I wanted to believe that I was Rhoda, Mary’s gal pal – that I was just some vintage fashionable 70’s diva with a head wrap that I could wear with a flowing gown like Mrs. Roper. But this wasn’t the case. I wasn’t Rhoda. And this head wrap wasn’t a fashion accessory. It was a medical necessity.
For you see, the wrap did not cover immaculately-styled hair. Rather, it held 57 highly charged, weighty electrodes, electric tubes and wires that collectively were close to 50 pounds on my head. This my dears, was called a Maximum EEG.
And not just an immediate one, but an ambulatory EEG. This meant this was a 24 hour long ordeal – in which I spent 3 hours having the electrodes glued to my skull, and had to stay at a hospital-adjacent hotel overnight, trying to sleep and return the next evening for the removal. I was put on meds which had given me a sizable belly – a major beer gut. But how shallow could I be? My mother and father were by my side.
Why did I have to do this? Simple reason, really. I had suffered a grand mal seizure after over ten years, the kind which leaves you quaking and shaking, the kind which finds you black, blue, and bloody the next morning, The kind which forcefully electrifies you into the wall, into the desks, into the lamps. And this horrified the doctors. The neural electricity was unexpected. I sing the body electric. Only this time, nobody saw the performance coming.
So I was made to take this EEG. To find out why I was becoming an electrified marionette once again. I had not taken one for 17 years, not since I had a complete brain hemorrhage obliterating almost half my brain. But I was drugged out then, more than any heroin or crack addict could wish to be. But this time I was sober. SO I had to endure this fully conscious, and this was a torture even ISIS would not be perverse enough to commit. It took three hours to affix the electrodes to my skull on electric pads with a horrid glue, which they called "radioactive." I had thought it was just another adventure in medical hyperbole, but it wasn’t far from the truth. It smelled of a nightmarish combo of death, rubber, burning metal, and pure necrotic filth.
It wasn’t just the cords though. After my skull was adorned with the grotesque tentacles, I was made to hyperventilate continuously for five full minutes, breathing in and out as fast as I could. Then beams of pumping, flashing lights were placed an inch from both my eyes, one at a time. For another five minutes. Their goal was simple enough. They wanted me to have as many seizures as I could. To record my brain’s activity. Even though I felt like an incident might occur, I bit the inside of my check the whole time. I refused to have a seizure, and I didn’t. The biting worked.
As we left the hospital, we were given the rules, which were easy to follow. I wasn’t to touch any electronic devices, especially when they were plugged in to be charged. When the time came for the removal the next evening, I was more than prepared. But exhausted. I had not slept a wink as the heavy weight had pushed my head down to my chin, and I had to sleep sitting up like the Elephant Man. The Elephant Man, yes, that is what I had become. Not Rhoda.
8 pm was the scheduled appointment. My dad, mom, and I hung out at the Barnes & Noble café next door, as we came more than an hour early. Dad tried to cheer me up by saying we should go find my memoir in the shelves. It wasn’t in any shelf anymore. I wasn’t cheered up.
I was called into the room at 8:20. I wanted to document this, so I would use my iPhone7 to take pics. My dad couldn’t emotionally handle any of this experience, and was pretending to be engrossed by the People magazine out in the waiting room couch. As if Kim Kardashian could hold his attention. So I had to ask my mom to be the photographer, and I asked if she wanted a nurse to take the photos since it would be hard to watch your child go through this. But she said she would photograph this. She is tough. Badass.
So, like Mother Mary watching her son being tortured on the cross, My own mom watched her Jesus – and considering my beard and brown skin made me look like the Arab Jew the Messiah officially was – this comparison wasn’t a stretch. But I doubt Mary would ever have the balls to film her son being crucified.
But the technician removing the cords, a pudgy middle-aged Indian man, who scarily enough, had the same name as one of my family members – scowled and forbade us from taking too many shots. I was pissed off. But Perhaps those were the rules. Perhaps the hospital didn’t want its doctors to be seen on Facebook, or Youtube. Still, that didn’t stop Badass Mama from snapping as many shots as she could.
As my head wrap was unwrapped, and the cords were pulled off their base and the glue with a highly unbreathable toxic oil, my skull felt lighter. And lighter. The cords which had been hidden by the brittle fabric, were now visible and being pulled from the fabrics end, a neverending loop of wires and electrodes, reminding me of a magician who kept pulling countless handkerchiefs from his shirt pocket. When the wrap was fully off, I saw the remaining electrodes which seemed to effortlessly sway in obscenely imported air. I saw the mirror above. The EEG was officially finished.
My mom was allowed to take pics of the electric glue pads which had been precisely stuck on my skull. But she wasn’t allowed to take a total pic of my head with the electrodes stuck on me, completely. Yet as brain damaged as I am, I can never forget the image.
I was Medusa, the cords and electrodes were my serpents. When She, the gorgon, was forced to finally look at her own reflection, she turned to stone and died. At that very moment of seeing the cords hissing off my skull, so did part of me.