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eastern cure for a western headache June 30, 2009

Posted by doug in important developments, schmerz.

so about a month ago i started having these headaches. they weren’t the migraines i’ve come to know over the last decade. no, this flavor of headache lacked the visual disturbances (see below) and came on like an electric shock, crowding my skull and pulsing to the rhythm of my heartbeat. (less romantic than it sounds.) having an insurance plan at the moment, i decided to get it checked out by a professional. the general doctor-man referred me to a “specialist”: a kindly neurologist who worked a few blocks away. i went the following week, and the first order of business was an electroencephalography, or an EEG as it’s commonly referenced in neurological-themed hip-hop lyrics. it looked something (exactly) like this:


the helper-lady administered this sweet-looking EEG cap and goo’d up my scalp with special EEG-sensitive goop. (imagine l.a. looks styling gel that can read your mind.) i had to sit still and think happy thoughts* for a few minutes while she scanned my dome. afterward, i met with the neurologist, who assured me – against all contrary evidence – that i had a “good brain.” based on my headache description and history of migraines, he posited that i was likely experiencing “exertion headaches.” (laughable based on my generally laissez faire existence, but i guess it’s just a name. like how you can get athlete’s foot without playing sports. or aids without ever helping anyone.) he said he was 90-percent sure they were exertion headaches, but there was an off chance it could be a brain aneurysm. (had he avoided hard numbers, i wouldn’t have worried. but 1 in 10 is far better odds than, say, joey logano taking the top prize at the lenox industrial tools 301 auto race. for christ’s sake.) so i scheduled an MRA scan** for the following week, which resulted in another silly getup:


i had to strip down to my skivvies this time and wear this classy evening gown (that i later pilfered) so as not to upset the scan results. i also had to remove anything metal, which thankfully excluded the titanium shank implanted in my left leg. (would have been messy.) so for the second time in a year, a lab technician eased me into the mechanical womb of “the coil” (to adopt the popular magnetic imaging vernacular). when the neurologist received the results the following week, he assured me there was no evidence of an aneurysm and that my cerebral arteries looked “good.” (this guy was a peerless wordsmith. a verbal turducken with walt whitman nestled inside winston churchill and stuffed into the lifeless oratorical carcass of barack obama.)

but short of relaxing there’s no real cure for an exertion headache. and since any more relaxation would lead financial ruin and/or a vegetative state, i decided to look to “alternative” medicine. so i found a conveniently-located acupuncturist and went the next day:


i don’t claim to know how it works, but dr. tan stuck needles in my hands, wrists, neck and shoulders and i left feeling relaxed, perforated and largely satisfied with the experience. and most importantly, i haven’t had a single exertion headache since. take that western medicine.

*the happy thoughts were my own invention, but i can only assume they curved my spike and wave discharges into the most attractive brain patterns ever inked on EEG paper.

**not a typo. an MRA is exactly like an MRI, but instead of looking at all the brainy materials, it examines the arteries. a series of hollow tubes that take your thoughts from the brain and out your mouth***.

***i’m guessing on this last part.


i see artifacts May 27, 2009

Posted by doug in important developments, schmerz.

finally, i have a way of describing my ocular migraines to non-sufferers:

placeholder September 24, 2007

Posted by doug in important developments, schmerz.

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i’m back, after spending five days at berlin’s lovely unfallkrankenhaus. i underwent an invasive surgery and blew a lot of money, but gained an umlaut.

i’m not supposed to be walk for the next five weeks, even though i expect a number of visitors and may still be going to munich. there’s only one thing that can stand in way of these plans, and that is a gross swollen foot. (warning: contains unpleasantries)

also, while at the hospital i watched a bunch of dvds, including the parts one and two of the godfather trilogy. it ate up a good portion of idle time, but unfortunately, the collection dov lent me didn’t include the third and final chapter. and without that closure i’m stuck in an uncomfortable limbo, unsure whether or not crime pays. now that i think about it, a little time spent in an organized crime dynasty would really help defray these medical bills.

mein bein ist kaputt September 16, 2007

Posted by doug in important developments, schmerz.

to briefly recap, last week dov, jakub, nic and i embarked on an aimless journey to parts east spent almost exclusively in the czech republic. by the 3rd day, we’d made a comfortable residency in the town of olomouc. after exploring the industrial skyline of ostrava (jakub’s birthplace), we returned and had some drinks and light conversation at a hostel before leaving to eat. on the way to said meal, tragedy struck.


i could blame the shoddy 18th-century ecclesiastical architecture, or the wholly unsupportive martial arts sneakers i chose to wear, but regardless, a combination of the two along with general horsing-around resulted in my left foot forcefully changing its position from noon to about 9 o’clock, snapping a number of necessary bones and tearing some tendons and ligaments to boot. after a comically extended wait spent prostrate on old moravian cobblestones while viscerally describing the sensation in my mangled appendage, an ambulance arrived. of course the emergency workers only spoke czech, which forced jakub to act as an intermediary. they seemed more interested in my passport, address and future payment methods than my physical state, but after a prolonged discussion, i was on my way to the local hospital.

my visit began with what seemed like hours spent on a stretcher in a small, dimly-lit room. finally, after screaming (literally) for any signs of life, a few low-level employees filed in. without saying a word, they surveyed my foot with heavy hands and then, with a pair of them bracing my upper leg, snapped the foot straight, grinding the bones in such a way that still makes me shudder.

that was the first sign that this might not be the best medical care available. the second was when jakub had to slip an employee 200 czech crowns (about 8 euros) in order to have him to take x-rays. the third was when they explained how i’d need immediate reconstructive surgery (involving screws, metal shanks and other things generally not found in the human body), but since they had a handful of other surgeries already planned, i’d need to wait at least until the following afternoon.

later, they moved me to another room for an evening of anxious repose. along the way i decided that berlin might provide better service than i was currently receiving. but it wasn’t an easy decision. for one thing, there is a good 8-hour drive from olomouc to the german capital. also, we were traveling in a tiny rental car. it was already tight (especially the night in prague when we slept in it), and it would be challenging to add into the equation a broken limb in constant need of elevation. despite the difficulties, i decided to go. i was able to convey to a nurse that i’d like to go to berlin. she acknowledged my request, but said there was nothing she could do until the morning. with my cell phone effectively dead and no one who i could converse with, all i could do was close my eyes in a futile attempt at a few hours rest before the next day’s travails.

at around 8 the following morning, i was awake to greet a team of hospital employees who wanted to know if i was going to stay. i answered in the negative. i proceeded to explain my decision, when he stopped me. he didn’t care if i stayed or went, but wouldn’t offer further treatment if i was leaving. his wanton dickishness reinforced my decision to leave. he said they would need to cast my leg before hitting the road, but apparently i’d fallen to the bottom of the priority list. jakub and dov arrived in due time, but i wasn’t casted back in the car until close to noon. the rest of the day was spent in the backseat with my leg encased in plaster and resting on the adjacent person’s lap.

i arrived to berlin around 10 that evening and received rapid service that starkly contrasted that of their neighbors to the east. the end result: my leg was too swollen to operate, and after they lined up the bones and recasted my leg, i’d need to wait until tuesday for surgery.

so, here i am, biding my time until tuesday, taking regiments of pills and administering an anti-clotting shot into my stomach each day. my deep thanks and appreciation go out to all those who have sent their good wishes, visited me, drove me to or from the hospital, brought me food/beer/chocolate or rode in a cramped car encumbered with my weighty leg. i will think of you while i drift to sleep as an organism composed of flesh-and-bone, only to wake with what i hope will approximate a robotic leg, eventually capable of such superhuman feats as walking and standing in place.

and finally, the last known photograph featuring my fully functional left leg:



we had some good times together, didn’t we?