Sunday, June 14, 2009

Spinal Headache?

I had my lumbar puncture/spinal tap on Wednesday, and it wasn't as bad an experience as I'd feared it might be.

Of course, getting the darn thing was practically a comedy of errors.

I was surprised that the hospital hadn't called me to pre-register since it was going to be done in their short-stay surgical unit. (Yes, many doctors do these in their offices. However, when a doc has her office in a hospital's medical building, chances are all her procedures will be done at the hospital.)

My parents are visiting from Chicago so my father went along to be my designated driver afterwards, which was great since it meant Scott didn't have to miss work.

We were running a little late (my fault), so I was feeling extra anxious when we arrived and it turned out that the check-in people didn't have me on their list as scheduled. Luckily, I brought along my letter from my doctor's office telling me when I was scheduled and what to expect.

So they figured out who I was and got my paperwork ready. It wasn't long before my name was called and I was led back to a room and told to disrobe and put on a gown. The nurse came in, took my vitals, and told me she would call my neurologist to let her know I was there.

Somehow, I hadn't brought a book along. How the heck did that happen? So I watched old TV while I waited. And waited. And waited.

I was told to check in at 1:45 p.m., 45 minutes before the procedure was supposed to occur. At 4 p.m., the nurse poked her head in and asked if the doctor had been by. She hadn't, so the nurse called her office again. Turns out, the neurologist had already left for her son's graduation. (High school, I think.)

So she asked me if I wanted to re-schedule or to have an anesthesiologist I'd never met do the procedure instead. I opted for the doctor I'd never met, figuring it was more convenient to have it done while I was already there. When I made that choice, I assumed he was in the hospital.

But no. He needed to come from his office. So I waited some more and watched more bad TV.

The procedure was not exactly pain-free, but it wasn't as bad as I feared based on my experience with an epidural during my labor with Ellie back in 2004. The doctor very helpfully cooperated with my attempts to distract myself by telling me all about why he chose his specialty. (He started his residency in general surgery but new residents didn't get to do anything and the surgeons were nasty but a really nice anesthesiologist chatted to him during a surgery and invited him to do whatever it is the anesthesiologist was doing, and that was that. He switched his focus. Plus, he says, surgeons have to stand for up to 12 hours during surgeries and he didn't like being on his feet that long. :-)

What surprised me, I guess, was that unlike when blood is drawn and it's a quick process, it took about 20 minutes for the spinal fluid to drip out the tube in my back and fill up four test-tubes.

Apparently about 30 percent of people who have LPs get what's called a spinal headache, which eases or goes away entirely when the person lies down. The nurse told me there'd be no question if I had a spinal headache because it would be the Worst Headache Ever.

So I think I was in denial about whether or not that's what was happening to me, but now I'm pretty sure that's what I've got, if only because lying flat makes the headache and dizziness fade to background discomfort.

The cure is what's called a "blood patch," where the doctor takes some of my blood and puts it into the same place he put the needle for the spinal tap. Although I'm hoping that since I've been putting up with it for so long that when I call tomorrow, he'll tell me that it's almost over anyway ...

I'm not particularly eager to have another needle put in my back!

No comments: