Suddenly I’ve become a shaky lady. Well, that’s better than being shady, for sure!
Two days ago, I paid a visit to a neurologist at Mount Sinai Hospital because I suspect I have thoracic outlet syndrome. No, that’s not one of discount malls on the outskirts of town! I’ve been a computer jockey for so long that my ulnar nerve, which runs down from the spine to the pinky and ring finger, is most likely compressed. So my pinky finger shakes, gets numb, tingly and hot. (If you want to feel your ulnar nerve, strike your funny bone.)
But I digress … I had to wait three hours to see the doctor. Is anyone else annoyed by the fact that a 2:30 appointment means 5:30? This is billable time! Can I send the doctor an invoice? Due upon receipt?
So you arrive, write a Russian novel about your medical history until your hand starts to cramp and then realize your handwriting is just as bad as the doctor’s penmanship, straight from the school of illegible chicken scratch. At that point you answer questions like “have you been treated for this before?” with “no, that’s why I’m here, you dumb ass!” Then you sit your dumb ass down and wait. Yes, wait. That’s why it’s called a waiting room and why you are patient.
Two and half-hours into my appointment, the receptionist ushers me into a second waiting room, where I tested my vision with the chart and fumbled around with plastic skeleton parts. Not knowing what to do next, I sat down on the edge of a chair, put my hands in meditation position and started to perform yogic breathing. And that’s when the shtick started, because it took me a few minutes to realize that the doctor was standing right in front of me watching me with a somewhat puzzled smirk on his face!
The doctor – let’s call him Zhivago -- led me into his office and shook my hand to meet me officially. He then looked at my Russian novel and commented that I had written more than any patient he had ever treated. Zhivago was very impressed with the fact that I knew big words like THORACIC OUTLET SYNDROME, CUBITAL TUNNEL and ULNAR NERVE ENTRAPMENT. “You’re very smart,” he commented right there under the very unflattering fluorescent lights. (How come that sort of compliment never happens under better lighting when you meet a guy at a bar?)
Our chitchat diverted into my personal life, because you know, a good patient tells a doctor EVERYTHING. Shaky pinky digressed into a marathon kvetch: “How am I? You want to know how I am? I'll tell you how I am! What with my weight gain, my travesty of a relationship with my ex-boyfriend, how I sank into depression, had succumbed to anxiety attacks and agoraphobia, how of all the damn psychotherapists on Miami Beach, the one I chose for treatment lived and worked in the same building as my ex-boyfriend, come on, what are the odds? ... " (Why you can only pour your heart out to a compassionate professional after shelling out some bucks, God only knows.) At that point, I didn’t know if I was at a neurologist or a shrink. And then I had to wonder, when you are nervous wreck, who better to cure you than a specialist on nerves?
But Zhivago was very compassionate. “Don't worry, M, everyone’s depressed about something at some point in their lives.” And this was followed by the final obligatory evaluation question: “Are you nuts?”
Pregnant pause. “Nutty, yes, nuts, no.”
Then Zhivago led me by the hand to the examination table like a gentleman, as if he were pulling out the chair for me at a restaurant and saying, "ladies first." Nice touch, doctor!
I’d learn more about this doctor’s nice touch in the ensuing minutes. I had no idea that an initial neurological exam involved feeling up the patient! Not in an OB/GYN sort of way, mind you, which is very clinical and boring – this was far more interesting: fully clothed foreplay!
The first thing he did was to take my hands and put them on my lap. He noticed the shaky pinky. “Don’t be nervous,” he said. “I’m very easy to get along with.” (Yeah right ... famous first words!) Then, after asking me to grab his hands really hard to test my strength, he proceeded to gyrate my wrists and elbows. I looked out the window because he was standing rather close to me. Then he said, “I like to close my eyes so I can feel every sensation.” And I’m glad his eyes were closed because I couldn’t keep a straight face.
Then he asked me to close my eyes and he gently caressed my face and squeezed my ear lobes.
Zhivago: “Can you feel this?”
Interior Monologue: Well, of course I can feel it, you idiot! And it feels amazingly good!
Then the exam went from vanilla to kinky in two seconds flat. He took a pin and started to gently prick me over every bit of exposed skin.
Zhivago: “Can you feel this?”
Interior Monologue: Ooooh, that’s kind of nice …
And like every good Russian novel, this medical exam had a beginning, middle, and climactic end. After tapping my knee with a rubber implement to check for reflexes, he brought out some metal instruments, my favorite being a vibrating rod used for the medical equivalent of an activity that would be appreciated by anyone with a foot fetish.
Zhivago: “Take off your shoes, please. I’m going to test sensation on the soles of your feet.”
No interior monologue this time. I just let it all out, with a very giggly, high-pitched “ooooh, that tickles!”
Ah, yes, so sad is the condition of being chronically single, that a visit to the neurologist gives you cheap thrills.
So will this Lara see her Doctor Zhivago again? Oh yes indeed! He gave me plenty of opportunities for additional poking and prodding: Thyroid, just in case the old gland went the way of the tortoise instead of the hare. MRI, just in case a tumor made its way into my brain like a meatball in the old noodle. Oh, and a nerve conduction test: that’s when they attach sensors to your body, sort of like an electric chair that doesn’t kill you.
I can only imagine what the second visit will be like! Who wants to be a nervous wreck when you can have nervous bliss?