“TIME IN THE TUBE”: Making My Time in the MRI Machine Count

10-2-18

Hiawassee, GA

After a skirmish with a runaway duffle bag knocked me on my butt, last year, I should have called a ‘time-out’ to get x-rayed at Care Now. But, after Jeff helped me up from the carpeted bedroom floor and I remained upright until time for bed, I expected the problem would eventually go away.

But it hasn’t. Not by a long shot.

Since the past two or three months, our favorite activities — browsing arts and crafts festivals and trade shows and shopping in grocery-store aisles (with Wal-Mart being the worst) and simply talking to folks while standing on hard surfaces or on uneven ground have become excruciating and even embarrassing. For the harder I tried to walk upright, the more I felt like “Mrs. Wiggins”, the stiletto-wearing, gum-chewing, empty-headed blonde secretary to “Mr. Tudball” (played by Tim Conway) on The Carol Burnett Show.

Before long, because of lack of exercise, I began packing on more weight onto my 5’0″ frame.

Not to worry, I reassured Self. Synthroid’s got this one. Synthroid, a synthetic form of thyroid I started on in 1996 once I began recovering from successful brain-tumor surgery.  Besides regulating my thyroid gland, it helped me maintain a healthy weight. Thyroid-deficient since I was two years old, I expected to take it for the rest of my life until two successive blood tests showed I now had too much thyroid in my system.

The next day, the doctor called with the news: that x-rays showed three compression fractures in the lumbar (or lower) region of my back, as well as arthritis in my hips. She faxed over orders for an MRI and a bone density scan at Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee.

Three fractures? Wow! No wonder I’ve been hurting!

Yesterday, as the young man arranged me on the table and propped me here and there, I remembered four tips offered by friends who had undergone recent MRIs:

*  Use the bathroom first.

* Request a face towel to cover your eyes.

* Ask for earphones to blot out the noise.

  • Try to catch a nap.

Remembering my last MRI, a forty-minute procedure, during which I lay, arms crossed over my chest, as if rehearsing for eternal rest, I planned out the best way to spend time in the “tube”.

After “Rick” (not his real name) situated me properly but comfortably, I asked for the face towel and the earphones. He nodded.

“Sure! What kind of music would you like?”

“Boot-Scootin’ Boogie”, a Brooks and Dunn country hit, was on the tip of my tongue before I considered how that song always made me forget how sore my hips already were and that I’d have the whole thing to take over again if I partied too hardy in that high-tech contraption. Besides, I had weightier matters on my mind such as “What happens if this turns up something serious? Something requiring major surgery, months of downtime, and major life changes?”

“Soft and instrumental,”!I answered. “You know — ‘Easy-Napping’ music.”

So with earphones in place, cloth over eyes, and arms crossed over my chest, into the tube I slid to have a little talk with Jesus, take a nap, or both.

Only fifteen minutes later, the machine stopped its banging and unfurled me from its cavity where Rick was waiting with a wheelchair. Stepping away, he allowed “Laura” (again, not her real name, either) to take charge.

In the bone-density scan room, where “Laura” asked me some questions before she positioned me on the table.  As with the ‘dreaded’ MRI, we were through in record time.

As she walked with me to the waiting room and Jeff, I asked her when I could expect to receive the results.

“Probably in a couple of days.”

So far, I haven’t heard a word. I’m hoping that’s good. During my time in the tube, I prayed that, if the problem required surgery, that it would at least be on out-patient basis and that I would soon be “in, out, and on with Life”, as per the old Chili’s Bar and Grill advertising slogan.

My next step in this health-care journey? A thrilling ride to Gainesville, fifty-some miles away from Hiawassee, on Thursday, October 11, where I expect to meet with a highly-recommended endocrinologist about my “wascally thyroid” and find out the answers to my questions:

  • What measures can I take to lose weight and get back into shape while my back heals?
  • How can I cope with fatigue?
  • What’s really behind the 180-degree change?

When Bette Davis actress of stage and screen from the 1930s to the 1960s and author of The Lonely Life, said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” she wasn’t just a-whistlin’ “Dixie”.  At some point, our “bods” — like our cars — threaten to shut down if we fail to  care for them in the way they deserve in order to stay on the road of Life.

Whatever gender you are, what are some all-important health-care examinations would encourage friends or family members to be sure to check off their lists, and why?

I can hardly wait to see what you recommend!

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 20a: Playing ‘Tourist’ at Brasstown Bald

June 19

Since Jeff and I became camp hosts at Appalachian Campground, we haven’t done a whole lot of sightseeing. It took his daughter and teenaged grandchildren driving down from Texas for a visit for us to get out and play “tourist” along with them.

Breakfast was the first order of the day, as we crowded into a booth at Huddle House in Hiawassee and feasted on omelets, eggs, grits, bacon, and sausage. For those not familiar with Huddle House, it is similar to Waffle House only it is larger and offers a more varied menu.

After stuffing our tummies, we hopped into our Subaru Legacy Outback wagon and jogged off the highway to Brasstown Bald Mountain in Georgia.  According to the Visitor Center, Brasstown Bald is the highest peak in Georgia. I’ll admit that as the shuttle chugged up the steep, winding road to the lookout, my ears popped.

Once we arrived at the top, the view was beyond amazing! Velvety-blue mountains were juxtaposed against lush, green vegetation. Rivers and lakes scattered like throw rugs in the basin. According to the above link, visitors looking through a telescope can also see both North and South Carolina and Tennessee on a clear day.

Having snapped pictures with our cell-phone cameras, we filed into  Mountain Top Theater for a short video about Brasstown Bald before heading down to the store where Jeff bought me a pair of bear earrings and, for himself, a tiny bear that is now perched on top of our coffeemaker, and a packet of “Mystical Fire” to make our campfire turn different colors.

After coming off the trail, we were exhausted. All we were good for was lolling in the cabin, cramming down Quarter-Pounders with cheese, French fries, tall Dr. Peppers, and, later, strawberry ice cream.

“We’ll do Helen, tomorrow,” we promised each other, as we turned in for the night.

Stay tuned for our next sojourn onto Bell Mountain, coming up in Part 20b of “LIVING THE DREAM” followed up by Part 21, about Georgia’s own Bavarian village, Alpine Helen.

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 16: New Home, New Inspiration”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hiawassee, GA.

We have completed our first week as “workampers” (camp hosts) at Appalachian Campground and are now plowing into Week Two, our most demanding week, yet, with Memorial Day up ahead. Many have called to reserve spaces at our campground. Still, we are glad we are here. Although we received offers from camps in Alabama, Tennessee, Colorado, and both ends of South Dakota, we chose Georgia, as neither one of us had ever been there. As it turned out for two newbie camp hosts, we could not have asked for more breathtaking scenery!

We arrived in Georgia on our third day of travel, just as Jeff predicted. After maneuvering dark, curvy, shoulderless, mountainous roads and winding up, down, and round and round after midnight on Friday, we stumbled across our destination. We had planned to find a park and and turn in early, but, after navigating dark streets with poorly-marked signs in a city and state we were not familiar with, we turned right into the first campground we found, only to discover that — BOOM!—we had reached our destination. Eyelids drooping, we hurried through water, electricity, and sewage hook-ups before tumbling into bed.

Now that our camp-hosting job is underway, we’re answering calls on the park phone, taking reservations and collecting money. We’re also mowing, cleaning the cabins and restrooms, and greeting campers in tents, RVs, and cabins. Although Jeff does most of it, including the mowing, I expect to fill in with anything else that needs doing.

Appalachian Campground is peaceful and primitive. Note the key word: primitive. Although the Bearbottom Bathhouse is equipped with flush toilets and showers in both the men’s and women’s restrooms, campers must bring their own shower caps, shampoo, and conditioner, and anything else they need.

A washer and dryer are available outside the bathhouse for $1.50 per load.

Like the rest of the park, cabins ‘Nappin’ House’ and ‘Hemlock Haven’ are likewise primitive.  ‘Nappin’ House’, as its name implies, has only a bed, a small refrigerator, and a television that plays DVDs only. This smaller cabin is meant to sleep two people. It does not have a toilet, but the Bearbottom Bathhouse is nearby. Bringing a flashlight for those nighttime nature calls is essential, as Appalachian Campground has no street lights.

‘Hemlock Haven’, a larger cabin that provides not only a queen-sized bed but also a loft for adventurous extra guests and, especially children. Meant to sleep four to six people, the ‘Hemlock’ is the only one of the two cabins equipped with a toilet, sink, and shower.

In keeping with the campground’s rustic flavor, neither cabin has a kitchenette nor a coffee maker. Guests are encouraged to bring their own instant coffee and snacks. In other words, the only coffeemakers in these cabins are the guests, themselves.

When Jeff and I first looked inside these cabins, I saw an author’s retreat waiting to happen.  Both cabins feature porches with rocking chairs and barbecue grills that overlook the gurgling headwaters of the Hiawassee River.

Living in this new surrounding stimulates my writer juices. I can hardly wait to bring my Mac Airbook home from the ‘hospital’ — Mountain Mac in Hayesville, North Carolina — attack my current work-in-progress with renewed vigor as well as newer works with a new zest.

Eager for more information? Click on the links for Appalachian Campground, Workamping News, and Mountain Mac.

Next up, people have since asked us the two most expected questions: “How do you like living in your motorhome? How does it compare with your fifth-wheel?”

Stay tuned for Part 17 of my “LIVING THE DREAM” series. In the meanwhile, I do love receiving comments and questions from all of you.

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