After I'd tried what seems like every pain killer known to man, it was obvious that enough was enough, and Rick found a neurologist who specialized in headaches. I had a month and a half wait, but that's ok -- there was at least an end in sight.
The day finally rolled around, and after an examination and a lot of "hmmms" and "huh"s and one "that's interesting", he said I had an excess of spinal fluid, and it was pressing against the discs in my eyes. He prescribed medicine to help relieve the pressure (and hopefully the headaches) and scheduled a spinal tap.
(This is the point where most readers are cringing. I have since discovered that a study was made of people to see what medical procedure they feared the most, and it was -- yup, you guessed it -- a spinal tap.)
No big deal, thought I. I've had a spinal tap before, when I was sixteen, and while it wasn't anything I'd recommend, it wasn't all that bad. To me, the worst part was the Lidocaine to numb my back, because it always burns. After that, the tap was just uncomfortable pressure.
This, however, was not going to be the same experience by a long shot.
Now is the time that I need to say, if you're squeamish, don't read any more. AND, this is most definitely NOT the norm, so if you ever have to have one, this is not what you'll get.
I show up at the doctor's office with Rick, zoning on Valium, and we go back. I curl up in the fetal position on he table like I'm supposed to and the doctor starts pushing around with his fingers on my back to find a good spot to stick the needle. He has to get between the discs and into the spinal fluid and it's pretty much by feel.
Problem #1 -- He touched one spot and I jerked like he'd burned me.
At this point I explained that I had seven bad discs back there and he proceeded with caution (and probably an "oh *%&$" in his mind).
He finally found a spot and hit me up with Lidocaine. It wasn't that bad at all, since I knew what to expect, and I relaxed, thinking the worst was over. Then he slowly started adding more numbing goodies to the deeper parts of my back.
Problem #2 -- The needle hit a nerve that shouldn't have been there and I about hit the ceiling.
The doctor said, "What did you feel? What was that?" and I told him it felt, basically, not good, like a huge big sting. It was at this point that I started to hyperventilate and my vasovagal response to unexpected pain kicked in and I said, "Guys, I'm going to pass out." Needle out of the back, cold cloth, deep breathing, ok, I'm fine, let's try this again.
So we're still in the numbing phase, and I get through that much better. Now we start the tap part.
Everything STARTS fine -- I feel pressure, a thump as it gets through whatever it needs to gets through, then -- someone shrieks. Oh yeah, that would be ME. Shooting, searing pain down my leg and across my abdomen. Who the hell knifed me? I think.
Enter a freak out. (That would be me again). The doctor asks what I felt and where, and the pain stops when he moves the needle. And then it starts again. And again. He finally takes out the needle – but no pay dirt. No fluid. He says that's because I have so much calcification and arthritis in my back, it's making it really hard to get in between any of the discs, and he adds more numbing medicine and waits for me to be ready again.
So on to spinal tap #2.
Same thing happens. Shriek, tears, doctor blanches, out comes the needle, yada yada. Still no fluid.
At this point he asks Rick to pull me as tightly into a ball as he can to open up my spine as much as possible. I try to make a joke about bungee cording me together. I keep saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm trying" and the doctor and nurse keep reassuring me that I'm doing fine, please don't apologize, I just have a difficult back which they normally don't see.
It's at this point that the doctor asks just what I did to have so much trauma in my back -- was I in a car accident? I reply no, I trained for in 1999 for the National Aerobics Competition, which involved a lot of hurling yourself at a wood floor at 90 miles an hour. I most certainly didn't win, and didn't place, even, because by that time my body was just wrecked, but here's a video from the year I competed to show you what kinds of things I did (and my push-up compulsories are indentical to hers)....
Time for spinal tap #3. I weakly joke that three's the charm.
This time, he adds Lidocaine the entire time he's poking around (said Rick, I obviously can't see a damned thing and don't WANT to). I get that sharp seering pain and am shrieking, "OW OW OW" quickly followed by "KEEP GOING KEEP GOING" because I know they are about to give up and they CAN'T give up or I'm screwed.
Just as the doctor says, "I think for your sake we should stop," spinal fluid starts up the vial. There is cheering in the room like you normally hear when your team wins the Super Bowl.
I hear the doctor go "Wow" and he says the pressure in there is incredible, and that it's a good thing I was taking the eye medication or who knows how high it would have been. They drain four vials off in no time.
What should have taken 20 minutes has taken us an hour and a half.
All done. Or so I think. The doctor says he'll be right back with a prescription.
He comes back and asks if we're able to go to the hospital for blood work. I look at him like he's out of his mind. He looks at me like he's afraid I'll throw something at him.
He says there's a test they can run in conjunction with the spinal fluid, but it's "technically" not mandatory. I look at him and say, "I think I've had enough today". He nods like he knows the feeling, yup, he absolutely does.
Three spinal taps. Rick quit counting how many Lidocaine needles went in around five or six. Oh, you can BET I'm flipping done with needles.
The good things:
-- I didn't get a spinal headache, a common side effect, which could have required MORE needles-- My daily headaches went away immediately.
-- My left leg immediately quit hurting (the spinal nerves were getting pinched from the arthritis and I had gotten to where I couldn't cross my leg and was limping).
-- AND, I got to read three books while lying in bed (Her Last Death, One Fifth Avenue, and I Was Told There'd Be Cake).
So. There is my story. I'm grateful to all of you who have commented, emailed, called, and sent cards wishing me well. I'm anxious to get back to decent work, and hopeful that this treatment will hold for a while. I still have to get an MRI, see an opthamologist, and follow up with the neurologist (I'm sure he's REALLY looking forward to seeing ME again) but the hard work is done. I can see, I can work, I can read, and I know I'm loved.
When Lori isn't being poked by needles, she's making jewelry. You can see her work at www.lorianderson.net