought. It looked promising. A large plate topped by a metal cover. I lifted it off. My heart sank.....to clean the blood …..two greasy sausages, for the anesthetized intestinal tract.....two thick slices of white, gummy french toast …..and to wash it all down …..a cup of black coffee. I was so hungry I ate what I could stomach and fell back into an exhausted heap.
Now the hospital was waking up. A vacuum cleaner began snorting outside my door competing with the leg squeezing machine. I reached for my cell phone. “ Please” I croaked to my husband “ Get me out of here now !”
Saturday, July 4, 2009
“ Security has been elevated to code orange” the harsh voice reminded me yet again, jarring me back to the stark realities of the world as I made my way home after a week of respite at a Buddhist retreat. Unfortunately, as I was about to discover, this heightened stated of panic had spawned an entire new breed of security devices and yet another level of annoying and anxiety producing experiences for that most victimized and harassed of species…the airline passenger.
No longer content with having us pad around in our socks while watching everything but the shirt off our backs roll by in a gray dish pan while intense looking men in uniforms scrutinize x rays of our half eaten sandwich and the inner workings of our I-pod.
No, not content with herding us through archways that beep embarrassingly if you’ve left your watch on or making us stand with arms akimbo while someone of the opposite sex runs a metal detector over every nook, cranny and bump that we usually try to conceal.
Not content with dragging the elderly from their wheelchairs to search the interior of their canes and walkers or making chronic pain sufferers surrender their back supports and TENS units while they probe them for gelignite. Yes, my friends, for the contemporary airline passenger life has suddenly become even more interesting, something which my husband and I found out only too soon.
It began when we were told that we had been selected for and an “extra security check”. Meekly we allowed ourselves to be funneled off the main line of travelers where we discovered that as well as the dishpan /barefoot line we were entitled to spend time in a specially designed archway where sudden puffs of air were whiffed up our pant legs and under our shirts, simultaneously sending our hair into orbit. Someone subjected to this bizarre experience looks like they’ve momentarily touched a live electrical wire and their clothes are about to blow off and feels like you’re suddenly standing over a cold air vent. It’s a bit like the test for glaucoma they give you at the optometrist when blast of air is jettisoned onto your unsuspecting eyeball only this is over your unsuspecting body instead. Lovely.
Then you wait for what seems like 5 min but is probably 10 seconds while some computer calculates whether or not you have the slightest atom of anything remotely explosive on your person. If you’re in the clear the door slides open to allow you access to the next test, if not, I ‘m not sure what would happen. Maybe the floor would slowly sink down to some underground FBI interrogation station where you would be awarded a life time vacation to Guantanamo Bay.
Anyway, just when you think this annoying diversion is over and you can finally be reunited with your stray possessions you are told that you are not to touch them. No, they are destined for even more advanced scrutiny. I sat waiting wearily while a man wearing plastic gloves carefully took a swab of the inside of my purse. I began to feel squirmy. He placed the cotton swab into an immense machine which to my dismay started beeping. “We found traces of nitroglycerin” he explained in a matter of fact voice, “ but it might just be from the time before”
The time before?! Who did he see the time before and was he on my flight? Or just as disturbing had I been walking around with a purse that could have self destructed itself along with half the airport at any moment? They tested again. Would I be shuffled off to some sterile, claustrophobic back room to be interrogated? Surely they wouldn’t do that to a Physical Therapist who works with blind children ? “We’ll have to go through your things” he continued in the same oddly impassive tone.
I watched feeling somewhat distanced, as this rather unreal scenario unfolded before me. “OK you can go,” he announced suddenly.
I stared at my personal effects now in a disorganized heap next to my deflated and traumatized purse and feeling like I’d just escaped from starring in one of those films where a totally random run of the mill person is accused of a heinous crime and spends the rest of the movie trying to prove their innocence.
So the next time you’re tempted to travel here’s a few more things to add to your “don’t list.” Don’t get your hair done and don’t wear a skirt.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
having successfully navigated the somewhat bewildering terrain of face book and blogging ( not without an experienced sailor ) I mean I am over 40 what do you expect. Welcome to the land of my musing blog. I hope it will bring you inspiration and a lot of good laughs.