A Disturbance in the Force Part Deux: Wherefore art thou Thumper?

Thumper greets you like a naughty mate. The one who likes to steal and get you in bother. The one you can never bring yourself to hate.

It was a rare sunny Friday in April. I was off work to focus on college but was also booked in for an MRI in Smithfield. I got up at my normal time, took my injection and enjoyed the walk down to the LUAS stop at Busaras in the sunshine. I jumped on board the LUAS and got a kick out of having a nosy at all the “characters” getting on and off at the Abbey and Jervis Street stops. Upon arrival, I barely had to wait 10 minutes to be brought in for the MRI scan. “Please complete this form Mr. Byrne” said the lady behind the desk. I barely had my name complete when I got called in. “I can complete the rest” the technician told me. Happy days, let’s get this show on the road.

I was told to disrobe into only my boxers and given a hospital gown. This was not like the previous times when the MRI was done with me in my jeans and t-shirt. This must be a serious one, I thought. I sneakily kept my socks on though. As I lay down the technician said “Right we’re just going to inject you with water and then half way through we’ll inject you with a dye”. Lovely. “How long is this going to last?” I asked. “All going well about 50 minutes” he replied. I had gone through a similar MRI around the same time last year but didn’t realise this was going to be just like that until the very moment I was about to go in to the machine. Then, to make matters worse, the technician plugged my ears and covered my head and chest so that I wouldn’t be able to move in any way whatsoever.

As the realisation began to set in that I was going to be laying like Hannibal Lecter for the next hour in very claustrophobic conditions panic started to take over. Soon, within half a foot of my restrained face, the roof of the MRI machine was staring back at me. No earphones to listen to music or mirror to see what was going on outside and take my mind of things, as had been the case previously. The MRI began TICK TICK ERRRRRRRR It was just me and my thoughts and they weren’t exactly full of joy or positivity. I was expecting Thumper to show up any second. He would have been welcome. Anything to take my mind off things. Maybe he might even show up on the MRI results. I couldn’t lay here for an hour like this. TICK TICK ERRRRRRRR I decided I would try to practice mindfulness to take my mind off things and perhaps pass the time. Sure I done at least three 10 minute sessions on an app a few months back; I’m practically an expert.

Right let’s see how this goes again. Relax, let go of everything. Breath in through the nose and into the lungs until they’re full of air. Now out through the mouth. I think that’s how it goes. TICK TICK ERRRRRRRR I’ll keep at it. In through the nose and fill up the lungs and exhale. And in through the nose, thump thump thump that’s just your lungs filling up, that’s just the engine struggling, that’s just a carp swimming around your ankles. Ah there ya are Thumper ya little bollix. Classic Simpsons reference. Where have you been? I can’t tell if it’s you or the bloody MRI machine causing the thumping in my ear. It’s only in my left ear so it must be you. No response no? I’ll keep up trying mindfulness if you’re going to continue to make sporadic appearances only to ignore me. Relax. Breathe in. Let go. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. You are a strong confident woman thump thump thump.  If you’re going to start annoying me you have to stay for this whole thing. The noise from the scan had stopped.

“Keith we have to stop so we can inject you with the dye, should only take a couple of minutes”. Between being in such an enclosed space, having plugs in my ears and feeling imprisoned, Thumper began to go into overdrive. The initial injection had numbed my arm partially so I couldn’t even feel them injecting the dye. It was probably only another half an hour in the MRI but it felt like a lifetime. TICK TICK ERRRRRRRR TICK TICK ERRRRRRRR TICK TICK ERRRRRRRR thump thump thump What are we doing after this? I dunno about you pal but I’m going into the library I’d prefer if you didn’t join me. Well well well, you’ve changed your tune. A few minutes ago you were going to put my face on the side of a milk carton because you missed me so much. What like the film Big or Blur’s Coffee & TV video? Exactly. You’re a hippocrit! It’s hypocrite and maybe so but the MRI is finished now and you need to feck off again.

The MRI lasted pretty much bang on 50 mins as advised. The technician said it went well and there was very little movement from me so they didn’t have to do any scans more than once. That was a relief. I told him I had a history of boogie’n down in an MRI. There was a couple of unintentional leg spasms but that was perfectly normal and probably just down to nerves as much as anything. All that lying down really drained me. My Dad’s office was only down the road so I hopped on another LUAS and called up to him. He had a cup of tea and cake waiting for me on arrival. Just what I needed to give me the energy to get a bit of study done. I went to the library and Thumper followed. He hasn’t been himself  since the MRI though. Maybe he got everything out of his system. He makes the odd appearance but he’s much less of a nuisance these days. The sleepless nights still occur regardless but now I can lay there in peace rather than constantly tossing and turning trying to shut the little shit up.

I met with my neurology nurse on Monday. I missed the last appointment in November due to sheer forgetfulness. I like to blame MS for my absentmindedness. These appointments are too important to be missed so I made sure I was there with time to spare. I love talking about what I’ve been learning over the last year or so and getting feedback be it constructive or otherwise. The MRI results showed no change from the last one which is the best I can hope for. We discussed the recent Panorama documentary on BBC One where people with MS had made a complete recovery thanks to stem cell research. It’s great to see such progress being made but we both agreed that it’s not necessary for me to look into going down that route. I’m my own best chance of recovery for now. I told the nurse about Thumper. I think the last time we talked I had so many other symptoms I forgot to mention him. She told me that, from how I described it, Thumper isn’t an MS related symptom as he comes and goes quite regularly. MS symptoms are generally much more prolonged but still people with MS have other issues just like anyone else. My Doctor had ruled out tinnitus which seemed to be the only other explanation. Either way Thumper seems to be gone for the time being. There is Balance in the Force once again. As with anyone you fall out with or lose touch with I said I wasn’t sad to see him go; but I was only pretending you know.

“It was in love I was created and in love is how I hope I die”

Paolo Nutini, Coming Up Easy


A Disturbance in the Force Part 1

I have a friend I haven’t told you about yet. Well he’s more of a nuisance that I’ve become accustomed with. He lives in my left ear and likes to remind me he’s there at the most inopportune times. He’s a bit like Drop Dead Fred in that way. He basically just bates at my inner left ear with a constant pulsing sensation, not sore just annoying. I call him Thumper. He likes to wake me up most nights for a chat. He’s a bollix. In my head he assumes the voice of Rik Mayall but he looks like the rabbit from Paolo Nutini’s video for Comin’ Up Easy and he’s the same size as Mike TeaVee from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory after he’s transported to television.

Ooh look at me I’m Keith Byrne, I like to compare every aspect of my life to things I’ve seen on the telly and put it on the internet for the world to see. Pathetic!

Shut the fuck up Thumper, I’m trying to write a blog here.

See what I mean? A pest. It’s the one symptom that I can’t explain and I don’t think it has ever really gone away. I always go on about my first symptoms being dizziness, blurred vision and fatigue but Thumper’s been here the whole time too. He comes and goes as he pleases. I’ve just got used to him. He’s probably the catalyst for all the other symptoms for all I know. My doctor initially put the throbbing in the ear down to an infection brought on by vertigo but we soon realised that wasn’t the case. It’s frustrating because he’s not always there and I can never tell when to expect him.

It could be 3a.m. on a random Tuesday and I’m out for the count for the last few hours. Thump, thump, thump! Wake up ya little baldy bastard. Are you serious? Let’s go on your phone and harass random celebrities on Twitter. Ugh, gimme a minute. No, what am I saying, I’m going back to sleep, would you ever feck off!!! Thump, thump, thump! I did not wake you up in the middle of the night for you to just ignore me and go back asleep. Let’s wake Michelle too. No I’ll just look at my phone until you decide to go away and give my head peace. Great!

So I entertain the thumping until it dies down. Usually this leads to a broken sleep every other night but I’m used to that now.  It doesn’t affect my energy levels during the day too often but I can be fatigued pretty badly after a day’s work or, in particular, days when I have college after work. I usually get home and comatose on the couch. But sometimes Thumper doesn’t even allow that!

Recently Thumper went into overdrive. He had barely made an appearance for a few weeks and then on a random Wednesday afternoon in work thump, thump, thump! Oh it’s you again. You haven’t been around for a while. What do you want? Remember when you were 17 and you start listening to The Rolling Stones? Eh Yeah, how did you know that? I live right beside your memories remember? Balls! you told people to start calling you Disturbance because of their song Street Fightin’ Man? Maybe. Why couldn’t you have called me that? Instead of Thumper. And you could have called your ear the Force!!! Oh I get it so I could say there’s a Disturbance in the Force. Much better than some dozey rabbit from a kids movie. I’m sticking with Thumper, you don’t deserve a cool name.

Thump,thump, thump,thump, thumpWould ya feck off!! No! What are we up to for the rest of the week? You know I have work and projects to finish for college due in the next few days. That’s all I’ll be doing. Lovely jubbly, I think I’ll join ya. You will in your hole! I’ve too much to do I don’t have time for you to be bouncing up and down in my ear keeping me awake and literally wrecking my head. Tough shit! You’re a shithead! No you have a shit head. I don’t have a shit head, I just have a fleeting mind. Exactly, work, these college projects, whatever else you’ve got going on. You can’t give any of them your full attention and that’s why I’m here. To remind you not to take on too much at once. Wow, you’re so kind helping with my cognitive misgivings. This is the remix to cognition, hot and fresh out the kitchen. Thump, thump, thump!

So Thumper caused me to feel fatigued and just wrecked for a few days. Exhausted but unable to sleep much. I had to take a couple of sick days from work but this allowed me time to focus on college and get projects done in good time. As the projects were completed Thumper began to visit less and less. I made an appointment with my doctor to see if anything could be done about the recurring ear pulse. Typical, just typical. I help you complete those annoying projects and you go squealing on me to your doctor. Well thank you very much!! As I thought, the doctor was unable to see any problems inside my ear but did say that I should use the pulsing sensation as a reminder to keep looking after myself.

So basically, what you’re trying to say is, your doctor loves me! I am a thumping sensation! I wouldn’t go that far. I’m booked in for an MRI, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know. Oh lovely, I’ll see you there. I’m sure you will.

“With my thoughts like sifting leaves, I believe in my fleeting mind” Ocean Colour Scene