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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Spinal Tap x3

Between law school, seamstress-ing, and my food blog, I don't really update this blog ever. But poor Joel Watson at Hijinks Ensue just went through a spinal tap and I feel for him. So, I'm reposting an abridged version of my popular account of my spinal tap.
-J

One day, I got a call from my mom saying, "Hey, I'm going to get new glasses. Want to come get some too?"
And I said yes, for I had been aching for a sassy new pair of glasses.
We get to the optometrist, she does my eye exam, and then she says "Hm."
I fucking HATE when doctors do that. It means something is not business as usual and that always ends badly for me.
"Hm?" I reply.
"Well, your optic nerves are really swollen. You need to have those checked out right away."
"Great, I'll make an appointment for next week."
"I meant sooner."
"Fine, we'll get someone to squeeze me in tomorrow."
"I mean, you should go to the emergency room now. The Wilmer at Hopkins has one that's open 24/7."
"Huh."
"Yeah, here's a script."

So, we make a brief stop off at home, and then we head to the emergency room. With both of my parents. I was not freaked out until they BOTH decided they wanted to come. It made me paranoid that they somehow thought that my head might explode Scanners-style and they wanted to be there for my last moments. They are both fans of fireworks.

Anyway, after being admitted into the main ER, we waited SEVEN HOURS to be seen at the Wilmer ER. I was thankful I was not really considered a priority case, but I wish I had known ahead of time so I could have brought a book or my ipod. Instead, I had to make do with half-hearted political talk with my dad, cell-phone tetris, and calling people on the West Coast.

Finally, the ER doctor saw me. It is 3 am and I am tired. She dilated my pupils, shined some lights, did a vision test, stuck a pressure gauge into my eye, and said, "Hm."

I fucking HATE "Hm."

"Your optic nerves are swollen. But you're 20/20. And you've had no headaches?"
"Nope."
"No dizziness."
"Nope."
"I'm going to call neurology."
"Keen."

So, eventually, a neurologist made his way to the ER. Nice guy, looked a LOT like David Cross. He made me do all the neurology bits, what with the walking, touching, lifting my limbs, asking if I've been slurring. I'm half-surprised I passed them because I was pretty out of it. He looks at his chart and then looks at me.

"Hm."

I swear loudly in my head.

"We're going to need to run some tests. You appear to have a lot of pressure behind your eyes. It could just be spinal fluid, but we need to make sure it isn't tumors or clots. We'll admit you as an in-patient and start testing right away," he tells me.

"Ok, sounds fine," I answer.

"It's probably just excess fluid in the skull, it's called pseudo-tumor. It's not all that uncommon. But we have to rule out all the other options first. Really, the best case scenario is we find that it's pseudo-tumor, we do a lumbar puncture, and we get you out of here."

Did he just say my BEST CASE SCENARIO was a SPINAL TAP?
I am not so happy about this.

So I am admitted 4am, Thursday morning. Over the next 24 hours or so, I am subjected to MRIs, MRVs (with contrast, ew), CT scans, literally about a dozen blood tests, and am made to pee in a cup. All the while, I am being hovered over by half a dozen residents, who view my anomalous condition as a science experiment.
I had a really cute, super-sweet, Peruvian neurology resident named Fransisco on my team though, so that was pleasant. He held my hand as the attempted to do my first spinal tap. They wanted to do it bedside, with me on my side, which essentially means they had to approximate where to stick the needle. It was easily one of the most painful experiences of my life, and I have a chunk of flesh missing from my left leg, so I know from pain. ANYWAY, they shoot me with lidocaine, which hurts like a bitch all on its own. (God forbid they dope me up ahead of time with something a little more... comprehensive.) They then attempt to do the lumbar puncture. Attempt, being the operative word. They actually stick me several times, because they are having issues finding the right spot and they keep saying, and I quote, "meeting resistance," which I am pretty sure is codeword for "Fuck, I think I might be hitting her spine."

Finally, they give up and agree to send me down to radiology so they can use the fluoroscope to do the puncture. It is less painful than the bedside tap, which is not to say it is a walk in the park. It's is vaguely reminiscent of having a root canal. In your spine.
But it gets done, they drain off 8cc's for sampling. The radiologist asks if I am feeling any better, as draining fluid usually helps relieve headaches in patients with pseudo tumor. I explain that I came in asymptomatic, so really, I felt just fine up until they shoved a giant needle into my spine. He raises an eyebrow and they send me back to my room.

But you see, the problem was that they were supposed to drain me down to a normal pressure. Apparently, that order had gotten lost somewhere. So, a few hours later, they send me back for my second run through, where they take off 17cc's. Fabulous. I have now had 3 spinal taps (ok, two spinal taps and a failed spinal tap) in under 16 hours.

Happily, they sent me home on Friday afternoon and I made it to Faire on Sunday, with the promise that I do not do any heavy lifting or bending, because, you know, when they shove that giant needle into your spine, it actually dislocates it some.
Also, Steve made me feel like a total badass for showing up to faire as soon as I did, which filled my little hardcore heart with joy. :-)

And then, the next day I caught a cold. Which sucked.
But less than multiple spinal taps.