My Hair-owing Halloween with an Ambulatory EEG

Skeleton climbing out of jack-o-lantern

Our pumpkin from this year.

As I mentioned in my last post, My Monster Transformation, my chronic illness, treatments, and medication side-effects have been warping me into what many would deem a Halloween monster.  My neurologists read my blog post, and decided, “This woman’s amazing!  And what a great writer!  Let’s further her Medical Halloween experience.”*  So, they put their heads together to figure out the best way they could make a grand-gesture contribution to my auspicious holiday celebration.  And what did the neuro-think-tank decide to donate?  A costume!  In the form of an Ambulatory EEG to be exact.  As my wearing of this device would extend from October 31 through November 2, I got to wear my costume much longer than just one day like most of you poor saps.

Tosha wearing an Ambulatory EEG

Wearing my Ambulatory EEG this Halloween

Unlike a typical EEG, the electrodes of an ambulatory EEG are actually glued to your head.  The technician scrapes away the top surface where the electrode will be placed, the electrode is put on with glue, and the glue is sealed with a heat-gun.  Twice-a-day gel is inserted into the electrodes with a needle.  It is actually the gel that conducts the messages into the recording device.  I had twenty electrodes, each with their own wire, that sent my brain waves into the recording device.  The recording device is a couple pounds, but feels much heavier when its weight is suspended from wires that are glued to your noggin.

As I also had a red cross in the middle of my forehead that the tech used for alignment purposes, I decided that my costume officially was “An Exorcism Patient.”  Considering that not that long ago, my symptoms would be declared demon-produced, this seemed duly appropriate.  Contemplating the health-origins of my costume got me wondering what it would be like if my entire Halloween were medically sponsored.

  • Instead of carved pumpkins, I could decorate specimen containers.
Specimen cups with faces

Sonny & Cher

  • Instead of handing out candy, I could hand out medication.

    Halloween candy bowl full of prescription containers

    What’d you get Little Ballerina? Oh, Prosed DS? That’s for your bladder. Tell your parents to give that to you before your next road trip. They’re going to love it. And bonus, your pee will be blue!

Puffs tissue box with Mummy hologram card showing the word "trick"Puffs tissue box with mummy hologram displaying the words "or treat"When I started to look around, I realized that health and medically oriented Halloweens are not a new idea.  Marketing agencies have been capitalizing on this for awhile.  Even my tissues are sporting adorable Halloween prints with hologram cards.  And let’s reexamine some typical costumes.

Mummy or Burn Victim?
Cartoon Mummy

Serial Killer or Misunderstood Surgeon?
Serial killer costume with mask and knife

Skeleton or Medical Student Study Aid?
Toddler skeleton costume

Old Fashioned Valentine's Day ImageIf Valentine’s Day is a holiday perpetuated by the chocolate and card industry, then Halloween is perpetuated by the medical community.  We all know Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about love and Halloween is supposed to be about fear.  So, how did my posse of medical providers do this year?  Quite well.  Remember those electrodes that were glued to my head?  And the wires that were interlaced throughout my hair?  They both meant that my very tangle-prone hair couldn’t be properly brushed for three days.  If you’ve read my post Spoon!, then you know combing through my hair can be a bit scary on a regular day.  And if these massive snarls don’t have your heart pounding, let me remind you of the glue that sealed the electrodes to my scalp.  As the EEG techs are rightly more concerned with getting a good reading than the fate of your hair, they heap globs of essentially hot-glue over each electrode and then put your hair over the goop to help hold it in place.  Just thinking about the after-math of this process had my heart skipping beats for three days.

Mike in his scary Halloween mask

I was actually afraid parents would think I was doing something Satanic since I had the cross in the middle of my forehead, so I let my husband answer the door for the trick-or-treaters…in this mask.

And how was the removal process?  Appropriately scary.  The techs use an acetone mixture to remove the electrodes.  After the electrodes are out, the majority of the glue is still, what seems like permanently, sealed to your hair and scalp.  They then put an oil mixture on the glue and tell you to wait at least three hours before washing your hair, instructing you to use nail-polish remover for any glue that doesn’t wash out.  I know what you’re thinking, nail-polish remover is what all the best salons use to pamper lovely locks.  Yep, I’ve heard that too.  Anyway, I waited five hours and then climbed in the tub armed with two different shampoos, two different conditoner-detanglers, and a full bottle of nail-polish remover.  An hour and a half later my supplies were down to 1/2 a bottle of shampoo, 3/4 of a bottle of detangler, and 2/3 a bottle of nail polish remover.  I still could not get a comb through my hair and the glue did not look any thinner.  At this point, my husband suggested I dip the entire top of my head in the nail polish remover.  As my scalp had been scratched away at each glue-spot to make a better connection for the electrode, I knew this would sting, but I was ready to try anything.  So I dipped.  And it stung.  But it did help.  Another half-hour and almost the rest of my supplies later I could at least get a comb through most of my hair and had the massive clumps of glue off my scalp.  After climbing out of the tub, I gave it another half-hour before giving up for the night.  At this point my husband and I were overdue for dinner and he suggested we grab some subs.  Then he looked at the white morsels still decorating my hair, and the red welts where my skin used to be (including two stunningly visible ones on my forehead as if I recently had horns removed), and suggested we have pasta at home.  Kudos to my neurologists for also scaring my husband.  And how about the implications of this test?  Now that’s still giving us nightmares.  Yep, the medical community definitely owns Halloween.

  • Understanding chronic illness: Spoon!
  • My other Halloween related symptoms: My Monster Transformation
  • What exactly are my medical diagnoses?  Not fastest question to answer.  Check out Who am I? to learn more.

10 thoughts on “My Hair-owing Halloween with an Ambulatory EEG

    • Thank you for the encouragement! Mike’s mask was very scary. I had him lift it for a few of the littler treaters. Maybe my exorcism get-up wouldn’t have been so bad – even with the cross in the middle of my forehead-lol. That skeleton is great! Mike and I want to play with it; although we’re guessing it wouldn’t quite look the same with us at the helm.

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  5. I wish my husband and I could take full artistic credit for the pumpkin, but anyone who knows me would know that had I drawn the skeleton, it would need a label. We had a pumpkin carving book and traced it onto the pumpkin (by poking holes along the lines) before wielding our carving knives. Thanks for visiting the blog!

    • Thank you so much for the laughs. I needed that. I had a 3-day ambulatory EEG and had the electrodes removed today. I washed my hair a few times afterward and still have clumps of glue in my hair. I can’t comb it – the comb won’t go through. Is it really going to get back to normal????? My husband said I looked like a biker lady with a do-rag since I wore a bandana. Which is worse looking like a biker lady or a pirate or having clumps of white glue/goo in your hair?

      • I’m sure you rocked that bandana! I’d say go for the bandana over the crazy glue look. Or perhaps some pretty head scarves. (I actually do these myself from time to time for various reasons. I had to youtube how to wear them. There’s lots of different ways to wrap and it can be kind of fun). I genuinely scared people with the glue! Maybe you can slowly wear it out, covering it in the process, rather than dipping your whole head in acetone like I did. The fingernail polish remover did eventually work though if you want it out now! Let me know how it goes, or if you find another solution. I have to do another one of these soon and tips would be appreciated!

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