Just a little Tap

Post-Spinal Tap (lumbar puncture) Report:

It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.

I arrived at the hospital at 8:00AM for my check in. After double checking with my insurance and of that registration routine, a lovely volunteer brought A and I back to the out patient surgery waiting room. (Is “A” getting annoying, or difficult to read? Maybe I’ll call him “Mr. Liar” from now on… although, taken out of context, that doesn’t sound too good, does it? haha) Within a few minutes they called me back, and I left Mr. Liar waiting in the waiting room with all my stuff.

The nurse had me change into a gown (everything but socks and panties), then came back in and did all of the usual check in stuff- height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, allergies, start date of last menstrual cycle (which, unfortunately was yesterday, talk about timing), so on and so forth. Then she left again. And I just sort of hung out for a while. About fifteen minutes later she came back and started asking me about what orders they were doing that day (remember how I said Dr. C ordered A TON of stuff?), so I sent her to gather Mr. Liar and my trusty bag of medical records.

Thanks to my up-to-date records binders, I was able to tell her which blood work I had already had completed, and she was able to determine exactly what tests to order for today. So, my tip for the day is get a copy of all your records and be sure to bring it with you to all of your medical appointments – you never know when you’ll need it, and it’s always better to have that information than not!

Anyway, back to the story. After verifying the orders, the nurse left for a few more minutes before returning with a blood tube and and IV kit. Apparently they needed blood for the MS panel, that would be run along with the spinal fluid. Getting the blood and putting in the IV was honestly the most difficult part of the day. My veins did not want to cooperate. The poor nurse tried my “beat up” good arm – still sporting it’s bruise from the last two weeks of blood draws- but it barely gave any blood, and when she tried to flush the IV it wasn’t positioned correctly and HURT. So she pulled it out and switched to my other arm. I warned her that the vein in my left are wasn’t as good as my right, and most doctors end up putting it in my hand. She felt my arm for a second and then decided to go for the hand. The needle when in, but wouldn’t give up any blood, apparently it was “a beautiful vein, but valvey.” Instead of poking me for a third time, she went and got another nurse who wanted to give it a go. He had the blood draw magic and after about a minute of feeling around my left arm, got the needle in the exact right spot to get the tube of blood, and attach and flush the IV.

After a bit of a wait, the radiology technician came and wheeled me away, leaving Mr. Liar waiting in the pre-op/post-op room. She wheeled to a room with a big x-ray table, leaving the bed outside the room and letting me sit in a chair and sign the necessary paper work saying I understood the risks of the procedure. The radiology technician was a lovely lady, and made sure I knew exactly what was going to happen, and I didn’t have any questions.
After getting everything set up, and explaining what would happen, she had me climb up on the table and lay on my stomach. Then moved a little monitor next to the table and positioned the x-ray machine over me. She covered my legs and back with a blanket, and tucked it into my underwear to protect them from the iodine she’d use to clean my back later. Then she took an image of my spine. The way I was positioned, I could see the monitor which was pretty cool.

After moving a tray closer to the x-ray table, she used iodine wipes clean my back and then draped surgical cloths around my back. She also took a pair of forceps and placed them against my back, then took another x-ray; it was pretty cool to see the forceps pointing to my spine on the monitor.

The radiologist came in shortly after that. He re-positioned the forceps, and used a pen to make a mark on my back where he was going to put the needle. Then, he used lidocaine to numb my back. I warned him that I metabolize lidocaine quickly, and he joked that I was putting him under pressure. Next think I knew, he picked up the needle, and had it in my back. It’s a long needle, but very thin; I was surprised it was so thin. Watching the x-ray, he re-positioned the needle twice (without removing it from my back). Then he took a pressure measurement of my spinal fluid. Since we needed spinal fluid for the test,  he used a syringe to draw up samples. He took four samples, and filled four test tubes. As he was drawing up the samples I got an intense headache, which throbbed each time he took out fluid. Once he had enough fluid he pulled the needle out and put pressure on the spot for a minute. And it was done. The nurse labeled the tubes, then washed some of the iodine off my back with alcohol wipes. Then she put a bandaid on the spot where the needle was. I think it’s kind of funny, I had the standard bulky folded cotton dressing taped to all the areas where they tried to draw blood, and a bandaid where the stuck a needle into my spine.

The radiology technician went and got the bed from the hallway, and had me roll onto it. At this point I still had a headache, but it was much better. To help, the radiology tech changed the level of the bed, so that my head was lower than the rest of my body. And then we went back to the pre-op/post-op room.

A post-op nurse. who was also lovely, leveled me back to a flat bed and attached me a blood pressure cuff and O2 monitor. I had to lay flat for over an hour after the procedure, and the machine took my blood pressure every 15 minutes. I was allowed to have some soda – so Mr. Liar helped me drink it without spilling all over myself. Slowly my headache went away, so that it was gone by the time the discharged me (though I don’t think they would have discharged me when they did, if I still had it.) We watched a few shows on Food Network while we waited.

After an hour and a half, or so, the nurse came in and raised the head of the bed so I could sit up some. She also informed me that she needed another tube of blood… Thankfully, the IV in my left arm flushed and gave us another tube worth of blood, so we didn’t have to poke me again. After drawing the new sample, she removed the IV, which was a relief. I find them to be so uncomfortable; although the pulling off of the tape is always awful!

A bit later I was allowed to get dressed and go to the bathroom, then sign my discharge papers. I’m to return to work on Monday (good thing I took the rest of the week off, and can do that so easily at my job!), rest for the next few days – but especially the next 24 hours, and leave the bandaid on for 24 hours. After 24 hours, I could also take a shower. And, at anytime I notice redness, swelling, pain, fever, or start getting a bad headache again I’m to call the hospital and ask for the radiologist on-call.

Then I got to go home! With orders to recline the seat in the car for the ride home.

I’ve spent the day watching Netflix in bed. I’ve walked around and sat up for a little, but too much of either makes my back hurt at the needle side. And if I’m up too long, the headache starts to creep back (though not too bad).

All and all, I’m certainly proud of myself for not freaking out the entire day. As scary as a spinal tap sounds, it wasn’t too bad. But I don’t want to do it again any time soon! (Or ever if possible!)

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