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Old Sparky Needlephobia Nerve Conduction Tests and Electromyelograms

I felt queasy contemplating the nerve conduction test and electromyelogram (EMG) I was about to have. The nerve conduction test involves taping electrodes to the skin and sending a small jolt of electric current to them. During the EMG, the doctor inserts tiny needles into various muscles and examines the signals displayed on a laptop screen to see how quickly they respond to stimulation. These tests help to determine if there's any nerve impairment or damage. Now, I'm in no position to belittle anyone else's phobias, but I must confess to feeling a bit resentful - they'll give Valium to claustrophobic patients before a non-invasive MRI, but they just laugh when I suggest they might want to sedate needlephobic me prior to an EMG. "Oh, it's not that bad," they tell me.

I finally confessed to my husband just how apprehensive I was feeling, and suggested that if he felt inclined to come along and hold my hand, I wouldn't object. He had another appointment across town, but promised he'd do his best to make it back in time to provide moral support. Unfortunately, I got to the doctor's office a little early, and they took me back right on schedule! How often does that happen?.The nurse asked me to don a hospital gown, assured me that the test "wasn't that bad," then checked to see if my hand was warm.

Warm? Fear doesn't lead to warm hands. Fear leads to hands that are cold as a corpse. So for five minutes before the test, I had to soak my hand in a tub of hot water! I started to get chills throughout the rest of my body, but at least my hand was warm.The doctor was pleasant and had a good sense of humor. He tried to distract me with soft music and laughter as I tried to explain to him how much more effective nitrous oxide might be.

Meanwhile, the nurse was taping electrodes to various points on my arm and hand.Zap! My fingers curled reflexively and my whole body responded with a sympathetic convulsion like a freshly-caught fish gasping for air. From the very first time I grabbed hold of one of those gags that delivers a shocking sensation when all you're expecting is a friendly handshake, I've been a little leery of electric currents running through my body.

It's not exactly "painful," but it's not a sensation I'd seek out for kicks. The dastardly duo repeated this procedure several times, moving and re-taping the electrodes to vary the twitching in my arm and fingers. The good news? My results were "normal.

" In layman's terms, I guess a "normal" result is something in between my whole arm laying still as a dead mackerel and my hand curling up in a fist and punching the doctor in the nose. Don't think it didn't cross my mind. It would've been purely reflexive, mind you. Nothing personal.

The bad news? Since the results were normal, we got to go on to the EMG. If the results had clearly shown a problem, we might have been able to skip the next part. And to think I tried so hard to pass the first test!.Okay, so now I'm hyperventilating and the doctor is telling me to breathe.

"Breathe?" I think. Sounds like some exotic foreign word. Oh, right, BREATHE. He sticks the first needle in.

I whimper a little and start to tear up. I'm acting like a two-year-old. Objectively speaking, it doesn't hurt all that much. No big deal. I'm cool.

Oh, yeah - gotta remember to breathe.The doctor finishes with the first probe and inserts the second. I can't remember now whether it was the second or third - but the one on the inside of my forearm hurt like, well, my mother says that's unprintable. It hurt.

Twelve hours later, it still hurt.I find I can't breathe and talk at the same time. While he's moving the needle around in my arm, the doctor asks, "How old are your kids?"."Kids?" I have kids? "I don't know," I whimper, my voice barely audible.

I don't care, either. Just move the damned needle! "Twelve? Five? Something like that."."What's your favorite radio station?" he asks.

"Oldies?" I gasp. Why do doctors always ask inane questions during unpleasant procedures?."Okay, lift your right hand." I comply. Anything to get this over with.

"Now, move it around--" I move it around. "--see if you can pick up the Oldies station!".I start to laugh hysterically. And cry. "You are a funny man, but I hate you, you know.

"."Almost through, and you'll be cured of your fear of needles. Think of this as therapy!".I'm thinking "go to hell," and worse, but I just smile miserably.

Soon we're down to the last needle, the one he's going to insert in my neck. He starts prepping the area with alcohol, then presses on the vertebrae one by one with his fingertips."Oh wait, please, stop - don't touch me!" I turn over in a panic. The doctor assures me he's going to insert the needle in the muscle tissue, not the spinal cord. I know that. But when you're needlephobic, a needle you can't see, anywhere near your spine, is twenty-five feet long and has sharp, rusty teeth.

"We can stop right now if you want to." His voice is sympathetic. No more jokes. Oh, sure I wanted to stop, but then we'd either have incomplete results and an uncooperative patient on record, or I'd just have to muster the courage to come back and finish the blasted test.

"No, just do it and get it over with," I mutter. I focus on trying to bite through my own lip as he slips the needle into my neck. I feel like the world's biggest chicken.

Looking back on this whole ordeal, the probe in my neck is the one that hurt the least. I hardly felt it. And within a minute, we were done. The doctor informed me that I had some nerve compression and damage from the pressure in my neck, but no carpal tunnel syndrome. "Consistent with what the MRI showed," he said."So, if the MRI showed it, then why did we just go through all this?" I asked.

He explained that the MRI showed pressure on the nerve root, but didn't show if there was nerve damage or the extent of it. As for the needlephobia, he pronounced me "cured."."Uh, no, I don't think so," I said."Nurse!" he called down the hall.

"Schedule her for another 'therapy' session next week!"."Okay, okay - I'll lie. I'm cured. Hallelujah! You're a miracle worker!" He smiled. I thanked him.

I told him in no uncertain terms that while I thought he was a very nice, funny man and a good doctor, I hoped I never had to see him again.Just as I was sitting up, getting ready to slip out of the gown and back into my t-shirt, my husband showed up. "In time to pick up the pieces," as he put it. Does the man have good timing, or what? Just as well, I figured - he did show up in time to take me to a nice lunch (we hadn't had a date in - how long?) and graciously listened to me whine about it all over again. I couldn't very well have done that if he'd been there to witness it with his own eyes, now could I?.

.Holly Jahangiri is a professional writer who claims, tongue-in-cheek, to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, Erma Bombeck, and O'Henry. Holly is an author on Writing.Com (http://www.Writing.

Com/), and you can buy her books at Lulu (http://www.lulu.com/hjahangiri).

By: Holly Jahangiri


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