Baby Got Back: The LP

Tuesday, I had my LP (lumbar puncture).

Kris and I showed up at the radiology department at 12:25 sharp.  I was happy to be a few minutes early — or so I thought!  The nurse said, “You were supposed to be here at 11 a.m. to get labs done ahead of time.”

No, actually, Dr. O's office specifically called to check last week, and assured me that I didn't need to show up earlier than my appointment at 12:30. So there.

In spite of this outright lie little miscommunication, the nice ladies were game to fit me in that day, though it suddenly shifted the whole timeframe back at least 2 hours.  What's a waiting room for, anyway?  And, like I had a choice?

First, it was to the lab, where the phleeb clucked over my poor, unusable veins.  She went for the back of my right hand, and managed to get a little blue top before kaput.  I was standing up, trying to joke about my upcoming procedure, when the phleeb said, “Wait.”

Did I mention that giving blood is the worst?

I knew the worst had happened — she hadn't gotten enough.  It was true!  “If you're having an LP, we have to draw 3 gold tops!”  THREE!  We dug back in, and finally got enough from a spot inside my right elbow.  Then, on to the real fun!

After a little more waiting, I got escorted to the radiology room where they would actually do my procedure under fluoroscopy.  I spent a lot of time in xray as a kid, having broken most of my bones before age 12, so it was kind of like coming home — until they handed me a gown and told me to strip!

In the words of my nurse.  “ can leave your underwear on!”

The nurse and the nurse supervisor took the next 15 minutes trying to take my temperature with the automated little wheelie machines they have that do all the vitals.  The blood pressure and pulse they knocked out quickly, but that thermometer did not want to cooperate.  It was less than confidence inspiring.

The very nice doctor came in, decked out in the coolest dr gear I'd seen yet: a colorful do-rag and a customized, embroidered, bright-orange lead apron.  She was the stuff!  In addition to looking kind of like my mom, she was very clearly a total professional with scads of experience and compassion.  Overall, more confidence inspiring than I had been led to believe.

She started grilling me about my life and job.  By this point, they had be face-down on the table with one leg up, in the pose all the rescued-from-drowning people take in first aid manuals.  “Nice to meet you, I'm Prone.  And you are … holding a giant needle?!?”

She knew to move quickly.  It was disinfect (“wet and cold!”), anesthetize (“a pinch and sting!”), and go (“deep breaths”) before I caught on to what was happening.  Imagine Rachel Ray's mom as an invasive radiologist — cheerful, competent, and clinical.

So far, so good.  I couldn't see what was happening, and she was still asking questions about unattended children at the library and in loco parentis.  I was answering questions, feeling just an occasional zing or pressure, when the table tilted up at a 45-degree angle!

I tried to scramble to hang on while moving as little as possible, as there was a giant needle sticking out of my back.  Nobody mentioned anything about the table flying up and staying there for like, 3 minutes, so I assumed everything was on course.   Eventually, it went back down and I started breathing again.

Like everyone forecast, I never felt pain during the procedure.  It was pressure, like when you go to the dentist and you're numb but they're working near nerves.  And frankly, having your cerebral spinal fluid sucked out through a straw is uncomfortable enough without it also being painful that I wouldn't do it again.

All together, the actually process took just over 15 minutes. And I got to keep my underwear on.

The next stage, however, would take considerably longer.

Now it's your turn

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