I closed my eyes and winced as another wave of electricity surged up my leg.
“Stay with me!” Max, the medical assistant, shouted.
Stay with you? Where the hell could I go? I had wires attached to my legs and feet, so if I made for the door, I’d probably be zotzed into a pile of ashes.
And what was this “stay with me” crap, anyway? I was the one getting zapped here, not Max. But he was making it sound like we were Siamese twins.
The strangest part of it all was that I had agreed to this punishment.
I went to a pain management specialist this week to set up a cortisone shot for my aching back and I had managed to receive a lot more pain than I had expected.
After a routine examination, the doctor asked me if I had ever had a nerve conduction study. While I’ve often been told that I have a lot of nerve, no one’s ever made a study of it.
“You don’t have to do it,” she said. “But if you do, it will tell me more about your condition.”
That was a warning right there. If anyone ever tells you that you don’t have to do something, that’s your cue to run like hell because whatever it is you’re signing up for, it’s going to suck.
But I couldn’t turn her down. I’m so desperate for relief that I was hoping more knowledge would result in less agony.
Maybe she’d find something that would help reduce this hideous pain I’ve been enduring for two weeks now and perhaps even avoid further outbreaks in the future.
Then she handed me over to Max.
“I don’t want to tell you it won’t hurt,” Max said, as he wired me up. “But I had a 90-year lady in here the other day and she got through it.”
Well, I wasn’t about to be shown up by some walking fossil, so I told Max to do his worst. And he did.
Like other forms of torture, the nerve conduction study starts off mildly. You get a few moments to think, hey, this ain’t so bad. Then the wattage increases.
“It’s getting stronger now,” Max said, stating the incredibly obvious.
My foot started flapping around as if it were possessed. An arc of pain surged up my calf, followed by an even more powerful blast. Damn you, Thomas Edison!
I started to think about prisoners in Abu Ghraib and the detainees in Gitmo. Who the hell was that 90-year-old lady who had supposedly sailed through this torment—Mr. T’s grandmother?
“I confess!” I told Max, though I hadn’t been accused of anything.
“There’s going to be seven quick ones in a row,” Max, sporting fellow that he was, informed me just before seven little lightning bolts rocketed up my leg. Yes, I counted.
I started to wonder if this was an actual examination or some field training for Max when he applies for a job with the CIA.
I got the treatment in both legs and then a few more shots at the base of my spine. Max finally unhooked me and told me to have a nice weekend, which seemed rather implausible. Unless someone needed me to jump-start their car.
After Max left the room, the doctor came back in to perform another test, this time sinking a needle into various points on my leg in some kind of sound wave exam. It wasn’t pleasant, but after the electro-shock treatment it didn’t seem so bad.
I’m scheduled to get a cortisone shot on Friday. If the pain comes back in a month, the doctor says “we’ll have to talk.” This could mean surgery, which I dread, but right now I think I’d take that over another round with Max.
I crawled out of the doctor’s office and limped toward the subway. If there’s a 90-year-old lady in this town who could take this kind of abuse, I hope I never meet her.