My first thought when my neruo-ophthalmologist told me I’d need a spinal tap was, “THEY’RE GUNNA TAP ME LIKE A MAPLE TREE!” That’s literally what it looks like.
When I walked into the room, I was full of Ativan, and had my phone and headphones in hand in case of panic. LOL. I was so nervous. SO nervous. Even having taken TWO Ativan tablets, I was not any less nervous. Like, last time I took 2 Ativan, I passed out in my mom’s car on the way home from Asheville and slept for like.. 6 hours straight. And then the entire night after we got home. LOL. So I was obviously hopped up on so much adrenaline that it wasn’t working.
I put on my gown – they only made me remove my shirt and then unbutton my jeans so I could sit on the waistband.
And then I sat on the exam table facing the door. The nurse told me not to touch or look under the paper on the tray… said she didn’t want me to start without her. LOL. I sat and waited, anxiously. I think most of my fear was stemming from having to do something that I had never done before. The last 6 months or so, my anxiety has been mostly surrounding my medical issues. It’s scary not knowing what to expect when it comes to tests and procedures like this.
Anyways – the nurse and doctor came in and assured me they’ve been doing these for longer than they can remember, and if I follow their directions, I won’t have any issues. After reading as much as I had prior to my appointment though, I was skeptical. Which was totally my fault- I should’ve listened to my nurse when she told me not to get online. LOL.
They asked me to spin around and face the wall with my legs hanging off the opposite side of the bed and the nurse handed me a pillow. She then asked me to bend over as far as I could into my lap. I held my phone and texted while listening to some chill ass Ed Sheeran jams (he calms me, ok?) and she had one hand rubbing my back and the other holding my arm. SHE WAS SO SWEET.
The doctor told me what he was doing as he did it. He wiped the area on my back with iodine and something else, and then put a lot of pressure on the injection site before sticking me with numbing medicine. It didn’t hurt any more than any other shot you get. I got two of those before he stuck in the final needle into the sack holding my spinal fluid. The needle went right between 2 vertebrae in my lower spine. I didn’t feel this at all, really. If anything I felt a little pressure and discomfort. I know that’s vague and you don’t really know what to expect when someone tells you “pressure” and “discomfort” .. it’s really just a weird sensation. Not bad, not good, just there.
Once the needle was in, the nurse helped me move down onto my side and into the fetal position. I was to lay still until he was done collecting what he needed.
I asked the nurse to take a picture of my back for me and joked that I felt like he was “tapping me like a maple tree”. He laughed and said I was funny and doing a great job. I went on to tell them I blog about my chronic illness and since I couldn’t find any blogs on LP’s before my procedure, I wanted to do one on here for other people to read before theirs.
Once I was done, they let me take pictures of everything! Above is the spinal fluid he collected – weird, right?
This is the needle he used – it’s really not as bad as it looks! You don’t feel any of it!In the middle of his collection, I did start feeling a wave of fuzziness and warmth, like I was going to pass out. I asked if that was normal and he said it was, that it would pass. He was right, imagine that! LOL.
When he was done, he wiped my back with a warm cloth and put a band-aid over the injection site. I was then told I could roll back over onto my back and hang out for a minute. The doctor left and my nurse went to get my discharge instructions. I relaxed.When she got back she said I was fine to sit up and get my shirt back on. She helped me out and asked me how I was since I did start feeling a little dizzy at one point. I was fine, and I got up. I felt totally fine, got my mom from the waiting room, got a hug from my nurse, and we left.
At first, walking was fine. Getting into my dad’s car was a little tricky because you can’t bend over, twist, or make too many movements without feeling discomfort. Once I was sitting I was fine. We drove to our hotel and my mom had to carry all of my bags because I was not allowed to lift anything LOL (GET MY STUFF, MOM!) Getting out of the car was difficult. And it was hard to stand up straight without a little pain. I was walkin’ around like the hunch back of notre dame, laughing at my mom in the parking lot dropping all our shit. HAHA. Sorry, mom, I love you.
We got up to the room, and I changed into my jammies and assumed my horizontal position on my bed. We ordered pizza for dinner, and started working on my taxes.
They said it was very important I stay laying down with my head down for 24 hours. So I didn’t move much, except sitting up to eat, and getting up to use the bathroom. Sitting up was fine, getting back down was hard. Standing up/walking to the bathroom was uncomfortable, and then trying to get comfortable when I got back to bed was hard. Google said pain in the location is normal though, so I wasn’t worrying about it too much. Skipped a shower because I didn’t want to stand too long – thank God for dry shampoo? LOL.
The whole procedure from initial position, to going to my side, to waiting for him to be done collecting, took about 5 minutes. I was more nervous/worried about the recovery process because I didn’t want to do it wrong and end up with a post-lumbar puncture headache. I’ve read they can be seriously brutal and I didn’t want that. I did. not. want. that.
Overall – the procedure was a piece of cake. Dr. Carnes was amazing, as was my sweet nurse! (At Raleigh Neurology, btw. SHOUT OUT!) They’ve been seriously amazing through all my mess with my symptoms and getting me into last minute appointments at other offices, and just being so nice. They’re a great group of people.
It was not what I expected, and it was 100000x easier to do that I thought it would be. If you’re nervous, know that it takes no time at all, the doctors that do them are skilled. Follow their directions, and you’ll be fine! (And then you get to go home and do nothing – you can’t beat that.