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
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.