Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Moon and Medical Miracles

Despite being 12 noon, the temperature hovered just above 0°C outside the hospital main entrance. It was Friday. The week was nearly over. I took deep breaths, enjoying the crispness of the air.  I smiled as I remembered the medical miracles of the past five days.
It had been eight o'clock that morning, when I was allowed through the coded-entry door into the special department tucked away in the basement of the hospital. It was right beside the chapel. While the mandatory one-size-fits-all yellow pajamas I wore were neither flattering nor fashionable, they did serve the necessary function better than those notoriously revealing, impossible to tie, hospital gowns. Stripped of metal, including my wedding ring, I had followed nurse Nicole as she explained what was about to happen. I was to lie down on a stretcher, head pointed toward the gaping doughnut hole of the Magnetic Residence Imaging (MRI) machine into which I was to be thrust. Ear plugs were inserted, on top of which were placed snug fitting, industrial-style hearing protection devices. A Velcro strip was used to fasten my head to a frame, which in turn was slid into a "helmet". I looked like a Viking warrior ready for battle or immolation. The MRI tube I was slid into was just wide enough for my shoulders. My only communication from the outside world was accessed by looking directly up into mirrors placed at 45° angles so as to enable me to read a computer monitor.  On the screen appeared Nicole's reassurances like, "Are you okay?". I was tempted to nod.  Over the next 45 minutes or so, the sophisticated MRI equipment that had swallowed me made intermittent sounds like a poorly maintained gravel crusher and a high-powered chainsaw left running at top speed. This explained the hearing protection. After a short break, and time to take my Parkinson's medication, it was back into the enamel culvert for more Kodak moments. Apparently, this high-priced apparatus had the ability to take precision pictures of my dopamine depleted brain.
The week had begun, Monday morning, in the comparative quietness of another technological tunnel. Then it had been a Positron Emission Tomography scanner (PETscan). There, instead of exposing me to very loud sounds, I was injected with radioactive isotopes that were supposedly successful in navigating certain convoluted pathways in my brain. The "tracer" is like a luminescent paint used to highlight aspects of neurological function (or dysfunction in my case). Again, this enabled particularly important photo ops of glowing brain bits.
On Tuesday morning, having just peeled off the round little Band-Aids from the PET scan injection sites on the inside of my left arm, I was privileged to be given supposedly safe dosages of hepatitis A, hepatitis B and typhoid fever. These vaccinations were delivered with a smile and three stabs, one in the right shoulder muscle and two in the left, followed by three more round Band-Aids. Just a few more appointments, and an indeterminate number of body piercings, and I will be the proud beneficiary of immunity to virtually every disease known to man (except, of course, the one that I have already).
Of course, none of the events explained above are anything other than the necessary consequences of volunteering for studies on people with Parkinson's, and preparing for my round the world trip starting in May 2012 (more details to follow shortly). I am humbled by these medical opportunities, recognizing that few people in the world would have had the high tech treatment in their lifetime that I received this week. We are all prone to complain. Yet, we do so as spoiled children.  In fact, it seems that the more we have, the more we complain about.

Life is full. This weekend I'm going to spend some time outside. Just breathing in that cold December air and marveling at the beautiful full moon I get to enjoy.


  1. What a timely and interesting post, Bob. It is a stunning moon and we are lucky in the Okanagan not to have the usual cloud coverage that gets in the way of viewing its magnificence. I rose at 5:30 this morning to view the eclipse, knowing that in 2000 when I had a liver transplant the universe gave us an eclipse of the moon in the SE sky, and Haley's comet in the north. The awesomeness of the universe surrounded me then. As I fight to be healthy enough for a 3rd transplant to extend my life, I look up at that moon and the shadow crossing it, with the subsequent rebirth of the light, and wonder what the universe has in store for me. Your plan to travel the world is a spectacular way to become one with the entire planet. I have no doubt you'll be watching many moons as both you and it traverse space....yours terrestrial and the moon's cosmic. Betty

  2. Very cool post. Thanks Bob. As someone who is connected to Huntington's Disease and the research process, this totally resonates with me. And you have such a great writing ability and I so enjoy reading your posts. They pick me up, too. In my world, I had one of those calls last night and we had to take some time to check on my mom. Over the past week, she's taken a bit of a downturn and we are not sure which way things are going. Somehow, in the midst of life, it's good to be able to appreciate what we do have and even embrace knowledge, like knowing and dealing with a disease like Parkinsons or Huntington's. I feel blessed to know you, Bob. Thanks for your inspirations.