Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Adventures in Hospital 2: How Dr. Feelgood and an MRI Finally Eased the Pain in My Head

As a general rule, I'm not particularly fond of cold, dark, enclosed spaces -- especially when I'm stuck inside of them for 30 minutes as a machine zaps my body, looking for strange, dangerous growths.

But no pain, no gain, and it was two weeks of excruciating pain that had brought me here. Yesterday, a headache that was heading into its third week and made turning my head from side to side nearly unbearable, finally sent me to BNH Hospital in Bangkok, the only medical center I've ever been to that's run like a five-star hotel.

The experience there was just as I'd remembered: polite, smiling employees; beautiful nurses wearing traditional nurse hats who looked like they'd stepped out of a time machine from the 1950s; and, of course, BNH's custom bottled water. For a moment, I forgot all about the pain in my neck that was extending all the way up the sides of my head.

After one of the nurses weighed me (81.6 kilos, down nearly three from my last BNH visit in October) and my blood pressure (surprisingly, normal), I was sent into the office of Chakraphong Lorsuwansiri, MD. Was my eyesight deceiving me (and possibly even causing this blinding head pain), or did Dr. Lorsuwansiri look like he couldn't possibly have been born before I graduated from high school in 1987?

He looked more like someone I might be flirting with at DJ Station next weekend than the man to whom I should be entrusting my medical well-being. That his English was only occasionally intelligible added to my unease. Did he even understand anything I was saying? I started pointed to the places on my head that hurt most just to be sure we were on the same page and the same body part.

Eventually, we settled on three courses of treatment: Arcoxia for the head pain, Amitryptyline to help me sleep (I suggested that chronic lack of sleep might be the culprit), and a 9am appointment for an MRI the following day (again, at my suggestion, since I knew I probably wouldn't rest in peace until I knew my brain was tumor-free). MRIs are all in the same language, I told myself, still unnerved by the language barrier. He wouldn't need to speak mine in order to tell me if there was anything wrong.

This morning, as I was introduced to the cylinder where I would spend the next 30 minutes shivering, I nearly called the whole thing off. The medication that Dr. Lorsuwansiri had prescribed was working wonders. Though the tiny 10-mg Amitryptyline pill had kicked off my night's sleep with a few waking nightmares, once I'd fallen asleep, I'd only woken up one time over the course of eight hours, and for the first time in more than two weeks, there was no pain in my head. I could even turn it from side to side, though the MRI would hold it so firmly in place, there'd be none of that for at least 30 minutes.

"It's sleepy time," one of the nurses announced to me, after I'd changed into a hospital gown and was about to enter the frigid room containing my X-ray chamber. I was still feeling a bit drowsy. I figured that the Amitryptyline must still be working on me, and I'd doze off right away. I laid down, and in I went. Seconds later...


Who could fall asleep with such a racket ringing in the ears? Not even the earplugs that the guy operating the machinery had inserted into my ears helped. The noise coming from the MRI machine sounded like the introduction to a Strokes song that kept getting interrupted by one of David Guetta's deplorable techno beats.

Every time I tried to change the subject in my mind, the cacophony of rock and techno sounds jarred me out of my reverie. Just when I was about to squeeze the ball I had been given in case I needed assistance, it was over.

Thirty minutes later, Dr. Lorsuwansiri delivered the good news: The MRI was normal. My brain was in perfect working order. He suggested that I try to avoid stress, eat well and continue to take the Amitryptyline until I finished the prescribed supply of 10. If I didn't die another day, it wouldn't have anything to do with anything in my brain.

As I later shared with my concerned Facebook friends via a status update, there was nothing in there that wasn't supposed to be there, except for the odd and occasional dirty thought. I had a feeling that for the next several days, a few of them might involve Dr. Lorsuwansiri and his healing hands, which, after two weeks of nearly non-stop pain, finally had prescribed relief.
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