Annals of Tiny Electric Shocks

I discovered this morning that, were I to travel back in time and be captured by the Russians and subjected to electrical shock torture, I would immediately give up all of Canada’s military secrets and we’d all be eating borsch for breakfast.

I know this because this was the day for my nerve conduction study, a process that involves, in part, running tiny electrical shocks into various parts of the hands and arms. After two or three shocks – and these are tiny, tiny shocks just up from “walked across a shag carpet” on the Tesla scale – I was quite prepared to surrender.

The referral for this study came from my family doctor back in March. He, or rather his learning-to-be-a-doctor surrogate who actually did my yearly physical, upon hearing my typing-related symptoms – occasional numbness or tingling in the hands, neck and face – decided that it would be a good idea to see if I’ve been doing myself permanent damage by typing professionally for 25 years.

Apparently I have not.

There were two sets of tests. First, various electrodes were stuck to various parts of my right hand and arm and then a short burst of electricity run through while the doctor administering the tests – a quiet, somewhat severe but generally efficient tattooed man – watched a computer monitor.

That test lasted for about 10 minutes, and when it was over I’d learned more about the Skinner Box than I did in an entire year of Psychology 101.

The second set of tests involved jabbing a probe into various muscles in my right hand and arm and then listening to audio feedback. This was only painful in a “brief jab” kind of way, and the test, thankfully, involved no bursts of electricity.

When it was all over the doctor pronounced my right hand in arm in perfect nervous system health, with no sign of “permanent damage” at all. He did, however, say that “further tests are needed” to discover the source of my symptoms, and his severe manner didn’t allow for any elaboration on what this might mean.

In other words, while happy that I have “no permanent damage,” I left with some fear of what the “further tests” are testing for. Is it “you might have bumped your elbow as a child” or “there might be a raccoon nesting in your frontal lobe.” Apparently I am soon to hear back from my family doctor on this front.

As an aside: one of the least appreciated aspects of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is its fantastic collection of art, much (all?) of it on loan from the Confederation Centre of the Arts. There was, for example, a William Kurelek tapestry humbly hanging on the wall of the Special Services waiting room where I went for my tests this morning.

The next time you’re in the QEH, be sure to pay attention to the art: you may be surprised by what you find.


Kevin's picture
Kevin on October 6, 2010 - 01:40

He sticks to his script: “…needs further investigation” and “might have bumped your elbow” were what he told me just a few weeks ago when my wiring tested adequate….never mentioned a raccoon tho’ — I didn’t find it awful enough to give up state secrets but if they wired one hand and probed the other I’m sure I’d wimp out.

btw, some Indocid and a posture change (when I’m sitting) relieved most of the symptoms… I’ll bet regular exercise would have prevented it in the first place.

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