But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face. 1 Thess 2:17 (Note: I feel the same way as the Apostle here did. I hate not having time to write, but it has been a busy week!)
Hi everyone! I am happy to be back at the Cornbread table sharing a few grains here and there today. 🙂 I have had a busy week. First, I turned 51 late last week and took a couple of days off to relax and have some fun. Then I left for Vanderbilt to do my first full longitudinal study with them. Here are the details:
This program at Vandy seems to focus on cardiovascular elements relating to dementia. In my couple of days at the research hospital we did the following:
- Brain MRI
- Heart (and really upper body ) MRI
- Heart Echocardiogram
- Lumbar Puncture
- General physical
- Extensive cognitive testing
- Left with a wearable fitness device and a diary that lasts a couple of weeks.
The Brain MRI was done in a typical 3T (Tesla) MRI device, shown in the background of my actual images of my brain shown here:
MRIs are very straightforward procedures. I was stripped of any metals (although jewelry in precious metals was ok with this machine). I laid down and was stuck inside the tube in my sliding bed. In there, there are a series of very loud sounds that are greatly softened by the earplugs and headphones. They also put a shield over my face or my chest and gave me an emergency call button, although they could speak to me and I them the whole time. It is a little tight for a broad shouldered person, but wasn’t bad. If you have real claustrophobia, it may not be the cat’s meow…but all things considered it really is not bad.
My brain last round several months ago:
The Heart MRI actually covered the majority of my upper torso, including my liver. It didn’t, however, cover my onions, my gizzards, or my grits, nor my greens or my dumplins. It was pretty interesting because it also involved many times holding my breath so they analyst could gather data under that circumstance. They measured lots of things and asked a few more questions. It was quite cool… Probably took an hour-ish. The Brain MRI was a similar amount of time.
Here was my dad-bod MRI, with the 3T MRI behind it:
Another fun part of the clinical study was the Echocardiogram. Here is a video that shows one (They weren’t allowed to let me record mine 🙁 :
It is amazing. I enjoyed very much working with the lady that did mine. She has done these procedures for 40 years! Tens of thousands of them. I was particularly enamored with watching my valves flap around. I always thought of them as being pretty mechanical, but they are quite..uhhh….errrr…floppy? They wiggled like a tadpole. A perfect one, mind you. Exactly twice per beat as requested. The wonderful specialist even had me sniff in my nose because it causes the heart to react in a way that generates a measurement. Amazing. That is the only word I have…Took about an hour and worked like an baby ultrasound except I didn’t find out the gender of my heart…
The Lumbar Puncture was another important aspect of the festivities. NOTE: they really need to soften up the name for that thing. It sounds worse than it is. I guess “Lower Back Stabby Stabby” was taken? It took a few pokes, but went well and I didn’t end up with a headache this time, unlike my last one. 🙂 The way this works is they have you sit up and lay your face on a pillow on the desk in front of you, not unlike too many of my high school classes. They inject a small section of your lower back with Lidocaine. This is somewhat unpleasant, not unlike getting a shot before a filling. A little sting and then hot. They then use a very tiny needle to poke into the space between your vertebrae and grab some very clear (hopefully) fluid. This fluid is mission critical to brain research because it is so integrated into the brain that it makes for a great test material. Here is a bunch of info and a video: LINK Does an LP hurt? It had its moments when he was feeling around with the needle and he hit some nerves that shot pain down my legs…but for the most part it was just unsettling. It felt like the brain tickling Covid test they did early in the pandemic. Unfamiliar and not great. However, as much as I like to whine, it really isn’t bad….and it ends quickly.
Cognitive tests- Ugggh. The administrator is a great guy with a hard task. I didn’t time this, but it felt like a couple of hours. Here are some examples:
- Words lists to memorize
- How many words can you think of that start with the letter T?
- Drawing shaped you saw once from memory.
- Stacking manipulatives as shown in a picture
- Retracing steps.
- Memorizing number lists.
- Memorizing number lists…then reciting them backwards.
- Many similar things.
- Recalling lists from 10 tasks ago.
- Back-to-back lists…that you have to keep separate.
By the time I was done, the only thing that gave me any sense of comfort is his reminder that everyone fails them. 🙂 I was mentally very tired.
There were other things too, but these were the main study activities involved at the trip to Vandy. 🙂
I did eat waaaaaay too much. I attended a very fun AAA baseball game and drove around like a tourist quite a bit. Overall, though…mission accomplished until 18 months passes, then I go back and do it all again. 🙂 WashU is every 3 years and will be coming up again shortly after this one is done. My KU study ends this winter and I will try to latch onto a longitudinal one there shortly after.
Next stop: Emory (Atlanta) once I save up for it.
Next decision: To which ADRC do I donate my brain when I die? They are all worthy. 🙂
Why all of this? Why run 37 miles? Oh…and do it again the next day? Because the disease stinks and if it is to ever go away, we need many, many doing this with me. If I can clear the way a little, so be it. If you have questions, please reach out any time. 417-955-2513 is my cell for calls or texts. Want to find a study for your own? Here are the two links you need:
If you are curious if money is a motivation, here are the details: Total compensation: $225. My part: Car rental $300, hotel $250, food $1,000,000, 30 hours off work, etc… If I am doing it for the money, I have a bright future ahead of me in the Office of Management and Budget in the Federal Government. 😉 I just want this stupid disease to go away…
Update: Mom is doing better. I had a nice visit yesterday. Her Oxygen is doing better now…low- to mid-90s. She was awake for the visit, but she pretty much has given up on talking…so we just look at each other while I flap my gums. 🙂