Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Nystagmus for Dummies

While I haven't posted lately it hasn't exactly been because things are awfully slow. Just the opposite: I've been busier than all-get-out for the past week. Along with the usual (work, ASL class) my sis has come from Newfoundland to visit and (hopefully) maybe even get some work and settle here. We drove down to Moncton to pick her up on Saturday (you can literally save hundreds of dollars on a round-trip ticket from Newfoundland to New Brunswick by flying CanJet, which flys out of Moncton airport but not, unfortunately, the local one. But it's only a 3-hour drive to Moncton (round trip) so it's worth it for the savings.

It's great having her here. We didn't know each other very well as kids (9-year age gap - she's younger) but I've gotten to know her as an adult and she is a very close friend and a lot of fun to hang out with. It's been really nice to wake up in the morning the past few days and realize she's here and I can look forward to talking with her.

Like any good Newfoundlander, she came bearing gifts; first, a container of my Mom's Corn Fritters (my favourite Mom comfort food, and one which, unlike a few others, I have never been able to duplicate, so they were especially treasured); and secondly, this stunningly awesome t-shirt:

If you're Canadian and you don't recognize the guy in the Warholesque images, shame on you. It's Father of Confederation and Newfoundland legend Joey Smallwood, rendered as if he'd done a sitting for the Neurotic One himself. It's produced by a phenomenally cool Newfoundland company called Living Planet and it is officially my new most favourite t-shirt. Joey Smallwood, pop icon. Who knew?

I'd love to see Sis find work here and settle in her own place here and am going to do my best to make sure that happens. I am lucky that one of my co-workers is a full-time employment counselor and she has agreed to help Sis pump up her resume and point her in promising directions.

Other news: when I filled out the CI Evaluation forms an eon ago, one of the questions was about dizziness or vertigo. I mentioned I'd had a few episodes. At the evaluation they queried me about it again and I described them (kind of a momentary "whoah, almost lost my balance for a second there!" where I grab someone or something and it's over as soon as it starts) but noted I'd probably had few enough to count on one hand. Well, regardless, they wanted me to do a test called an ENG. Sure, whatever. Say you want me to paint myself blue and stand in a corner on my head whistling "The Maple Leaf Forever" for 20 minutes a day. If it puts me a step closer to the implant, I'm happy to oblige.

The appointment and information sheet came from the hospital yesterday. I didn't know what an ENG test (or, as it turns out, the related VNG test) was, but as I read the description I kept getting more and more incredulous until I was literally laughing out loud. Listen to this:

VNG: A pair of goggles is placed on your eyes. Two tiny cameras in the goggles record the movement of your eyeballs called nystagmus. Different types of movements can point to different causes of vertigo. When the eyeballs move the cameras record your eyes and the signal is sent to the computer.

ENG: A set of five disks is taped to the skin around your eyes to measure the movement of your eyeballs called nystagmus. When the eyeball moves the disks pick up the changes and send the signal to the computer.

During the test you will be in a darkened room. you will be asked to look at objects of lights, and move your body and head in various positions.
[That should be interesting. Just how are they going to instruct me to do all this?] Small amounts of cool and warm air will also be run into your ear canal for a short time. The last part of the test may resuult in a short duration turning sensation, but it will only last for a minute or two..."

You also can't smoke, drink alcohol, or ingest caffeine or a list of meds as long as my arm for 24 hours before the test, nor use makeup or wear contacts or scented products during it.

Sometimes I get the sneaking suspicion that somewhere, in some room in Johns Hopkins University Hospital fitted with a foosball table, pinball machine and fridge full of Red Bull, a team of distinguished doctors sits around making up these tests, and the supposed rationales for them, as a kind of reward for long and outstanding service to the field of medicine.



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