This is Spinal Tap: Getting Your Lumbar Puncture
So what has this fibro firestarter been up to lately? Well, I’ve been fast-tracked for MS testing. Some of the symptoms I have been having recently (penguin arms and hands) and paralysis, qualified me for the ‘What’s that lesion on your brain?’ MRI testing, which then moved me to the next round of the “What’s Going On With These Weird Symptoms?” game show … aka
Spinal Tap (Lumbar puncture for those who want to get technical)
I’ve heard horror stories about this and no one really wanted to tell me what I should look forward to and what prizes awaited as I move onto the game show’s next stage in determining whether I have MS in addition to the fibro and chronic fatigue et al. … so I’m sharing with you, what to expect during the procedure and other post-procedure goodies.
Take deep breaths. You have to get it done and don’t wanna. Prepare your recovery space at home — fluffy pillows, warm blankets, reading materials, pain relievers, TV, soothing music, water, other liquids, and caffeine (coffee/tea, soda, chocolate) to ward off the dreaded spinal headache. Make it clear to your family and friends that you will hardly be able to move for 24-48 hours after you get home from the procedure. Do not drive yourself. Have someone pick you up, and make sure that you can lean on this person when you get out of the car. Wear warm comfy clothes (a shirt that you don’t mind if it gets stained) with shoes that are easy to put on after the procedure and take off when you get home. Take your pain medicine or ibuprofen before the procedure. You cannot take any aspirin or anything that will make your blood thinner, so check first with your neurologist if you are taking heart medicine, etc. for additional instruction.
I was scheduled for 2 PM so I tell hubby to pick me up after he’s finished with work so I can relax by myself before on the way to the hospital. Hubby is even more nervous than I was so this turned out to be a great idea. I walk part of the way to the hospital since its a couple miles from my home. I reckon, this is the only walk I’ll get for I don’t know how many days and I want to have some exercise before the weekend. Glad I planned it this way since I was “relaxed” upon arrival and it turned out to be such a nice sunny early fall day. I even snapped a few pictures along the way.
At the Hospital – Prep
If you are like me, who has never had any hospital work done other than ER visits and minor diagnostic testing, you will be nervous. I simply told the spinal tap crew starting with the nurse — “I am very very nervous.” “Sure you are, its normal, everyone is” they say encouragingly. I relay the fact that I’ve never been in the hospital for really anything. Luckily the nurse who was covering for my nurse-still-on-lunch-break had the same procedure a few years back when she contacted meningitis. She tells me that she had the dreaded spinal headache and other complications afterwards because she didn’t listen to the doctor. She explained, “I hate procedures. I am so stubborn. We nurses think we can decide for ourselves what we should do. And we decide we can take care of yourselves.” Her advice, “Hardly move for at least 36 hours after you get home. This is the time to use others for help. Drink the coffee. Trust me, you don’t want to get the spinal headache.” She didn’t go into further details. We laughed that usually doctors tell you not to have caffeine and now they were giving me carte blanche to drink coffee.
The spinal-tap-experienced nurse takes my vitals. I remark to her, “Man, my blood pressure is high. Its 129. It’s never have that high unless I have an infection.” “Could be white coat syndrome, since you are nervous,” she reasons. Then my left hand brushes my sweat-soaked hair and I chuckle at my stupidity …. “Or it could be since I just walked over a mile here from my home.” “Yeah that could do it,” she smiles. We both laugh. “I’m determined to have a good sense of humor during this,” I tell her. Then I ask her, “Have you seen the movie?” No she hasn’t heard of the movie, “This is Spinal Tap.” I tell her about it as she continues with vitals taking. Then the other nurse comes in and retests vitals and gives me a handout on the procedure.
One hour of prep time at the hospital before the procedure. Sign documents and read the lumbar puncture procedure pamphlet (something like this, if you want to know before the procedure). I opted to read it afterwards; mine even came with a picture. I had time to scan the TV stations for what I wanted to watch afterward during recovery instead. I figure they can answer my questions later. There was a relaxing meditative channel that has nature and wildlife scenes which are accompanied by soothing music (some classical, some new age). I choose this one. I use the bathroom. I put on the hospital gown over my undergarments and the XL slipper-resistance socks over my small socked-feet. I arrange my clothes so its easy to get dressed after the 2 hour recovery time. The air conditioning isn’t too high in here, I’m thinking. I’m deducing how many extra blankets I’ll need so I can take the nap I intend to get while recovering. Then I wait. And wait. Alone. Be prepared to wait. I look out the window. I have a great view. I take pictures. I take deep breaths. I wait. Storm clouds pass over the hospital. I convince myself that is no bad omen because Milwaukee is almost in a draught; we need rain. Rain will soothe the dry itchiness I’ve been having. My family will be happier if it rains. We’re all tired of the dry air. The trees are starving. Its kind of creepy. My thoughts race as I wait. I’m starting to get chilled, not enough blankets.
The physician’s assistant comes in. “You’ll have to get into the bed, then I’ll roll you to the procedure area. Is there anything you need before we get started since you won’t be able to move afterwards?” she inquires. “I’m think I’m going to need more blankets. I’m always freezing cold,” I tell her as my teeth are now chattering. Now I’m panicking. How am I going to stay immobile when my teeth chatter. What about my jimmy legs moving. Will the epidural be enough? “We’ll talk to the physician about that,” she says.
Wheeled in. Not too chilly in here. The physician, a petite Asian-looking woman with big warm eyes, introduces herself and shakes my hand then explains the procedure: we numb your back first; we give you an epidural, then the needle is inserted which will remove the spinal fluid. We x-ray your back during the entire procedure. Only lasts about 20 minutes total. Then her warning as she places her hand on my arm in a serious direct tone, “It’s young women like us who tend to get the spinal headache and other complications because they don’t rest afterwards. You take a full rest day tomorrow, then on Saturday you can slowly resume your activities, go for a light walk; no heavy chores or exercise. I mean it. No moving tomorrow. At home make your family take care of you. Take the time to get the rest. You deserve it!” “No problem,” I assure her, “I’m prepared.” “Good I don’t want to see you back here this weekend,” she affirms. I’m asked if I need anything else to help me or have any questions. I respond, “I’m sorry to be demanding but I’m going to need more warm blankets to keep me from moving when I’m in the recovery room.” The crew in the room chuckles as the physician says, “if that’s your most demanding request, we can accommodate it. No problem.” She chuckles with a big smile. About my jimmy legs, she explains that the epidural will stop my legs from moving so no worries. But if she touches a nerve with the needle it will feel like a nerve twinge going down my legs, like I hit my elbow real hard, then I should tell her so she can move the needle. “Lucky for you I’ve actually had ulnar nerve damage before. I really know what a big hit to the elbow feels like,” I joke with her. Now the team is chuckling with me. “I’m a weird duck,” I tell them. “I have to find the humor in this.” “Great attitude,” the physician responds.
I hop on the table. Lie face down. Assistants put my arms on arm rests then adjust pillows as I align my body so it doesn’t move, I hope. Then they lay heated blankets on my legs, feet, arms, upper back and neck. “Almost like being in a spa,” I nervously laugh upon my remark to the crew in the room. Then I pull the brim of my hat over my eyes.
Clang, clang go the instruments. Then I hear the x-ray overhead scan me a few times. All systems go. I’m asked if I’m comfortable. They roll the cool gel on my back. It feels soothing. Then the physician explains in her stochatic voice. You’re hearing the x-ray machine scan you. We’ll wait a few minutes while the iodine is spread. I’m fairly numb now. I practice deep breathing. My anxiety flares. I say to myself, “Infinite Love and Gratitude.” Then in my head I ask all of my support systems — family, friends, acquaintances, God, angels, and guides — for help to calm down my anxious feelings. I remind myself that everyone wants to help and support me. That I am surrounded with love. Then I visualize a vivid purple ring encircle me. I feel LOVE come over me, a deep warm sensation.
The physician’s assistant holds my right hand. Now a big pinch. Big deep breath. Yikes, I’m thinking. Another big deep breath. Now I start my meditative breaths — 8 counts in, 8 counts out. How far can I get the breath down my body? Into my feet is my primary goal. More deep breaths. I visualize them going down to my feet. 8 counts in, 8 counts out. Tick, tick, tick. Pinch (the epidural), numb, hope my arms don’t move. “Shoot, I think I’m going to sneeze,” I say aloud. She waits a few seconds. No sneeze. Another deep breath. 8 counts in, 8 counts out. Feel the warmth of the blankets. Don’t focus on where the needle is, I tell myself. We’re almost there, she says. Okay now the needle. OW, I feel a slight twinge on my nerve, but then its gone. I’ve readjusted the needle, she tells me. Okay now I’m removing the fluid. Deep breathe, deep breathe. 8 in, 8 out. 8 in, 8 out. I count; my final is 200 counts of 8. “I’m done,” she says. “Really. That seemed fast,” I reply. “We thought you fell asleep for a few minutes, you were so quiet and still,” she replied back. “I practice meditation every day,” I tell her proudly. It really helps me to focus and keep my anxiety at bay. It really worked.” “Fantastic. how that helped you. I wish I had done deep breathing for my first child. I practiced more when I had my second. They teach you to deep breath in pregnancy class but you don’t really know how it works,” she told me. “Yeah, you really do have to practice for it to work, otherwise you don’t trust it,” I explain knowingly. I thanked the physician for her attention. I thank the physician’s assistant for holding my hand telling her it really helped me to relax and comfort me. Then I thanked everyone in the room. “You don’t have to thank us,” the young man who reminds me of Lenny Kravitz tells me. “Oh but I do, I couldn’t have done it without you all,” I remark with a alight smile. He helps me sit up slightly as the pillows and blankets are removed then lays me back down, “Well now you get to roll like a log onto the bed.” “Just like summer camp?” I ask. The assistants encircle me as I force the left side of my body to roll over onto the bed. I need assistance because I can’t feel the bottom part of my torso and body. The right side wants to move but the left feels like dead weight. I grunt, “Used to be a lot easier back then, I seem to remember.” We all chuckle. Then I roll down and they gently pull me up to rest my head on the pillows. Wow! There’s already a heated blanket beneath my body when my arms feel it. Asking me if I’m comfortable, they start putting other heated blankets on top of me, up til under my neck. My hair is still a little wet so I ask for another warm blanket to cover my hair. “See, I’m really a blanket hog,” I state. We all laugh and I thank them all again. “This wasn’t really that bad,” I remark, “Thanks again for making it as comfortable a process for me as possible.” Then I’m rolled out and everyone is in the hall gives me a thumbs up. The physician exclaims, “Remember your promise. REST.” Then to the physician’s assistant, “She needs to be in recovery for two hours before she can go home.”
Rolled back into recovery room, the physician assistant says, “We’re back in your pod.” I’m feeling dreamy and warm. “Try not to move and lay flat. Your head should remain immobile as long as possible.” She closes the blinds, then puts the TV remote near my arm. She puts the blood pressure cuff on my right arm and reminds me she’ll be back every so often to check my vitals. I begin deep breathing again. I’m afraid to move. The fancy bed that moves up and down slightly to prevent bed sores makes a rhythmic pattern. I fall asleep. I hear someone enter the room. Nope, no entry. Must have been a mistake. My feet slowly adjust themselves. This is good, I’m making involuntary movements, but my back is beginning to ache where the tap was injected. Now I can feel parts of the left side of my body. The nurse comes in checks my blood pressure. At my request she turns on the TV. I lay staring at the TV without putting on my glasses. I see patterns and colors that remind me of the impressionistic patterns. Is this what they saw? Did they really need glasses for near-sightedness? I doze. I wake up again when the nurse comes back in. My two hours are almost up so she helps prop my pillows and bed so that I’m in a more seated position. Then she brings me my preference for caffeine — coffee– and the discharge papers. The blankets are losing their warmth. I put on my glasses when my husband comes in.
He’s worried. He’s never seen me in the hospital before. I assure him all is well and I just am ready to drink my coffee. After drinking it down, I use the bathroom. He helps me off the bed to stand and to the bathroom. I get my first real whoozy dizzy feeling. My head swims. I feel like I’m going to pass out. “I think I got up too soon,” I tell the nurse after she responds to the call. She brings in a second cup of coffee and tells me to wait longer while sitting straight up. They’re going to have to take my blood first before they can discharge me. She reminds me to wear my slipper resistant socks at home so I don’t fall. Two young attendants come in while I’m drinking my coffee, the guy looks like Usher, the girl has a goth thing going on. He asks me, “What’s your favorite music?” As I’m answering he draws the blood. We all talk about music and movies as I’m drinking my second cup of coffee. They leave and hubby helps me get dressed. He has to help me put on my shoes. I’m surprised by how difficult it is to move. But I can walk in slow shuffled steps, and we thank everyone for their kind attention as I leave.
No issues getting into the car or on the drive home. But I feel light headed and it is hard to move. The sunlight is too bright so I pull my hat over my eyes again.
Recovery at Home
Hubby has to help me out of car and up the stairs into the house. I had intended to lay in bed for my recovery, but as soon as I get in the house I head to the couch and end up remaining there. Propped up by pillows I’m feeling okay and watch TCM. The tender pain rears its ugly head at about 9:30 PM. Its intense so I wait for an hour until the Advil kicks in while I drink my Coke. I can barely walk back and forth to the bathroom in the slipper resistant soles. I’m doing okay but so tired and hardly eat. My back is killing me and I’m still fuzzy headed. Since I hardly got sleep the night before I’m ready to sleep. Its somewhat fitful but I’m able to sleep most of the night on and off.
I took more Advil the next morning. I end up sleeping most of the day. After waking, I slowly started moving back and forth to the bathroom and kitchen to get my saltines and liquids. I start feeling less pain at about 9:00 PM. I don’t want to even touch my back aside from getting in the shower yet. No complications — Thank God! I’m okay to take a shower the second day and eat and go for a short walk later in the day. But my back is still tender and I am wiped out after the walk. I don’t even dare touch my back where the bandage is. Hubby offers to rub my upper back but I still don’t want to be touched. We remove the bandage on Sunday after my next shower; most of the iodine is gone now.
I am able to return to work on Monday the following week. But I don’t feel totally pain free until Wednesday.
Now I wait for results…..
Will I get what’s behind Curtain #1 or Curtain #2? Stay tuned.