Monday, June 9, 2008

I sing the body electric

Today was my second physical therapy session. Since I had so much pain after least week's session, the therapist decided to just work with a TENS unit. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. The therapist sticks electrodes on you and turns up the juice. Then you twitch like a bunny.

OK. That is not true. TENS has very little current and you don't feel all that much. The therapist asked me if I had ever had TENS before. I had to think about it, and then I remembered I went to a chiropractor in New Jersey who used to use it to untangle knots in my back (at the exact site of my shingles, it turns out).

The therapist asked how that had gone for me. "Well, it didn't. I mean, the doctor seemed really baffled and a bit concerned because I needed to have the current very, very high just to feel like it was getting through. Eventually he stopped trying to use it because he didn't feel comfortable having to turn up the current to that intensity."

The therapist looked at me and said. "Huh. Did you ever have any other experiences related to electrical current?"
"You mean, other than the excess current in my brain's neurotransmitters?"
Toni jotted down a note, looked up, and said, "Yes. In addition to that."
"OK, this is a really weird story, but you asked and maybe this will mean something to you."

I told her about my trip to MOSI, the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. I went in the late 1990s with my niece and nephew, parents, brother, and sister-in-law. There was an exhibit about energy and electricity. Among the items in the exhibit was a station where you could measure the current flowing through your body. It was a stainless steel plate where you put the palm of your hand and it was connected to a VU meter that showed your current. My niece and nephew tried it and each measured at about 20 on the meter. My parents were about 25. I stepped up to try it and the needle leaped to the right and hovered at 60. I lifted my hand and stared at the meter. My mother suggested that perhaps I had a lot of static electricity from my shoes. I tried again...60. The whole family tried again with their first results repeated. Once again, mine measured 60.

My family and I were puzzled by this the rest of the day. How was it possible? I have a long history of paralyzing wristwatches, and the LCD digital displays in almost every device I own that has them have stopped working and now look like alien code. Is it me?

Toni listened to this story and continued to take notes. Then she said, "We have to get the current to flow into you instead of out of you. That's going to be the challenge." Uhhh, OK.

She hooked up the machine and started the current. She kept pushing the up arrow button and asking me, "Do you feel it? What does that feel like?" I suspected it might be a test to see if I imagined sensation that wasn't there. I kept saying I felt nothing. Nothing.

When I finally felt something, Toni just said, "Wow." Then she asked me to let her know when the sensation was strong. Up arrow, up arrow, up arrow. Finally I could feel it with some intensity. Toni held up the unit and said, "May, your number is 37. Dang. That's high. This is interesting. I have to look into this more."

It's all starting to fit for me. Maybe I am full of electrical current, but what is the source? Is this current the reason my brain runs away at warp speed and spins on a manic axis much of the time? Does it burn out and cause my crushing depressions? Re-light and bring mania? Is this the true reason why I can't sleep without heavy sedation and then, after five hours, I am wide awake? Does lithium act as a current inverter?

More importantly, can we harness this as a power source to fuel my Liberty?


Anonymous said...

Weird. I love my TENS unit, sometimes it's the only thing that gives me relief from back pain. You may learn to love it yet.

Spilling Ink said...

Holy crap! Now I've got to go to MOSI. Hopefully the little energy meter thingy won't... spontaneously combust.