Me, Frankenstein

The Study

Often I find myself awake at 3 a.m. The sleep I do get is generally tilted toward the morning end, in fact, I’ve noticed that I’m most restful between 6 and 8 a.m. (How fitting – this is when I ought to be getting up and out!)

However, I do end up feeling rested when I do wake, even if my sleep comes in fits and starts. Many in this world of ours can’t say that. And I rarely; virtually never take naps. Not that I have anything against them – indeed I used to fall asleep at 4 or 5 in the afternoon and sleep ’til midnight. But I quickly learned that this wrecks the rest of the night and throws my biorhythm off for the worse.

In June I was referred to the Harborview Sleep Disorders clinic at Harborview by a Family Medicine Clinic doctor, and when my appointed “study” came along months later I checked in at 7 p.m., out at 7 the next morning. It was quite an experience.

Bizarre. And overall mildly horrific…here’s what happened:

I lay trying to sleep with a hundred EKG-type wires pasted to my head and fastened at the other end into an absurd medallion of colorful sockets, strung around my neck. This in turn was plugged into the wall and into who-knows-what kind of computerized electrical-current monitoring machine. Because of this final plug-in, I could not move much: turn from side-to-side, lay on my stomach, sit-up for a moment, go to the bathroom – nothing.

No joke! And what was it these medical doctors wanted me to do? Sleep?

Alas, I did fall asleep for perhaps 45 minutes at about 11 p.m. Likely because I was tired from dealing with the weirdo, nocturnal nurse-tech guy, who was tasked with pasting, sticking, snapping, plugging my body whilst I sat in a chair as if getting a makeover at a salon.

We did not speak during this hour of preparing me for the study. I sat there trying to relax, ambivalent as to whether it was relaxing or annoying. I think it was alternately a bit of both.

I awoke around midnight with a fast-beating heart. Thump, thump, thump – way faster, it seemed, than it ought. My ankles and the joints of my toes felt involuntarily clenched upward, as if some force was acting on my nerves or muscles. Feeling quite unsettled and vaguely nauseous, I swiveled my apparatus around so that I could sit up. Immediately I heard my nurse/tech – ever awake and attentive – over the intercom right into my left ear, from the wall. I recalled him explaining that there would be a two-way intercom. But I didn’t expect him to jump at me the second I moved. It felt intimidating, frankly. As if he were not subtly suggesting that I lie back down.

“I feel…really weird,” I said emphatically. The nurse/tech came back with an assurance (more like a statement of protocol – as if he expected this routine with a patient) that if I wasn’t back asleep in 45 minutes I “will qualify for a sleep-aid.” “Qualify”? That’s right, qualify – for a sleep-aid.

At this point that did not sound like a bad option at all. Sure enough, the nurse opened the door, flung on the lights, and approached me with another man – also large and not altogether friendly – the latter with a tiny cup, the former with a large styrofoam cup of ice water; both with a singleness of purpose that was, frankly, intimidating. I don’t know about other folks, but I’m used to sleeping alone, without persons opening doors and flicking on and off lights.

And so the implication here was that they weren’t here to talk about it. They were here to deliver a pill to a hospital patient. And so it was.

I awoke at 6, reasonably rested though feeling as though I’d slept lightly. I didn’t feel groggy. And I felt relieved that it was over – particularly when my skull-wires and electric necklace plug-in apparatus were all unceremoniously removed: pasting-removed, unstuck, unsnapped, unplugged. I hope[d] that with the Sleep Disorders Clinic’s manifold brain wave detectors, the doctors would now have a treasure of data – and I was glad to have done my part to provide information that I hope will be put to use for my medical benefit.

And so I walked out of the hospital a free man; unscathed (one would hope).

I have yet to have my follow up appointment, however, so we shall see what happens. It’s scheduled for later this month.

– d.g.w.

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1 Comment

Filed under essays, Seattle stories

One response to “Me, Frankenstein

  1. Mom

    You’re funny.

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