Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's all Voodoo and Dr. Chiu

My shin has become an old, annoying boyfriend. The initial thrilling (?) intensity has dissipated into a dull (dis)comfort that stays with me at all times. Although predictability can be nice, it’s not when it prevents you from living life fully. I need to dump this boyfriend for good. The problem is, he’s a bit of a stalker.

In May I decided I needed some security so I went to the doctor to determine the best plan of attack. The doctor suggested diagnosing this dude’s issues so that I’d know the best way to get rid of him. His first guess was that he could have a disorder known as compartment syndrome. Under this condition, he would suffer from a defect in releasing the large amounts of pressure caused by my repeated interactions with him. (Yes, apparently I was the root cause!) This build up would result in him inflicting pain and discomfort onto me, usually at a point when our interactions were at their height. Unfortunately, men struggling with this syndrome are incapable of leaving on their own, and usually need to be put under the knife. Essentially, I would have to resort to hiring a hit-man to physically get rid of him. Although harsh, I was elated, as the diagnosis made sense and I would finally be able to move on with my life. This had to work!

I left the doctor’s office full of hopes and dreams that I would get a specialist to test my boyfriend in a few days, hire a hit-man in a few weeks and be free as a bird in a couple months. A few days later, I got a call from a woman at the test centre: “Hi Ms Coolis, we have someone to test your defective boyfriend!” my heart raced with excitement, “When?” I asked “I can set this up anytime!” “Uh-huh” She answered, “The next availability is August 25th, 2012 at 10AM.”
Silence ensued.
“...Hello? Ms Coolis? Does this work?” I remained mute on the other end of the phone. I thought she had to be kidding. August?! Almost four months away?! And that was just to get a diagnosis! “Um...hi, yes, errr is there anything slightly sooner?!” I asked incredulously. “No actually, we are one of two test centres in Ontario and we only conduct testing once per month. Naturally, there are a lot of defective men and thus there is a long wait list.” ‘Awesome. ‘ I thought to myself as I imitated her mocking tone in my head: ‘Naturally! Don’t be so foolish Ms Coolis, didn’t you KNOW that CS testers only like to work at one location every fourth Saturday from 10-5?!’ I took the appointment as graciously as I could - likely cutting her off as I hung up the phone - and sat at my desk morosely for the next half hour. How was I to deal with this dude for another three months?! When I finally decided it didn’t do any good to sit alone in self-pity, I proceeded to share my self-pity over Facebook. Maybe one of my doctor friends could help me out!

[Alright, I’ll stop talking in metaphors now. Everyone is probably completely confused: ‘I though it was her shin, not a stifling boyfriend, that was preventing her from running???’]

Moving along, the first doctor friend who commented on my status was Tony Chiu. Now, most of my readers probably don’t know Tony Chiu. Tony Chiu is quite a character. We became close acquaintances (friends? Rivals? I still don’t know) in high school as we shared pretty much every class together that involved advanced placement this or accelerated that. He was on high-speed mode in pretty much every realm of his life, however, including his day-to-day mannerisms. I was convinced he either had a secret addiction to coffee or an innate imbalance in amphetamines that made him hyperactive all the time. How else do you explain the random shouts during Calculus, or the tendencies to get up and pace around halfway through a physics lecture? His inability to finish a sentence, let alone conversation, without walking away? The constant shaking of his desk during a chemistry exam (especially distracting when you are sitting behind him, to the point that I thought it actually might be his mechanism of sabotage)? These traits made Tony Chiu both endearing and severely annoying at the same time. Despite the difficulties I encountered in getting to know him, we did somehow become close. We even studied together sometimes (this usually involved him solving a math problem in his head, writing down a number in ten seconds, then telling me crude jokes as I methodically wrote out twenty lines of equations for the next twenty minutes). 


Near the end of high school, however, I saw another side of Tony Chiu. He began to invite me out more frequently, even introducing me to his mother and offering me her jewelry (yeah, that was kind of weird...I thought maybe it was a Taiwanese tradition?). Then, he started to insult my boyfriend. These were not subtle displays of annoyance or gentle stabs behind his back. They were outright tantrums, usually right in front of his face. He’d start yelling “***HOLE!!!” down the hallway before I even saw that my boyfriend was coming our way. Sometimes I’d also catch Tony muttering under his breath during calculus “I HATE *******, ******* is such an @^%hole. %$#@ *******!” when he likely thought no one was paying attention. This was some deep hatred. Looking back, my boyfriend probably deserved some of this name-calling, but that’s beside the point. I think it was when I received a love voodoo kit (including a voodoo doll) from Tony on my birthday that I realized there was more to it than my ex-boyfriend actually being an ‘@^%hole’. It was kind of a scary gift to receive when you are 17 from someone who is quite brilliant. Couldn’t he have gotten me a calculator? Some pens? SAT books? I didn’t like the voodoo I was getting from Dr. Chiu. What did this mean?!

Nevertheless, he took off to Taiwan after high school to experience some more fast-tracking in his life, as he was accepted into an accelerated med school program at the National Taiwan University. At this time he also mentioned his mother wanted him to find a wife, so it was probably a good time for us to be on opposite ends of the earth. I don’t think he was happy with how things ended.

Fast-track some more, ten years later. I need a compartment syndrome test and I’m pretty desperate. Who else but Tony Chiu pipes in, still stirred up and single! (Ironically, now a psychologist...I think I had to ask him several times if he was a patient or that was his position, I couldn’t quite grasp the latter...) He told me that if I flew to Taiwan and stayed with him, he would get me the test in less than a week. Now folks, I told you I was desperate for this test, but right then I had to deeply question just how desperate I was. Yep, not that desperate.

Luckily, I ended up getting a last-minute cancellation at the end of May and went to a clinic in Toronto. I got to the center early, ready and excited to leave with an answer. To test for CS, they make you run until you experience the telltale-CS sudden onset of pain and then they jab you with a needle to measure the pressure in your muscle compartment. The problem in my case was that I experienced more of a constant discomfort rather than a sudden onset of pain. Nevertheless, they put me on the treadmill and told me to go until it hurt (twss). Now I must remind you all that I have not run, let alone done ANY weight-bearing activity, since February! I started to jog at 6mph and I won’t lie, it did not feel easy. I could feel my shin but it was the same dull discomfort as always. I figured I needed to go pretty hard to make it worse, so I turned up the speed to 8mph. Shin felt the same. After a few minutes I figured I’d better go hard or go home. I couldn’t leave this place without knowing that I reproduced my symptoms as best I could. So I turned the incline to 4% and increased my speed to 9mph. At this point, I began to wheeze. My legs felt like jelly and I thought I may – for the first time – fly of the treadmill. My shin worsened a bit but still, no sudden increase in pain. I kept going, feeling like I was running a 3:20 last km of a marathon. I literally thought I was going to die. ‘You can’t stop!’ I told myself, ‘you don’t feel injured, you just feel out of shape!’ This continued for what felt like hours, until I could have no more, and I jumped off the spinning machine, heaving and sweating like an animal. It had been 14 minutes.

After I eventually hobbled back to the testing room, the doctor nonchalantly pulled out a giant needle and stabbed me in the shin. “This might hurt a little!” he chirped as he moved it around my muscle compartment. I yelped out in pain. Perhaps this was the stabbing pain I was supposed to feel when I was running? I wasn’t sure. “Now can you flex your foot?” I tried to pull my toes up, only to be met with more stabs of pain. “Um, NO!!!” I answered. Instead of realizing this was because it hurt like a mo-fo, he assumed I was incapable of flexing my foot and took it upon himself to force my foot upwards. “OH MY GOD!” I screamed. “Okay, you’re done!” he said as he pulled out the needle. I sat on the bed, my shin throbbing, my heart pounding and my legs quivering. I had barely begun to integrate all my sources of pain when the doctor turned around and said “NOPE! Test is negative. You don’t have compartment syndrome!” I must have glared at him pretty hard, since he continued “Um, isn’t this a good thing? I’ve never seen a patient who was unhappy with a negative test!”

I limped out of the office in a bit of a daze. Should I be happy? Sad? Frustrated? I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that I was in pain and that I still didn’t have a diagnosis. What’s worse, is that if it was actually remaining tendon damage then I had probably just made it a lot worse by hammering my shin on the treadmill. Fast-forward two months later, and I now have the results of an MRI that show no tendon, muscle or bone abnormalities in my shin. What the EFF?! Apparently it might be a nerve issue. Needless to say, it’s all voodoo to me now. My current hypothesis is that Tony got back his voodoo doll and it’s payback time. Perhaps a trip to Taiwan would cure me after all?!