06 October 2013

Weather System

It started in my shoulder, crept up through my neck and settled into my head - a dark cloud encompassing two thirds of my grey matter.

I need an ambulance; no sirens please.

A cop and four other men clattered into the house, and bundled me out. The thing about living in a small town with a volunteer ambulance corps? We knew most of them. The father of one of my girl's classmates held my hand as we bumped down the state road that needs repaving. He assured me that the ride would be bumpy even if the road was as smooth as silk.

In retrospect, it seems crazy, going off to the hospital like that. But one minute I was calmly brushing my teeth, and the next I was hyperventilating from the pain, a headache like none I've ever had before. In short order, I had dilaudid, a CT scan of my head, an MRA of my neck, and a spinal tap. Nothing, nothing and nothing, except for some drug induced loopiness.

Please, take a picture of that sign; I'll know you love me if you do.

I'm still fascinated by that sign. My knowledge of Spanish extends to my (inadequate) ability to read ads on the NYC subway. Why is there only one Spanish word? Vocera = Spokeswoman. Said spokeswoman, the MRI tech, was all alone in the MRI suite. She was as fascinating as the sign: a pale, golden-tressed pre-Raphaelite maiden, consorting with her chirping whirring clanking dæmon.

Sometime in the middle of the night, there was a commotion in the ER: a stabbing victim. They packed him off to another hospital, the county hospital that's equipped for that kind of trauma.

Eventually they sent me home with a script for Fioricet, and instructions to follow up with a neurologist. As the Filipino transporter wheeled me out to the sidewalk, she spoke to the three men waiting in the lobby. He's not here, they sent him to the other hospital, he's not here. No one had told the friends, the ones who brought him in by car, that the stabbing victim had been moved down county. They got up and shuffled off; I went home and went to bed.

I spent most of Monday asleep, having gotten no sleep in the ER. At some point during the day, I emailed the office.

Hi. I believe I've been run over by a truck. But I'm not dead, so there's that. I think maybe you should look into choreographing to the noise of the MRI machine. It wouldn't be for kids though. Too hard to count.

And I found my jewelry on my bedside table.

I dimly recall taking off my jewelry before the MRI but I didn't know that the nurse had handed my husband a little ziploc specimen bag for storage.

I did feel well enough well enough to take a short walk in the late afternoon, and to eat dinner, before heading back to bed at about seven.

Oh my god the pain. I burst into tears at the breakfast table and went back to bed, in too much agony to even drink the coffee with the caffeine that might have, should have, helped. My husband called the neurologist and, happily, got me an appointment shortly after lunch. The neurologist called it a spinal headache, pressure gradiant, and sent me back to the ER, because the pain management doctor had gone home sick.

I emailed a few people.
In the department of things I really didn't want to be doing on a Tuesday afternoon I am back in the ER waiting for the on call anesthesiologist to come and give me a blood patch because I have a spinal headache from the lumbar puncture I had the other day.

I did the worst crossword puzzle I've ever seen.

Clue: full of elms
Answer: ELMY 
Clue: telephone
Answer: TEL

Yes, it wasn't the New York Times.

Two liters of saline (along with dilaudid and toradol) helped enormously; I was able to walk out of the hospital with the spinal headache about 80% abated - and without having the blood patch.

It didn't last. By breakfast, the vertically induced headache was back. But the pain management doctor could see me at 2:00, for a blood patch. A blood patch is bizarre. On the one hand, it seems positively medieval - on the order of leeches and blood letting. On the other hand, miracles of modern technology. An x-ray guided needle is placed in the spine, near where the spinal tap went in. Then, and only then, fresh blood is drawn from a vein in my hand and immediately injected into the spine. A half hour later? The blood clots and seals the hole where the cerebrospinal fluid has been leaking. Magic.

I emailed the office again.
I am home and the blood patch seems to have worked. I am a little loopy and my back is sore but, barring any unpleasantness, I expect to be in the office tomorrow.

It has been a long week.


Bibliomama said...

Oh Maggie. I had an epidural when I had Eve that resulted in a spinal scratch and spinal headache that lasted three days - I feel you. Literally. Gentle hugs.

Oonie said...

I'm so sorry to hear it. Such agony, compounded by such scariness and desperation for pain relief. Hang in there. Wishing you relief, and soon.

Lady M said...

Wishing you a smooth and rapid recovery!

edj3 said...

Now I'm really, really glad I didn't opt for the blood patch. And I'm even more glad you are feeling better.

S said...

Oh my God.

I am so sorry.

What can I do?

Swistle said...

How scary!

Carol Steel said...

I'm so sorry to hear that you went through this ordeal...scary, painful, torturous. I hope things are settling out, to be better now.

Kevin McKeever said...

Wow. Hope you're better now.

Julia said...

Ow. Wow. Ow. Wow.

That sounds hideous and awful and scary.

Hugs... if they don't hurt, that is. Let me know how/if I can help.


Kizz at 117 Hudson said...

So sorry to hear all this. Sounds HORRIBLE!

leanne said...

Holy crap. Hope the pain goes away and stays away!

RuthWells said...

Wow, that sounds wretched. Any idea what caused the original headache? I'm glad you're feeling better...

AnnetteK said...

Holy cow Maggie, that sounds awful. I'm so glad you're feeling better. Yeesh.

Catherine said...

So did they ever figure out what the first headache was about? Regardless, I'm happy to hear you're feeling better now.

alejna said...

Oh, wow, what an ordeal. So scary. I had missed that you were having such an awful week.

I'll be thinking of you, and keeping my fingers crossed that the pain stays away.

Anonymous said...

YIkes. My sister's sister in law had this for years. She has a leak in her spine and had her brain sitting on her spine due to an earlier craniotomy. They plugged it with glue at the Mayo Clinic. call me if you need me.


kathy a. said...

omg, maggie. i'm so sorry. xoxox

hope you are feeling lots lots better.

Jocelyn said...

Sweet holy Mother Jesus God.

And I'm not even religious.

The blood patch description had me rooting for its success as I shuddered and averted my gaze.

I just, I just, I just,

feel so bad for you.

susan said...

Oh my goodness....what a week! I am so sorry. Hope any follow up appointments bring more answers--and let's hear it for effective pain management. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

Hoping you are better, sending warm, healing thoughts.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I hope this did the trick! You were right to call the ambulance the first time. Sending healing thoughts.

heidi said...

Oh Pie... I didn't realize that whilst we played that hysterical game of words, you were hospitalized! I had a very similar headache after giving birth to Thing 3, and thought it was going to kill me. Death would have been a relief. As for grievances... there are none that I can air here. But I am grievING. Does that count? xxooh