Saturday, September 02, 2006


I've Had a Valid Reason for Not Posting

When I was in my 20's, I had arthorscopic surgery on my left ankle. I had messed up my ankle pretty bad when I was a junior in high school. So before the medical benefits of being a military dependent expired, I had the ankle scoped.

The procedure is unbelievably easy. I had spinal antisthesia but I was able to stay awake during if I had wanted. The stuff they gave me to administer the spinal made me pretty loopy, though and after singing some showtunes, I nodded off before even getting to the operating room. I actually woke up during the surgery, but still being pretty out of it, I had little interest in what all those folks were doing around my ankle.

During recovery I was warned to drink lots of fluids as the spinal antistetic can cause horrible headaches. I drank lots of fluid, but I got the horrible headaches anyway. I had been given 5 doses of Tylenol with Codeine to help with possible pain in my ankle. I had none of that , but the Tylenol was used anyway to alleviate the headaches.

I didn't get any Tylenol with Codeine when I had my spinal tap on Monday (the doctor called it a "Lumbar Puncture," but that somehow sounds even more guresome to me....). A few hours after the procedure I got a headache. It's funny how a particular pain, that you'd managed to forget for nearly 20 years can refresh your memory.

I was miserable on Monday, not sleeping much that night. I felt worse on Tuesday. On Wednesday I called the doctor to ask how long I was supposed to feel like crap. We decided that a procedure called a "blood patch" would be performed if I didn't feel any better by Friday. But on Thursday I'd had enough, I couldn't sleep, I had been unable to eat or bathe for 4 days and I was miserable. We scheduled the procedure for 2pm.

In a spinal tap, a needle is stuck between vertebrae, piercing a sack around the spine to extract fluid for testing. Changing the level of this fluid is what causes the type of headace I had. Having more fluid can cause a headache too, like when anesthesia is added to the spinal fluid. Normally a procedure called a "blood patch" is performed at the end of a spinal tap. My doctor used a very small needle which, while making the fluid extraction longer, generally results in less severe headaches and makes a blood patch unnescessary.

Except in my case.

Something so easy has now cost me 4 days of work, though my employer, actually my supervisor who is filling in for me today, has worked with me quite well on this. It's also caused me 6 days of excruciating pain, and though I ate and slept well yesterday, I'm still in a world of hurt and typing this is making me very weak.

Incidentally, the scan I made of the fluroscope image that was done during the blood patch procedure didn't turn out very well, but if you look closely to the attached photo, you can see a needle, just below the 9 o'clock postion, stuck in my spine, putting my own blood over the hole in my spinal sack, in an attempt to plug the hole with blood in the hopes that the blood will clot and stop further spinal fluid leakage. That I'm typing this now is a good indication that it's actually working.


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The Bert Convey
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