Earlier this week I had an EMG (electromyography) test along with an NCV (nerve conduction velocity) test. The definitions of these tests sound fairly benign:
EMG – a diagnostic test where a needle electrode is inserted directly into a muscle to record the electrical activity in that muscle.
NCV – a diagnostic test to measure how quickly electrical signals move through nerves.
I had some concern about the pain level of the EMG. Years ago, I had taken my mother for an EMG, and she screamed through it. My mother was a pretty tough cookie when it came to medical tests. Some friends who had EMGs told me it was uncomfortable but not painful. But others told me it was the most painful test they had ever experienced.
When I arrived at the diagnostic center, the technician began the NCV. To check the speed of your nerves, they basically electrocute you. He started with my fingers and worked his way up my arm and then my foot and leg. The shocks hurt but were tolerable. I told the technician he would probably enjoy visiting the Torture Museum in San Diego.
Then things took a nasty turn. He put electrodes around my eye and held the double-pronged cattle prod to my cheekbone. He warned me there would be ten jolts in quick succession. It’s hard to describe what that was like. Electrical shocks? Yes. Torture? Probably. He repeated this several times with a minute in between. Finally, he announced we were done. My only thought was that I had lived through it.
The neurologist entered the room, looked at the technician’s screen, and seemed pleased with the results. The tech said goodbye and left the room. I thought maybe we were done, but the doctor said, “Oh no, we’re only halfway. There’s more torture to come.” And she pulled out the needle. Here we go. Before she started, she said, “If at any point you need to stop, just tell me, and we’ll take a break. After you compose yourself, we’ll go on.” That should have been a clue of what was to come.
Testing the muscles in my hand and arm hurt, but I could handle it with some deep breaths. I remembered my mom’s reaction to the needle in her hand and thought maybe the worst was over. I was wrong. She moved to my leg. When she got to my calf, I lost it. They don’t just put a needle in the muscle. They put the needle in and have you work the muscle, harder and harder. The more it is stressed, the more the pain increases. I could not stand it anymore. I let out a scream and started to cry. The doctor suggested we take a break. I couldn’t stop crying but told her to just go on. She tested my upper leg in four places. Then one more needle in my back. Seriously. Torture.
They gave me some time to get dressed and compose myself. I guess they don’t want crying people walking through the waiting room. I should have gone through screaming, “Run! Get out while you can!” I cried all the way home, limped into the house, took an Epsom salt bath, then iced my calf, and spent the rest of the day on the sofa.
The pain subsided several hours later. By the next morning, it felt like a mild cramp. My face felt like I had been clenching my teeth all night. Maybe I had. Or maybe my face had been electrocuted over and over. I was thankful it was done, and I promised myself I would never go through those tests again.
As I spent time in God’s Word and prayer that morning, I thought of the suffering Jesus endured for me. There aren’t many people for whom I would go through an EMG or NCV again. But Jesus knew exactly what he would suffer and did it while we were enemies, not because he was forced to but because he wanted to. He didn’t have needles stuck in his muscles. He was flogged with whips containing pieces of metal and bone ripping into his muscles. He didn’t get to take a break and compose himself. His torture went on for hours before he died on the cross.
My hour of physical pain suddenly seemed so miniscule. It was short, and its only purpose was to rule out two neuromuscular diseases. I may have some other deadly disease but because of Jesus’ suffering, I also have eternal life. His suffering was much more effective than mine could ever be.