…life on the synaptic firing range

Location: Los Angeles, United States

Bent but unbroken Southern California native seeks understanding, companionship, and resonance along and off the beaten path. Teresa plays well with others and makes every effort to perform to her potential. Usually. *processed in a facility that processes nuts and nut products

Friday, March 03, 2006


“It is like fanny pack,” the Russian cardio tech told me as she fastened a pouch around my midsection. And she wasn’t off the mark. While my heart monitor’s mission control, the ambulatory EKG recorder, was not quite as large as your classic fanny pack, it was nowhere near as sleek as an iPod—think more Walkman circa 1979 (when, by the way, Sony initially introduced their portable cassette player as the “Soundabout”).

The Cardiac Studies receptionist apparently wasn’t kidding when she told me to wear a loose-fitting blouse to Thursday morning’s appointment, where I received a Holter heart monitor to wear for 24 hours, just to see if there’s any cardiac mischief to account for my blackouts. (When the receptionist called to schedule me for a “Holter fitting” I thought she was saying “halter,” which left me wondering for several days just how many straps might be involved.)

The first shirt I put on Thursday morning was voluminous, from about two sizes ago, back when I treated my depression with food instead of meds. When I saw myself in the mirror I felt unconscionably dumpy, and I couldn’t imagine that the wires and such would need that much wiggle room, so I changed into a shirt that was biggish but not ridiculously so. As it turned out, that shirt was just big enough to contain my gadget-augmented girth.

Shouldn’t portable medical technology be at least as advanced as portable music technology? My partner’s current-generation iPod—and only the 30GB model at that—stores 7,500 songs; my heart monitor was to store only 24 hours worth of cardiac activity (on a 64MB chip) and was about five times the size.

When I poked around online I found that Kaiser and I weren’t exactly on the cutting edge; there were Holter systems that looked far sleeker than the one I was wearing. But noting their price tag of around $1,500, I understood Kaiser’s hesitation to replace the older models. They have to trust us riffraff to wear these things for a full day without absentmindedly diving into a swimming pool or wandering through a magnetic field. Besides, they probably do have some shiny new units that they reserve for their real patients. (I fear that Kaiser has written me off as a head case and is merely humoring me with dummy tests; my suspicion is reinforced when my MRIs are performed at a unit outside the hospital in a trailer marked “MRI 2,” which my partner jokes should read “MRI too!” being the fake one and all.)

So I went to work Thursday feeling like I was packing a bomb or wearing a police wire, what with the electrodes and surgical tape covering my chest and midsection and the hard, bulky box strapped to my stomach. The tech joked that she hoped I didn’t need to go to the airport that day. I told her I didn’t but that I was worried about scoring drugs later that night.

As the day wore on, I grew increasingly itchy and uncomfortable. My “unit,” as I had come to regard it with grudging acceptance, was the least of my worries; at least its straps were adjustable. But my tape-covered chest made me feel like a papier-mâché girl.

And the worst was yet to come.

The worst being that I had to sleep in this thing, the wires of which crisscrossed my bra such that it, too, would have to stay put until the following morning. For our lady readers, what’s the first thing we want to do when we get home from work? Take off our effing bras! It’s onerous enough making our pendulous pods defy gravity all day, but curtailing their freedom to flop around all yippee-skippy once we're abed is beyond mean. The wee hours are when my breasts exercise their natural inclination toward ptosis. To deny them their due is to offend nature.

The best thing about wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours was that it made me appreciate not having to wear one. It is one of two tests I’ve undergone that I would not ever like to repeat, the other being my sleep-deprived EEG, prior to which I had to stay awake for 30 hours, toward the end of which time I would have given up nuclear secrets, the identity of the Black Dahlia’s killer, or even my friend Hugh’s cheesecake recipe, anything that might promise to earn me some horizontal relief. I’d submit to another spinal tap—without a local—before I would willingly repeat either of those tests.

Having my monitor removed this morning can be counted among my life’s great moments, assuming that we’re speaking liberally and are including the top 500 moments or so. I’d put it above finding five dollars (at age 12 in the parking lot of the Rusty Pelican) and beneath learning to swim.

I was supposed to have a female tech for both attachment and removal, but this morning a male tech came to fetch me from the waiting room. Maybe the Kaiser folks figured I was androgynous enough to go either way. At any rate, I didn’t care. I popped my shirt’s snaps open so fast you’d have thought we were shooting an exam-room porn scene, except that women in porn films seldom wear long-sleeve corduroy shirts—too seldom if you ask me. The tech countered my sexy move with his own, tearing the electrodes and tape from my bare skin like a crazed animal, or at the very least like someone who had other patients to see and no time for procedural foreplay.

After our frenzied exchange he said I was all set and turned away to futz with the equipment. Covered in conductive gel and adhesive residue, I stood at the exam-room sink with a paper towel pitifully dabbing at my angry red skin—even angrier now than it had been the previous morning, when the Russian woman rubbed it mercilessly to rough up the areas where the electrodes would sit. “Oh,” today’s tech said, removing the lid from a canister of presoaked gauze. “You can use alcohol for that.”

So I’m electrode-free, and I’ve shed my unit, and I can’t wait to free my boobs, which have been in their current state of bondage for 32 hours. Were I a woman of lesser endowment I’d consider giving them a weekend furlough, two luxurious days of braless hedonism, but nature is a cruel mistress, having saddled this tomboy with D-cup glands that forced her to stop boxing the neighborhood boys just as she was hitting her prime.

In a few days I’m certain to receive a call from my doctor telling me that everything looks normal; what else could be expected of a placebo test? A few days after that I’ll be scheduled for another appointment at MRI too! And thus life moves inexorably forward in Jabberwocky, where I’m thinking about buying a fanny pack to house my new Sony Soundabout.


Blogger sporksforall said...

I had the "sport" walkman that weighed about a thousand pounds. You left out the bit about your being very much like tickle me Elmo last night. I heart my ipod. And the giver of the ipod.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Slangred said...

Sounds like loads of fun, 'specially since I might have been able to excuse myself from work were I sporting said EKG strap-on, as the book detection system would surely have constituted enough of a magnetic field to pose a risk! I'm looking forward to the all-normal call, since I heartily heart your heart and the you surrounding it.

11:33 AM  
Blogger bryduck said...

Oh, sure, make my 5 hour stay at UCLA waiting for the PET scan that-would-never-be sound like a cruise to a Pacific isle! Show off.

1:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home