Sitting in my room with pink walls at the hospital, with a middle-aged man whom I gather had a stroke as my neighbour, and I simply can not find adequate words that describe how badly I want to get the fuck out of here.
It all started last Thursday, the 3rd of May, when I went in for a procedure known as a facet block, which my physiatrist and neurosurgeon hoped would alleviate back pain from an injury I suffered a few years ago.
A facet block is a spinal injection between the vertebrae, into what’s called the facet joint. A needle is guided by x-ray into your spine and they pump you full of, well, I don’t know what exactly.
You are wide-awake, and they can’t freeze your spine. And the hospital gowns are designed for 5’2 Japanese women, which makes someone whose 6’6” look like a compete moron in the waiting room.
In many cases of back and leg pain, spinal injections are used for two purposes. One is to find out more about what is causing your pain and the second is to treat your pain. The injections can thus give more information to aid in making a diagnosis.
For example, if an injection provides pain relief in the area that is injected, it is likely that this particular area is the source of the problem. The injections are also therapeutic in that they can provide relief from pain. The relief is usually temporary. However during the period when the pain is less you will be able to do physiotherapy and build up your core muscles that are weak. Stronger muscles can then help prevent further recurrence of the pain.
My surgeon mentioned something about diagnosis a few months ago, but at this point I am tired of diagnosis images and just want some relief.
The injections are done in sets. When the appointments were booked for me, I was told that six sets, seven days apart were necessary. I asked why we couldn’t do this all at once, and the nurse on the phone told me, “Oh, we just can’t do that. The injections have to be seven days apart for them to work.”
Okay, whatever. Appointment times were offered to me, and I specifically told them they had to be after I was done school at the end of April. Done. Every Thursday in May and a few in June are facet block days.
Last Thursday was the first. I got onto the table and had the doctor came in with two doctorlings who were learning how to do the procedure. As they were prepping, I asked how come we couldn’t do this all at once. The doctor told me it was because the government wouldn’t pay for it if we did it all at once.
“So they’ll pay for it if it’s done every seven days?” I asked for clarity. The doctor nodded or shrugged, I’m not sure which.
“That’s crazy. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to have someone come in once and get it all done without having to come back again and again and again?”
This time the doctor gave me a noticeable nod. He didn’t say he agreed with me, but he said, “you’d think.”
Anyway, I was on the table and in went the needles, I don’t think I exhaled for 30 minutes, and we were done.
They sent me off to get dressed and then wait in recovery for 30 minutes.
At first, I didn’t feel different. The nurse came by every few minutes to ask how I was doing, and I continually told her, “the same.”
When 30 minutes passed by, I stood up for the first time and my legs felt drunk. It’s tough to describe, but they were slower to respond, like I was walking through water. I couldn’t trust them.
I got a ride out of there, and took it easy on my couch for the rest of the day and watched horrible movies on Netflix at my mom’s house.
Friday morning arrived, I woke up and I felt absolutely freakin’ fantastic!
Zero back pain, and that lasted the whole day. My legs were still tingly like they have been for years due to damage to my spinal cord, but I take medications to help with that.
I moved to my house on Friday and continued to take it easy. I tried to catch up with some work that had been piling up, continued to watch a few movies, read a few magazines.
Saturday I woke up at about 3:00 a.m. with a pounding headache. POUNDING. I have never had a headache like this. I took a handful of Advil and leftover Percocet and eventually went back to bed. A few hours later I awoke again and didn’t feel right at all. Again, I took some pain killers and tried to sleep again, but sleep did not come. I tried to kill the pain by distracting myself, but it was not working.
Eventually I got in touch by phone with the musculoskeletal radiologist on call (the kind of doctor who does facet blocks), and told him what was up, and he advised me to get to the emergency room as soon as possible.
“Oh fuck, here we go again,” I thought. I really hate hospitals.
I called my mother to pick me up and drive me, when I saw a triage nurse, I told her what was up, and I only had to wait 20 minutes in the waiting room.
Tests, questions, tests, and more questions.
Eventually I saw a doctor who told me it looked like I had a leak of my cerebral spinal fluids, which causes severe headaches. It can happen with spine injections, apparently.
I’ve no idea what those fluids are, but it sounded bad. Not too long later, they proceeded to drain the fluid with a needle/syringe and wait to see if it was still leaking. I’m not sure what they were waiting for, I was honestly too exhausted to take note of what they were saying. I think they said the tear might repair itself.
It was 6:00 a.m. on Sunday by the time I had a room, and I crashed pretty hard. Nurses came and went, doctors and doctorlings came and went. By Monday, I was feeling much better and more cognitive and ‘with it.’ By Tuesday I felt fine . . . and kind of bored and lonely. You know you don’t need to be there anymore when the nurses don’t stop by to check on you very often.
And here I am now, at 1:13 a.m. on Wednesday, hoping like hell I will get out of here. My Internet connection is spotty and I have shit to do.
I mention to anyone who will listen that I’m fine, but I think they insist on deciding that for themselves. No headache, no leaking . . .
I am dressed in my clothes and my bag is packed, a not-too-subtle hint that I am ready to go.
And incidentally, my spine still feels pretty great from the facet block! Unfortunately, I can’t go back for another injection this Thursday because I’m on antibiotics now–and apparently they don’t mix well with something that’s injected into the spine.