Recovery from my spinal tap yesterday is going well. I’m typing this in my bed, though, because sitting up or standing for more than 10-15 minutes brings on a headache, and I have to lie back down. My back hurts and there is a nasty black bruise at the puncture site, but I feel much better than I thought I would.
That is not to say that the procedure went well. It didn’t. From start to finish, my husband Alvaro and I were at the hospital for five and a half hours. The first hour was spent mostly in the waiting room, dread building after I had been checked in. Then a technician brought us to the pre-op area, a room of cramped bays side by side with flimsy curtains providing the illusion of a little privacy. I was told to get into a gown and then on the bed. My husband blocked the gap between the curtain and the wall so I could change more comfortably. A lovely nurse came in to ask a million questions, and when she learned I was there because of a likely MS diagnosis, she told us about her girlfriend with MS who is doing really well. She took my vitals, and we were left to wait for the phlebotomist, who arrived with a cart full of tubes. She placed dozens of them on my chest, and my husband’s eyes widened: “Are you going to fill ALL of those with her blood?” he said, panicking. She replied that she would and asked if he was going to be okay. His face didn’t look like it. I was fine, however, and she worked expertly and quickly to get all that she needed before whisking it off to the lab. Then we waited for a long time before a radiology tech came to get me and take me to the fluoroscopy room. I kept eye contact with Alvaro for as long as I could as I was wheeled away.
I’ve never been in a hospital for a procedure before, never been the person on her back in a bed being wheeled through the hallways, so it was strange to see the ceiling and people whizzing past me just like on TV. The radiology area was quite a distance from pre-op, and I was parked there for more than thirty minutes as they waited for lab results before the procedure. The doctor had me sign a release form and explained the procedure before I was instructed to roll from my bed onto the fluoroscopy table, face down. The worst part of the initial stages was having my entire backside exposed as the doctor moved the x-ray machine this way and that above me, asking me to move one leg up and over to get the best picture and angle. Then she washed my back area several times before letting me know she was going to inject the anesthetic and to hold still. It was more than the “little pinch” she promised, instead a burning, stinging pain that went down my left leg in an electric volt. She then moved on to the tap needle, which is alarmingly long, and I felt pain like I’ve never experienced. She asked me to describe it, but words failed me, so she put in more lidocaine and then went in again. It hurt again, terribly so, and I weeped and clutched the pillow in front of me. When the needle was finally in, I had to roll on my side so the fluid could begin slowly leaking out. I tried to stop shaking and crying, but I couldn’t, and the more they asked me if I was okay, the worse it got. Another doctor came in to check the performing doctor’s work (I think she was doing a residency), and he came over to tell me it was okay, that he was afraid of needles too, as if I were simply worked up about the idea of what was happening rather than the pain. For the record, I am not afraid of needles at all, but pain is a different matter. Finally, fifteen minutes later, it was finished, and one of the nurses showed me a vial of the fluid. It was crystal clear and bubbly, almost cheerful, like soap in a dispenser. I rolled back onto my bed and was taken to the post-op recovery area, where an efficient, no-nonsense nurse instructed me to lie flat on my back for an hour. She told the person in the bay next to me that he’d be there for six hours, which made me stop feeling sorry for myself.
When Alvaro came back to sit with me, I began crying again, reminded of how much the tap had hurt. The nurse returned to make sure I was okay and asked questions about why I had the tap to begin with. When she heard it was because of MS, she told us about her friend who was diagnosed about 20 years ago and “doing better” on infusion therapy, looking at us both sympathetically but emphasizing that I had the very best doctor for it. The minutes passed slowly before I was finally told to get dressed. Alvaro went to get the car as I was wheeled out by a tech, and then it was home for a long nap.
I’m taking it easy today. My poor dog Maggie ruptured her ACL a few weeks ago and had surgery, and she still has to be carried in and out to go to the bathroom, up and down stairs. Fortunately, my father came by to take care of her this morning, and my mom will be by later with lunch. My dearest friend brought a recovery care package before the tap that included my favorite tea, a lovely handmade mug, a Wax Buffalo candle in a scent I’ve been wanting and an audio book, so I’m surrounded by love and support. I’m more grateful for it than I can express. And I’m so relieved to be on the other side of that spinal tap.