Well here we are, mere weeks from my surgery, and I still have several steps to complete before going under the knife. When last I left you, I had scheduled a CT scan, MRI scan, and an appointment with my Rheumatologist, all on the same day, all for pre-surgery examination. To recap, my surgeon sent me for testing because he was unsure if I still had the required muscles to use a regular shoulder implant. I may have to get a special custom-made job. So, I packed up last week at 7 in the morning (ugh!) and made my way into Manhattan.

The schedule I had made for the day’s activities spanned from an 8:30 CT scan appointment to a 1:30pm Rheumatologist appointment. By staring early, I was hoping that by some miracle I’d miss the rush-hour traffic leaving the city, and also keep to a minimum the already-exorbitant cost of parking in a garage in Manhattan. A good plan, but in actuality getting up at the crack of dawn was something I was not very good at. For some reason, even going to bed at 8pm the night before, getting up very early in the morning made my R.A. especially hard to deal with. Even so, I parked one block away to save a few dollars and hobbled my way to the H.S.S. entrance.

The first test was the CT scan – by far, the day’s least annoying appointment. CT scans are easy compared to other tests of the same vein. You have to lie on the hard metal table, yes, but the scan takes less than five minutes, and the machine is nowhere near as anxiety provoking as a MRI unit. I was in and out in less than thirty minutes, and that gave me time to kill while waiting for the next test.

Sitting in the MRI waiting room, I passed the time by playing my thoughtfully brought-along Nintendo 3DS. Nothing like a bit of Legend of Zelda before being bombarded by nightmare-inducing sights and sounds. After an hour or so, I was called into the MRI prep-room. As per usual, I had to strip down to my boxer shorts, and make sure to remove any metal jewelry I was wearing. I knew this test was going to be particularly unpleasant, but I kept telling myself it wouldn’t last very long since I was only getting my shoulders imaged. When the room was ready, I walked to the area housing the actual MRI unit like a convict going to his gallows.

As soon as I saw the machine, memories of the 3-hour Gallium scan ordeal I had gone through the year before leaped to mind. I was stuck inside an MRI machine for almost 180 minutes while my entire body was scanned for infection, and it was one of the worst medical experiences of my life. Fortunately, I told myself, there’s no way this scan could be worse than that. So I got up on the hard metal table and was told to lie down.

Those of you who have never had an MRI scan may not know this, but when you have an imaging done, you cannot move a muscle during the process. If you do, chances are high that you will have to endure the entire scan segment again. Scan segments can run anywhere from a few minutes to almost an hour. For my shoulders, the technician told me that the entire process for each side would take about forty minutes. “Ugh!” I thought, “I assumed it would be much shorter.” Without much choice, though, I simply said “ok” and let her prop me up in all the right places. Apparently, I even had to wear some sort of magnetic cage around my shoulder in order to enhance the clarity of the images taken. The cage was just as uncomfortable as it sounds.

So, there I was, ready to slide into the hole of that metal donut of horror, mentally preparing myself for the onslaught of horrible loud noises and closed-in spaces, when the technician stopped and asked me what kind of music I wanted to listen to. “Huh?” I said, “I get to wear headphones?” She showed me the huge ear-cups that would go on each ear. My first thought was, “regular headphones are uncomfortable after a while, I can’t imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t move to adjust headphones that were hurting me.” Because of that, I almost refused the music altogether. Almost.

Choosing what music I wanted to hear was an ordeal in and of itself. The nurse asked me what I wanted to listen to, and I, like anyone else would, said, “what’ya got?” I instantly realized my mistake when she began rattling off the different genres of music available. “We have pop, rap, hiphop, dance, classical, easy listening, country, adult contemporary, jazz, “ and so on. After the fifteenth category I just said “classical, give me classical.” Thinking I was done with the selection, I began to settle in. The technician said “What kind of classical do you want? We have Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Bach, Brahms,” and so on. At that point I actually began to laugh. “Really?” I thought, “was the music selection really that important? I just want to get the hell out of this horrible metal cylinder of noise as fast as possible. I don’t really care if you play Tibetan sitar yak-herding folk songs. If it isn’t going to get me out of this thing faster, it’s irrelevant!” That’s what I was thinking. What I actually said was “Tchaikovsky.” The nurse put the earphones on my head and I suffered through the next two hours of testing with the Nutcracker Suite and Sleeping Beauty playing in my head.

When the MRI ordeal was finally over, I made my way upstairs to the Rheumatologist’s office. The purpose of this visit was two-fold. It was going to serve as a checkup, but it also gave my doctor a chance to attend to any pre-surgical concerns. My Rheumatologist is a very thorough man, so I always make sure to check with him before any procedures.

After waiting fifteen minutes or so, I made my way into the exam room. My doctor came in shortly thereafter. My checkup went well, and my health was surprisingly good, all things considered. As I was about to leave, though, my Rheumatologist said “Oh, and I want you to get a cardiac stress test before the shoulder replacement surgery.” “Dammnit!” I thought, “I almost made it out of here without more homework!” Now I’d have to make an appointment with my nephrologist and have him recommend a good doctor for cardiac stress testing. All to see if my heart would be able to handle the operation. A smart precaution, to be sure, but it was still going to be another pain in the butt.

So here I am now, waiting for my appointment to run on the treadmill or pedal on the exercise bike while hooked up to a plethora of machines designed to measure every aspect of my heart’s operation. Being the anti-exercise proponent that I am, it was going to be akin to torture. As I have said many times, I don’t feel a person should run unless they are being chased. But, one does what one is told when serious surgery is on the calendar, so I will be a good little soldier. Next time we talk, hopefully I will be ready for the big day, and we can discuss the results of my stress test, good or bad.