The Lumbar Puncture

It all started three weeks ago. Phil and I were ‘playing’ in the bedroom -yes, this story is about sex ๐Ÿ˜‰ – when Phil, quite literally, blew my mind. All of a sudden, my head felt like it was exploding. Boom. A wincing and jarring pain radiated from the back of my head, like spilt ink spreading. It was sudden. It was intense. It was scary. After a quick ‘stroke’ check, and as it had now lessened to a dull ache, we laughed at the silly sex injury; and assumed it was nothing paracetamol, a cup of tea and lots of pillows wouldn’t quickly mend.

The next morning it was still there. And the day after. And the day after, and the day after. We were mid house search; life was busy and crazy; so although the bottom left of my head continuously ached, as the pain was manageable, I ignored it. When we eventually found the one, and life thankfully slowed, I contacted my GP. Just to check. ๐Ÿ™‚ After a rather embarrassing interrogation about what we were doing at the time (thank goodness it was over the phone! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ); she started warning about thunderclap headaches and bleeds and warfarin and scans, and sent me to hospital! Yikes! ๐Ÿ˜›

Over the next nine hours in AAU, I had to repeat my sex injury story to multiple nurses and doctors and consultants. Gees. Some squirmed but most tried to reassure me how common post-coital A&E visits were! After blood tests and heart checks and a lot of waiting, they were ‘fairly confident’ I wasn’t about to die. The contrast CT scan had ruled out any major bleeds or blockages in the brain. Phew. However, it couldn’t rule out a small aneurysm -hence the ‘fairly’ sure ๐Ÿ˜‰ – so a lumbar puncture was penciled in… for three days later (so I could stop my warfarin). We crossed our fingers that I wouldn’t have a brain bleed in the meantime! ๐Ÿ˜›

Until then, my knowledge of lumbar punctures came solely from binging ‘House: MD’. Turns out they’re not done in pristine operating theatres, and there are no nurses holding you stone still- instead I was in a side ward, huddled in a ball, trying desperately not to move, whilst the doctor repeatedly jabbed his needle into my back, searching for the spinal fluid. I daren’t cough or sneeze or scratch an itch, nor answer his jolly chatter, for fear he’d accidentally touch my spinal cord. Though I did master the art of moving my toes and fingers -paralysis check ๐Ÿ˜‰ – whilst keeping my back motionless. At one point the needle accidentally touched a nerve in my spine -four times- causing my leg to spasm from the electric shock. It’s not easy to keep perfectly still when your leg is involuntarily moving about! After a very very long thirty minutes, sixty drops of spinal fluid had been collected. And analysis showed no blood or infection. Phew. I thought the worst was over.

But then I tried to sit up. ๐Ÿ™‚ The car journey home was the worst of my life. Horrific. As I sat upright in the passenger seat, spinal fluid slowly leaked from the holes made during the lumbar puncture, and my body went into crisis mode. My head was banging and aching and jabbing. I became so weak, I couldn’t clench my fist or even hold myself up. Assumingly because it felt the need to empty itself- I vomited twice and had two emergency diarrhea explosions by the side of the road! (thankfully down a dark country lane ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). My senses were overwhelming me- the lights were too bright, the sounds too loud and I couldn’t speak. It was horrendous. Phil was simultaneously driving home at full pelter, whilst trying to reassure me, and ring the hospital ward for advice (they didn’t answer). As soon as I lay on my bed, the relief was instantaneous. The crazy symptoms and sickness immediately stopped. Thank goodness.

For the next few days, whenever I sat up or made my spinal cord vertical, the strange horrid symptoms immediately returned. Immediately. An enormous headache. Weakness, shakiness, dizziness. Fatigue that floored me after the littlest activity. Daily diarrhea and nausea. And horrid overstimulation that stopped me from reading or watching TV or listening to podcasts. And strangest of all; I lost some of my hearing. It was like listening to the world behind a big screen. I constantly craved food to combat the weakness, but struggled to drink (I could just about manage Lucozade). The only time I got relief from the pain was lying down. So meals and toilet trips were performed at speed; but still, Phil would find me lying in random spots, where I’d been floored on my way to another room.

Having no prior warning of these possible side-effects, it was terrifying. My anxiety was sky high. Extreme. Very aware that not all illnesses can be fixed; I was petrified of permanent damage. Petrified. Having spent years suffering from extreme fatigue and over-stimulation, before slowly overcoming it, I was incredibly incredibly frightened that the symptoms had returned. My head was a-mash of nerves and worry and regret.

Dr Google explained my side-effects were common -albeit extreme. They’d cease when the leak stopped- which would take a week or two; but could be artificially accelerated by a ‘blood patch’ (a blood clot is inserted to fill the hole). However the junior doctor on duty at the hospital that weekend, didn’t even know what one was. He told me to only call if my limbs stopped working. Hmmm. Five days after the lumbar puncture, and only after my GP intervened, did I get to speak to a more knowledgeable senior consultant. By then, as I’d started to improve, the risks from a blood patch outweighed the benefit. And so, full of fear after the last procedure, I opted to let it mend naturally. Aided by excessive amounts of prescribed Coca-cola (apparently caffeine helps).

It’s now eleven days since lumbar puncture day, and thankfully the spinal leak is still slowly mending. Every day there is improvement. Every day I can do more than before. But I’m still a fair way from my normality. I can now stay vertical for an hour or two. I can once again blog and watch TV and do the washing up! The diarrhea has stopped, and my hearing has mostly returned. But I can’t yet bend over or jig my head around, without pain and dizziness. Furthermore, the original neck injury hurts. A lot. Thankfully, I’ve invested in a fetching neck brace and a wonderful hot water bottle (paracetamol in heat form). And I’m getting good at writing and working and playing ball whilst lying down! ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I am praying and hoping that time will heal it all. I’m not sure I can spend the rest of my days horizontal!

And yes, it’s put me off sex! ๐Ÿ˜‰


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