Blood Music*

Kage Baker hated medical tests. She did all she could to avoid any sort, and only bowed to the necessity when she developed a fatal disease. And then she was courageous and magnificently authorly; she described the process of intrauterine radiation therapy (yes, Dear Readers, such a horrible thing does exist) as spending the afternoon having a Metro station installed in her vagina … making the tech handling the gantry-mounted automaton that was assaulting Kage laugh so hard that the process was delayed.

Admittedly, she came to the tests late in life, and under considerable duress. I bullied my way into a lot of treatment rooms in order to hold her hand so she could get through them. I even assisted the tech who installed the chemo shunt in her left arm, because I knew how to read an ultrasound.

I knew how to read an ultrasound because my way of coping with tests has always been to get as involved as possible. I’ve been having things injected, inserted, prosthetically attached and/or removed since I was 11 years old – I simply love ultrasounds, because you can see what’s going on: if the tech will cooperate and turn the screen where you can see … I even talked the attending physician into turning the viewer so I could see  it when I had to endure a colonoscopy. (Under Demerol, by the way, that was the weirdest trip I have ever taken.) I am at least privileged to report that my insides are a nice shade of pink.

Anyway, today I had ultrasounds taken of my legs. I have had a weird pain in my left leg, with accompanying tremors and weakness, for about 6 weeks; there’s been no sign of a stroke, and I am sure I’d remember falling down enough to make it hurt so much. My cardiologist, who is of course intimately aware of the clot in my heart that occurred on October 14th, therefore sent me off to find out if I have done something insidious like develop deep vein thrombosis.

It wasn’t bad. The tech was a nice lady, they let Kimberly sit in the room with me, and they warmed the gel they used! Mod cons, man; let me tell you, cold ultrasound gel is a nasty thing to encounter on a winter day. But they wouldn’t turn the monitor where I could see it, so it was boring. There I was, stripped to my panties under a cotton sheet – bad lighting, weird noises; it was like a bad college party, being desultorily groped by a disinterested stranger, staring at the ceiling and playing pareidolia games with the patterns of holes in the acoustic tiles overhead …

I recommend acoustic tile for this kind of thing. Yes, it’s ugly stuff, but those random holes make all sorts of interesting patterns. Mostly cat faces and skulls, due to the spareness of the facial features involved, but also spiderwebs, cosmic threads and knitting stitches. I did see a wonderful skull today, amazingly detailed and clearly Homo sapiens, right down to the loaf-shaped cranial vault and zygomatic structures: of course, I blinked and it was gone, but that’s the way it goes with pareidolia.

Anyway, the only way I had to track the examination of my legs was by sound. The hydrological gurgles and swishes from my femoral arteries was a trifle uneven on the right, but my heart beat skips a beat now and then these days. On the left … man, it was a drum solo by a stoned, disabled spider. Loud, then dim; high pitched, then conga-deep; sometimes, not there at all. Led me to all sorts of speculation, but it’s never any use asking the techs – they look blank and refer you to the radiologist, who won’t talk to you either until the attending physician finds out. Hey, it’s my body. But they don’t care.

There were two strokes of luck. First, when the tech left to let me get dressed, she left the last dozen thumbnails she’d taken on the computer screen – all of the left knee. Second, Kimberly (no mean hand at reading an ultrasound herself) was watching the entire thing. And instead of demanding hysterically, “What’s THAT?!?” at weird structures, she just memorized what she saw and then told me.

So: there is a big black blot behind my knee. On the thumbnails, it was displayed in annotated splendour,  with arrows and measurements and coloured lines. which means it is important. Being there at all means I wasn’t imagining things. Being black means it’s fluid. Being a blot means it’s not a muscle tear. The blood flow sounds make me think there is an obstructed flow in the left leg.

The radiologist is not out of a job, though. I think it looks like a clot, but there are plenty of other things it could be. It could be Housemaid’s Knee, it could by synovitis, it could be a slow bleed that hasn’t solidified into a clot. It could be a fiendish tracking device from a UFO abduction, I guess, giving new meaning to “wet wear”. It could be leaking synovial fluid – after 40 years of Faires, my knees are a disaster. Heck, after 40 years of Faires, it could be beer.

Whatever it is, the tests are now under way, which is a relief. I’m tired of trying to gimp on both legs, and with my dicky heart (isn’t that a wonderful British phrase for  freaking HEART FAILURE?) checking for screw ups in the hydraulics is just common sense. Now I just need to get a lung function study completed, to assure my cardiologist that I don’t have COPD on top of everything else. I’d bet money, even my own, that I do not … but again, that she wants to make sure is a good thing. My shortness of breath has gotten quite annoying.

Anyway, another interesting day pursuing personal knowledge: what portion of my miserable corpus is failing now? On the other hand, the ultrasound was painless, I got to see some of it, and the walk from the parking structure constituted daily exercise: so, I’m ahead on points. Even Kage would not have minded today’s medical excursion.

Good thing I had Kimberly, though. I never knew until these recent years how lonely it is on those cold examining tables on one’s own.

Thank all the gods for sisters. They are more than we poor miserable sinners deserve.



*With respectful acknowledgment to Greg Bear, who wrote the magnificent, award-winning Blood Music. Read it; it’s a grand story.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Blood Music*

  1. Mark says:

    Where is this bastion of civilization that *warms* the ultrasound goop? Having labored with DVTs for more than a decade, I regularly have the joy of wearing cold slime while the bored automaton assigned rubs me with a cut-rate Hitachi….


    • Kate says:

      Burbank Imaging (may their tribe increase!) Which oddly enough is in Glendale. Believe me, I too am familiar with cold goop – brrr! Decades of kidney battles regularly got me slimed in the short ribs. But these nice people somehow kept it at bath temperature.

      I grieve over your DVT. This crap is annoying to the max.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.