Thursday, September 15, 2005

Clinically sleeping

Lie still with eyes open. Now eyes closed. Look toward your forehead. Down to your chin. Look left. Look right. Left again. Right. Now look straight ahead and blink slowly 5 times. Good. Now grit your teeth.

I performed that calibration exercise about 427 times, maybe even more like 431, over the last 2 days, as part of a sleep study I undertook to try and discover the cause of my fatigue these past several months. Essentially, the doctors were looking for any 'sleep disordered breathing', such as sleep apnea, which might account for my lack of productive sleep.

Showed up at the clinic at 7pm on Tuesday evening, at which point they immediately started attaching wires to my body, a process which took close to 2 and 1/2 hours. No lie, I must have had like 427 wires, maybe even more like 431, attached to the many varied and sometimes hairy components of my anatomy. Wires were taped to my legs, my chest, my arms, my neck. But wait there's more! They glued, actually glued about 15 wires to my head. On top. Behind my ears. On my temples. And even to my chin, which more or less required a full bottle of Elmers or whatever that toxic compound was, due to my suddenly regretful lack of shaving over the past year. About the only spots I didn't have any wires attached were Those Places Which Must Not Be Named. You get the picture.

So there I lie, watching TV, waiting to get tired, in my own private room, which I assumed would be decorated in some late 80's style 'cozy wooden unthreatening outdated hospital' look, you know to help people feel like they could actually sleep there, but which was instead decorated with the standard 'cold and colorless sterile laminate which shall never, ever be updated for insane patients' motif. Not quite as sleep inducing as I imagined anyway. But extremely clean nonetheless.

When I finally think I have a chance at falling asleep, I alert the 'sleep tech' and she comes in to hook me up to the various blinking-lighted apparatuses (apparati?) next to the bed. She puts some kind of tubing into my nostrils which must have measured something, but presumably not nose hair, which would surely have overloaded the poor machine (I'm like my grandpa that way). Then I do the whole 'eyes open, eyes closed' calibration thing and she turns out the lights, leaving me to try and get comfortable with 431 wires and tubes for bedmates. Oh, and a video camera recording my every 'move'.

Fortunately, they let me take my regular sleeping pill, without which I'd have become a rather tall and twitchy zombie, so I fall asleep within 20 minutes or so. Only to be woken up by another 'sleep tech' who asks me to try sleeping on my back. I fall back asleep, woken up again sometime later by loud voices in the hall, with a searing back ache and an urgent need to use the bathroom.

The sign in the hall which reads "Quiet Please! Sleep study in Progress!" has apparently become ineffective as a means to remind the staff that others are trying to sleep with 431 wires and tubes glued to their skin and a video camera taping them for the inevitable revival of Candid Camera.

And because I'm essentially a cyborg, plugged in to thousands of dollars worth of immobile equipment, I need someone to help me out of bed. There is a microphone directly above me on the ceiling. Tentatively, I call out 'I need to use the bathroom'. No response. I say it again, a bit louder this time. Nothing. Surely the partygoers in the hallway are not too busy to help a brother take a leak? I sit there, hoping against hope that I won't have to wet my bed on camera, probably getting electrocuted by the 431 wires attached to me in the process, and thanking God none of them are attached to my, well, you know, when finally I see a call button thingy hanging behind me on the wall. I press it, and yet another new face arrives to save the day.

In the morning, when I finally wake up around 10:30am, the doctor comes in to tell me the good news. I have no sleep disordered breathing. I feel disappointed. Not because my breathing is ok, but because we have yet to find the cause of my fatigue. The doc proposes doing a nap study that day, where I will be recorded trying to fall asleep for 20-30 minutes every 2 hours, looking for the unlikely case of narcolepsy, which I was quite certain involved sex with dead people, but was apparently mistaken. Thank goodness.

Anyway, I tried taking a nap 4 times during the day and didn't fall asleep once, so they let me go. Boy was I glad to go home and see my wife and daughter, without the 431 wires, without the cameras, and sleep like a baby.


J said...

ooo, shit, you're funny.

Fernando Vieira said...

Hey Scott, Kirsten, and Eva

Have been wanting to drop a line and was reminded today as I mnched on the giant bag of M&M's that arrived from your mom.
I know its been a few weeks since you came out to boston, but I wanted to let you know how great it was meeting you.
Hope all is well. Feel free to email if you ever want to know what is going on around our labs.