Little Geeks and an Unsafe Cyborg 007A column article, Riding Shotgun by: Don McGregor
If you're living on the far end of Brooklyn and talking with a doctor's office in Manhattan, and they tell you over the phone that you can come in for treatments where they are going to use some type of anesthesia while they use a variety of "Little Geek" instruments to look about inside you, and tell you, "No problem, afterward you just take the train or drive, you'll be fine," here's the thing you should be aware of:
Maybe not knowingly, but I assure you one of the last things you will want to do is try to drive in the midst of Manhattan madness, from truck beds that extend 3/4s of a block long, to pedestrians who apparently have not yet learned that flesh and bone always yields to cars, even when they are no longer completely made of metal. Fiberglass will change your life, drastically, maybe end it, if you play dare with it and make that dash in front of the grill.
Now, when you go into these medical offices, you really don't know what they are going to do in there. I mean if one surgeon says you're going to another specialist and they are going to do deeper testing and have a "Esophageal Motility Test" and afterwards a "ambulatory pH test", if they even tell you that much, about all I really know is that I am going to these various doctors because I'm having attacks that bring me to my hands and knees, and blood can splash from my nostrils onto the pavement, making it look like a crime scene out of a movie, that shouts to me that, hey, my options are limited.
Essentially you can figure some type of "Little Geek" device will go up your nostril, will amazingly bend about where your throat meets your nostrils and curve just beneath your eye, and travel down your throat.
Sometimes Little Geek will take pictures.
Sometimes Little Geek will record sound.
When the doctor views what Little Geek has seen and heard, and you hear someone making loud, painful noises, you realize: Waitaminnit! That was you three minutes ago.
It's a little disconcerting.
Marsha came with me after that last testing. The first test when going someplace in Manhattan is finding a place to park. Try deciphering the signs at any given curb in Manhattan, trying to figure out where you can park and not get a hundred and some dollar parking fine. It might cost that much, if you get screwed, in a parking garage, especially uptown.
When you have resolved that ordeal, and finally find the doctor's office, the first thing they will do after insurance assurances is to give you consent forms to fill out.
Here's the heart of the matter. You travelled in there. It's been determined you have to have this done. The different papers for each "procedure," if that's what they are called, tells you the possible problems. "Perforation," for one. Okay, that doesn't sound good. You know it doesn't sound good, but at the same time, the Catch 22 is, if you don't sign it, and you still really don't know what it is they intend to really do, you can't have it done.
You sign it, else why did you drive in there. Kind of reminds me a little of Work For Hire Contracts in the Comics Industry in the 1970s and 80s, except at least here they really are being upfront with you on the possible risks.
But in either case, you really don't have any options. You want to write in comics at one of the big companies, you have to sign the paper saying it's okay for them to screw you. And that it then is a legal screwing that you voluntarily signed, as if you had a choice, if you wanted to tell stories.
I had them make copies of the Consent Forms, mostly because I knew when I got home, my kids and my mom would ask me what they did, and I know I am going to recall what I felt, but not terms like "esophageal Motility" or "esophageal ambulatory pH testing." I can only write those terms out now because I have the forms right in front of me.
They sent Marsha out of the room when the real stuff began.
There was the specialist and his assistant.
There is more than one type of Little Geeks, apparently. This one is inserted into your nostril and goes way beyond your throat. And apparently it is used as some sort of measuring device. When this Little Geek is well down your gullet, then the woman assistant tells you the worst is over, while it doesn't feel anything like the worst is over, and the specialist consults some sort of screen that you can't see.
And he reads numbers starting with, I swear, "50," and he counts backwards. Slowly. "49" And the woman lifts Little Geek through your nostril and it rises to whatever 49 is, which isn't much. And then sometimes she wants you to drink, and swallow, as they measure at "48" and the "47" and then "46.50".
It's really long.
It kind of made me think of myself as a well and "Little Geek" has a bucket being hauled up my insides, a tiny bit at a time, stop, go, swallow, don't swallow.
I appreciate that they are searching, that the technology exists to do this, but if you can skip this, it's really something you can go your entire life-time and never experience and take my word for it, you'll be glad you missed it.
Now, the things that have been happening to me, even with a cough attached in these recent months, and sometimes blood, if I were in a movie or TV episode, I'm done about 2/3rds through the show. Kind of limits my options here. It's why I signed the papers.
When the two are finished with the bucket procedure, after about 20 to 30 unpleasant minutes, the woman smiles at you and tells you that really, the worst is now over for sure, and they will let you get ready for a few minutes before the "ambulatory" part comes in.
I asked her how she knew the worst was over.
And she confessed that she really didn't. She'd never had it done.
And hopefully she never will have to.
I knew from the get-go that the basic plan was they were going to put a Little Geek gizmo inside me, and leave it there. The part I couldn't figure out was how they were going to get it to stay where it was while I went back home.
This sounded unpleasant and I didn't even know then we were doing a depth testing like my gullet was well before we even got around to this.
I saw some of the gizmo as the doctor prepared to get ready to go up my nostril with a different "Little Geek", and I told him, "You know, I'm beginning to think you're Dr. No and I'm James Bond. And whatever you're going to do with that isn't going to feel good."
The worst is over.
How can they tell you that, because really, this is where it begins.
The tube they are running up and then down inside you is translucent. There are sensors in it. It really is Bondian looking in appearance.
Did I mention it was long?
I mean over a foot long.
No, I'm not exaggerating, although I thought, surely this can't be right.
But it is!
Now, they pull out a plastic container because they know unpleasant things are going to happen when they do this, even if you have been told the "worst" is over. And you see it, and you know they know you will have to use it.
The sensor apparatus disappears up your nostril, and descends down your throat. The sensation here is different. He is pushing harder to get it further down inside you, and "Little Geek" is meeting resistance, and you no longer question why the plastic container is there as the woman holds it to your mouth, the one who told you the worst was over. Your body wants to push "Little Geek" out through your mouth, and out of your nostril, both at the same time. This is not a good sensation.
The doctor tells you finally that he can't get the last of "Little Geek" where he needs it to go. I didn't exactly know where that destination was; I just knew my body didn't want "Little Geek" spending the day and night with me, with both of us supposedly inseparable.
They had me in a dentist type chair. I can feel the translucent wire in my nostril, down my throat, a portion of "Little Geek" seemingly lodged right where my rib-cage starts, and they want me to sit up and lean forward while they press down to get Little Geek deeper into the depths.
Easy for him to say.
I have no idea how I managed to lean forward, how it was finally determined that "Little Geek" was in place.
The worst in a way wasn't over, even then.
It is when you walk out of the office, with Little Geek as your internal companion. They have taped wires coming from "Little Geek" out of your nostril to your cheek. They have looped the wires above your ear. The wires go down into your shirt. At your waist line the wire attach to another Bondian gizmo, a square-shaped container about half the size of DVD, as thick as an entire DVD box of a TV series season. That gizmo has a strap and you wear it over your shoulder.
Now here is why it is worse. Now, you feel unsafe.
I am not the type to normally feel un-safe, but walking out onto those streets, looking and feeling like an unsafe 007 cyborg that's exactly how I felt.
They tell you your body will adjust to Little Geek, that Little Geek will soften up after awhile. But each step you take you can feel the instrument tug inside your nostril as if it will rip out.
Each time you swallow it has to go past that recording knot deep inside you.
If I'd taken the subway train home, hooked up with wires on my face, and the square container I had the impression that in these terrorist threat times someone would think I was a human walking bomb.
Turning my head even fractionally faintly pulled at the wires.
Marsha and I went into a deli to get a bottle of water. School must have let out, and there were a bunch of guys in there, just doing normal horsing around type things with each other, but in those confined quarters, with all that movement, and those wires exposed, I felt truly unsafe, and all I wanted was to get out of there.
Even though the worst was over, the woman had told me that there were people who couldn't take it. She said I could cut wires, if I had to, but it would impact on the results of going through all this. The main thing was to not get the gizmo wet because it cost thousands of dollars.
We'd be in the doctor's office for over two hours.
Marsha was driving at rush hour, trying to get to the East Side drive. It was chaos, enhanced by construction just before the entranceway to the highway. Machinery blocked lanes. One looked like a Rube Goldberg fabrication, with an odd looking wheel that looked like the early 1900s, pulling on futuristic materials.
I could hardly turn my head. I could hardly speak. I didn't want to speak, because everything moved around the wires and sensors inside me.
Marsha was stopped in thick traffic, many lanes wide, people walking between the cars and the Rube Goldberg fabrication. A guy started to walk in front of our car.
I said, even though I didn't want to speak, "Hey, Mister, what are you…?"
I never finished the sentence. The light changed, and Marsha was angling past the traffic, stepping on the gas, as the guy decided to play dash and dare, and took the gamble. He was running right in front of her just as she stepped on the gas as the light turned green.
I shouted out, despite Little Geek, because the guy realized he was in peril, and instead of continue to run, he stopped dead in front of us. I could see his eyes. He knew he was inches from finding out about flesh and bone and Fiberglass.
Marsha jammed on the brakes. He was two inches from losing the gamble.
Cars were now struggling about on all sides, horns honking.
The man scrambled to the side, trying to avoid other cars.
Little Geek didn't care about any of it.
At home, if you lay down, and didn't move your head, and didn't talk and didn't swallow, Little Geek was endurable; but the purpose of this was to have attacks when Little Geek was on the innards watch. I had a few minor spells, really aggravated by Little Geek's presence.
Eating was a whole other experience with food having to wedge its way around the length of Little Geek.
There were times I wanted to cut the wires, get Little Geek out, but I didn't do it.
The next day, I told Marsha we had to go, to call the doctors. On the phone I heard Marsha says the doctor wasn't in, it was a Jewish holiday.
Oh no! They said one day. They said come back in tomorrow.
They can't do this!
But then Marsha learned that the woman assistant would be in, and my panicked reaction ebbed, and we did the Manhattan gauntlet drive all over again.
The woman asked me if it was that bad.
I just looked at her.
She didn't say the worst was over, but for that day, at least, the worst was over.
Except for the waiting! Waiting to find out the results of what Little Geek learned when I had to go back to surgeon's office the following week.
And learn where this went from there.