Though this test involved large needles and lots of blood draws, I preferred it to the cognitive tests at the MRI lab. I was propped up in a hospital bed in front of a television set with IVs in each of my arms, so nurses had to surf the channels for me, switching stations as I barked orders until we agreed on CNN and collectively heckled a speech by President Bush. The nurses carefully administered my sugary free fall, drawing samples of blood every minute or so to make sure I didn’t drop too low. After hitting 65, I rebounded, expected of a healthy person, but difficult for many sleep apnea patients. We’d see if my insulin response remained healthy during my ordeal.
Once I was patched up, Julie presented me with a glucose monitor, which I’d have to wear for 48 hours. It was a hair-fine wire that needed to be implanted in a fleshy area of my body. Julie was adamant, so I acquiesced, pulling down my pants to expose the no-man’s-land where the back meets the ass. At least I wasn’t hairy. A sharp pinch and it was in. She covered the area with gauze and tape and handed me the monitor, about the size of the Holter, which clipped to my belt. Then she pricked my finger, squeezing a drop of blood into a blood sugar reader.
“Eighty. Good, right where you should be,” she said.
That night, I had my first “sleep study.” When I came in at 9, a Scandinavian woman was waiting for me. She attached leads to my scalp, using a clear, goopy paste that she promised would come out eventually. She taped other leads to my chin, forehead, and the corners of my eyes, as well as my ankles. She applied EKG leads to my chest and finally, wrapped Velcro straps around my torso. With this setup, she could tell which of my facial muscles I was using, when I entered REM sleep, how deeply I breathed, and how much I moved while sleeping. I attached my nasal canula, clipped on my oxygen monitor, and lay the glucose monitor beside me, wistfully remembering my comparatively peaceful night with the Holter. Then the Scandinavian woman (whose name I never caught) sat quietly outside the door, recording, while I slept.
When I awoke the next morning, Rick was waiting for me. “I have a present for you,” he said. He pulled a decrepit Apple laptop from his bag. “More 2-backs!” I groaned. But it got much worse. I was in cognitive testing for 10 hours that day, 5 two-hour cycles, in full sleep study regalia. Each cycle began with a mildly sadistic game. I was told to try to fall asleep in a darkened room. As soon as I approached REM sleep, the Scandinavian woman would wake me up. After 20 minutes of that farce, I did an hour of 2-backs, followed by 40 minutes of free time. Even by the second cycle I was tiring. But I was saved when I noticed that the sequence of letters for the 2-backs weren’t random. Once I learned the pattern, it was easy to let my mind drift. Numb with boredom, I slowly made my way through the day, deriving more enjoyment than usual from 40 minute bursts of Charmed, C-SPAN, and the hospital channel en Español. My years as a wage-slave had prepared me well. If I could handle filing, multi-line phone systems, paper jams, and coffeepots, I could handle this.