Wednesday, December 15, 2004

So I said to my close personal friend Buzz Aldrin, I said...

Had the ENG test yesterday. (You remember, the one designed to diagnose the reasons for vertigo or dizziness, the one that measures the movement of the eye, NYSTAGMUS. They always write NYSTAGMUS in capital letters, leading me to suspect that either it is an acronym for something or it is a part of the medical curriculum which sucks so badly that you forever after think of it in caps.)

Funny how things I dread (like the CI evaluation meeting in Halifax) turn out to be nothing, and the things I expect to be pretty much nothing turn out to be pretty awful. The ENG test starts with electrodes being taped around the eyes. Snapping the electrodes onto the sticky patches actually takes quite a lot of pressure and that's pretty uncomfortable directly around your eyeballs. The first part of the test was pretty easy, other than that - watching a red dot of light move back and forth, then up and down, then tracking it until is disappeared and picking it up again, and so on.

Then we moved on to the second part of the test. This involves blowing "cold and warm" air into the ear. The purpose of doing so is to actually induce dizziness. You are required to talk all through this part of the test so that you can't concentrate on suppressing the dizziness or nausea. You also cannot open your eyes, again so that you can't focus on anything to stop the dizzy sensation. It was hideous. The air was ice-cold (and later, much too hot for comfort) and extremely uncomfotable.

The audiologist told me that some clinics use cold and hot water instead of air but my hospital does not. That's when the penny dropped and I remembered something that I'd read a long time ago:

"Military pilots were veterans of physical examinations, but in addition to all the usual components of 'the complete physical', the Lovelace doctors had devised a series of novel tests involving straps, tubes, hoses and needles. They would put a strap around your head, clamp some sort of instrument over your eyes - and then stick a hose in your ear and pump cold water into your ear canal. It would make your eyeballs flutter. It was an unpleasant, disorienting sensation..." Tom Wolfe. The Right Stuff.

"So this is what if feels like to be an astronaut," I thought.

What jolly fun! I'm still nauseated nearly 24 hours later.

Did we learn anything? Who knows? I only know that the Hearing and Speech Center in Halifax requested it as a precursor to the CI surgery so I would crawl over broken glass to make it to the appointment. The fact is, I have been having increasing moments of vertigo, usually just as I begin to descend a flight of stairs, and if they can figure out something that will help that, super. But I don't expect they can really fix vertigo any more than they can fix the tinnitus. It's just a side effect, and part and parcel of this new way of living.

On the other hand, I can now tell people that Neil Armstrong and I have something in common.

ronnie

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