Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pretty Pills and Near Naked Men

Last Thursday or Friday, I started to notice a sort of tingling sensation in the tips of my ring and pinky fingers; by Monday, it had spread up each arm and over my entire torso, eventually making its way up my neck to cover a portion of one ear. There's a Ray Bradbury story in which a feverish boy slowly loses control of his body to a virulent entity, starting with his right hand; I couldn't help but think of it as a novocaine-like numbness snaked over one breast and around my ribcage. When the top of each leg and part of my calves felt deadened, I thought a trip to the physician might be in order. We won't talk about how the Ray Bradbury story ends.

The first doctor I went to was a general practitioner within walking distance of the consulate. As it so happened, the ACS section was in the midst of updating its list of recommended clinics, so they were able to quickly suggest one nearby. I rushed out after work, Sara kindly accompanying me for moral and (worst case scenario) possible physical support. At this point I was bracing myself for a future of adult diapers and eating with the assistance of one of those trained service monkeys... but, you know, trying not to panic. The doctor that shuffled out into the waiting room had six teeth in his mouth, two on top and four on bottom, one for approximately every 20 years of his life. He spoke no English. After a few general questions and tapping -- literally tapping -- my chest and back with his stethoscope, he informed me in a jovial way, "I'll give you some medicine; after a week, you'll be fine." At the tiny front desk I asked the receptionist, "What kind of medicine is this, anyways?" "Vitamins," she answered, managing to sound simultaneously jaded and apologetic. "That'll be 3,362 yen." Alright-y then. I forked over the cash, and left gripping the vitamins in my insensate fingers. I don't think that clinic will be remaining on our list.

This morning the intensity of the symptoms had abated, but had far from disappeared. In fact, it seemed my middle fingers wanted in on the act as well -- it felt like a rubberband had been wrapped around each one's first joint. Mid-morning, Sara let me know she'd located a neurologist only a few train stops away, so I dropped everything and took off for this second clinic. I had rehearsed my explanation all the way there while fidgetting nervously with the magazine I was pretending to read (Yubi ya ude ya doutai ga shibireteimasu. Haisha no chuusha no eikyou to onaji kanji desu. Gen'in zenzen wakarimasen.); when it turned out the doctor had excellent English, I almost couldn't talk to him, I was so keyed up to speak Japanese. After a thorough check of all my reflexes, drawing of various fluids, discussion of any possible injuries, infections, family history and so forth, the verdict: he could find nothing neurologically wrong with me. "But," he continued, "I'm going to give you some vitamins, some B2." Ah, yes. Another 8,835 yen later, and I'm still numb -- though I've got enough little pills to open my own clinic.

And that's my story. Bottom line, don't get sick in Japan. Or if you do, just skip the doctor and go buy some Flintstone's Vitamins. If you never hear from me again, it's because I've lost all motor function, and my service monkey hasn't yet mastered typing on the keyboard.

In other news, this weekend I had the pleasure of attending the "Fighting Festival" in a small village near Himeji. Rather than just waking up numb, festival participants like to incur a similar state of being by stipping down to loincloths, forming teams to carry about heavy portable shrines, and ramming them into one another like a huge rugby skirmish. This goes on for hours. I took a video of the red team performing its rally cry, which you can see here:

Nice that I was able to go out and enjoy the Autumn weather one last time before being bedridden for life.


Anonymous said...

Internet self-diagnosis works well for me, and can occupy hours of time in hypochondriac navel-gazing (literally).

Or a friendly call to your friendly neighborhood neurologist back home. Hope the monkey can read this comment...


Anonymous said...

Get you to an American doctor right away!! Doesn't the FS take care of you better than this??!!

Dad says if you are getting better, then it isn't transverse myelitis. Now that helps, huh?!

KUP (keep us posted) !!

And I love you!

PS-Does typing in those letters really accomplish anything? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

I know a good neurologist if you want to travel to Hawaii. He's been having similar symptoms and it is disc related. Definitely not fun. When he returns (later today--yeah!) I will have him read your blog. Diagnosis over the internet--I think I read a sci-fi book that had something like that.


p.s. thanks for the comment on my blog

Mrs. Wrye said...

You should upload your photos to youtube! and then give me your password so I can watch the restricted videos on there. ;)

Please please please have Karyn be your service monkey.

Sharon said...

My neurologist says listen to your father. He will also be happy to talk with you if you want to call him at home.

Anne said...

I've been somewhat loosely monitoring your blog as you're a fellow FSO (I'm in Almaty). I wanted to let you know that you're not alone in all this MS-craziness. Earlier this year one of my co-workers was diagnosed with MS. She learned that there are actually a bunch of FSOs and EFMs that have MS. She said that MED was extremely helpful and understanding with her case. So, don't stress about your career, just focus on getting the care you need.