Thursday, October 10, 2013

cervical injection, not bad

I had an epidural today. I'm sure many of you reading this have had a procedure like this, but as far as I know I've never been hospitalized and I can't recall ever having so much as an IV in my arm. I'm sure I have, I just don't remember.

I'll tell you what. I was terrified. I'm going to tell you what an epidural is all about so if you ever have to have one, you won't be scared. Pregnant ladies, I've heard what you've gone through and it sounds disgusting and traumatic and awful. I hope you'll forgive my indulgence here. I suspect when you're in the throes of a contraction, an epidural in the lower back to numb the nethers is a cakewalk. And, while I have you here, please stop telling me about the birth of your child. I love you. I do. And your child is a gift. But, stop.

My epidural, if you've been following along (and I won't blame you if you haven't. If I read this blog, I'd just scroll through it for the links), I have this stupid ruptured disc in my cervical spine, in the C-6/C-7 region--that's what the doctor said, "It's in the C-6/C-7 region?" like saying "Yeah, well she probably has a bunch tumors in her head"--I'm quickly discovering spinal medicine might not be an exact science.

I'm kidding, I said that just to be douchie. This shot to the spine? It was very precise. But, let me back up. I was nervous. Driving down 295--and Groom was smart enough to have me drive because had I been in the passenger seat, I would have torn the leather right off the seats--Groom asked me if 85mph was the smartest speed to be driving. I could not pull back on that throttle.

We arrived a full 25 minutes early. I'm never early. For anything. Work? No. Art openings? Please. Wakes? Hell no. Job interviews? Career suicide. First day on a new job? Maybe, but not 25 minutes. And certainly never parties. Come on. What am I? A farmer?

If I arrived early, I was freaking out. Thank god my good friend Sara is an RN at the spine place. She came out and talked to me and explained what I should expect. I heard "Mwah mwah mwah IV inserted in your arm just in case mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah NO you can't drink tequila at Eventide tonight mwah mwah mwah you're so pretty."

I can't seem to transition myself into the examining room so I'm just going to put myself there now--best writing advice ever, TW. You can't get your character from one room to the other? Just put the character in a new room. Stop thinking about it.

The person who checked me in--is that a medical assistant? I don't know--asked me all the pre-screening questions like "Are you on blood thinners?" "Have you taken any Advil, Naproxen, aspirin in the past 7 days?" "Are you allergic to latex?"

The doctor performing the procedure then asked me the same pre-screening questions and explained everything that would happen, but again I heard "Mwah mwah mwah injection site mwah mwah mwah maybe some discomfort mwah mwah mwah injecting dye into your spine (COOL!) mwah mwah mwah spinal headache."

Finally, a radiologist came in and asked me all the same pre-screening questions (seriously, what will happen if someone takes Advil?). Then, this woman walked me, half-dressed in an open-in-the-back, no-bra, skin-tags-on-my-back-flapping-in-the-breeze johnny, down the hall to the X-Ray department so they could do procedure under an x-ray. That's pretty badass.

I was flopped on a table on my belly; they opened the johnny and started, I assume, inspecting the vast canvas with which they could now work. I, of course, was twitching and shaking and squeezing my hands into fists like a crazy person. Suddenly, I thought of Silence of the Lambs and how Buffalo Bill would flip size 14 women on their stomachs and cut out diamond-shaped dress patterns from their backs because large girls are roomier. Of course, I started to laugh, which I think they interpreted as crying. I tried to save face by explaining that I was thinking about a movie about a serial killer who sliced big girls in their backs...I think you can see where this is headed and, no, it did not receive the positive response I had hoped for. At best, I came across as creepy.

Aside: That movie didn't scare me when it came out. I was much younger and much thinner, so my rationale was that I would never get in the back of some stranger's van and I would never be a size 14. All that says about me as a youngster is that I was completely without empathy and I was ridiculously delusional and vain.

The doctor was quietly explaining everything he was doing.
  • I'm sterilizing the area. You'll feel three circles on your back and it will be a little cold. [That is not a lie.]
  • Now, you will feel three circle swipes on your back as I cover you with iodine. [That was a slightly discomforting bit of information, but fully appreciated.]
  • You're going to feel some pressure as I inject the Lidocaine to numb your spine. This will be the worst part of the procedure. You might feel some burning." [As it turns out, this was not the worst part of the procedure, but we'll get to that. And, it burned, but it was no worse than the existing pain in my back, which I typically put as a "3," but is probably more like a "2" if I'm going to be completely honest.]
  • You might feel a warmth now, possibly in your neck, possibly down your spine. [This information was very helpful because I was starting to think the doctor and radiologist had drugged me and were now both urinating on my arms, like when Seinfeld thought he got molested by his dentist played by the uber-talented Brian Cranston, which then makes me think of this skit from Straight Up! with Chick Stoltz from waaay back when. The warmth is amazing but disconcerting if you're not expecting it. Now you are.]
  • And, now I'm injecting the dye so we can see where things are going. [Again, that is really cool.]
  • Annnnnd, you'll feel some pressure as I inject the drug.
  • And we're done. [seat rolls back, latex snaps.]
That's it. You get tossed onto a gurney and wheeled into an awkward little recovery room--point of fact, the best recovery room on the planet is a colonoscopy recovery room. Oh, I must have had an IV for that procedure. Spinal recovery? Meh. It's not awesome in there. But, Sara showed up with some Cheezits and a little bottle of apple juice and accompanied me as I limped painfully out of the building. (Click the link I attached to Sara there. If you don't already love Portland, you will.)

I'm going to clarify some things for you now. The procedure? Nothing to it. These guys were alert but blase, like airplane pilots. They do this shit all the time.

The absolute worst part of it? When they yanked out the IV. That was wow. Ouch! I actually yelped. And then I fell into a fit of hysterical laughter. I'm discovering my reaction to pain is to laugh uncontrollably. I don't think I mind. I don't want to be all Peter Griffin about it.

The other bad part about it? It hurts later. The good news is people react differently to this kind of thing. Some people feel better right away and have no side effects. Some people feel great for a few hours and then feel terrible. Some people feel nothing, really, except the euphoria of living pain-free because of the anesthetic, which takes a while to wear off. So, you don't know what you're going to get. My experience is that my spine hurt from stem to stern, which I think of as a horizontal measurement but you get the picture, and my rib cage was tight for a few hours.

The good part about it? I am confident I will feel better in a week. And, this guy here, pictured to the left, he's still standing on a rock. Things could be worse for me.

Oh, one more thing. It's 3:00 in the morning, I've had a bottle of wine (but no tequila), and I cannot sleep. So. Yeah. There's that as well.

Oh dear. Can you tell I'm a bit zozzled?

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