Posted 3/14/2008 7:24 AM (GMT -7)
I left a clinic on Monday and within hours spiked a 104-degree fever. That paved the way for a more impressive 105-er the next day, coupled with a splitting neck and headache. Mmm, the student thinks - maybe this is meningitis. Off went the dutiful student to the emergency department, where the recently-graduated physician assistant dove in with a chest x-ray, blood cultures, and the ever-so-fun, notorious lumbar puncture procedure. That's really the only test for meningitis, so I agreed to have it done. It's not as bad a procedure as you might think. It wasn't a big deal whatsoever. I lay flat on my back afterwards and when the test came back negative, I was allowed to go home. Once I started sitting up, the headache went from a 5- or 6- on the pain scale to a full-fledged 10! "Ow," I muttered to myself, then asked the nurse, "Um, is there anything you can give me for this head pain before I go?" Pop, and the morphine was injected. I was sent on my way.
Fast forward several hours later; I am lying flat on my back at home. Lying flat is A-OK. When I get up to pee, I start projectile vomiting; my head feels like layers are being peeled off by an invisible and sadistic gremlin hiding under my bed (or something). For the rest of the day, I do not move a muscle if I can possibly help it. But this causes problems, because I can't eat or drink anything, and meanwhile I am soaking my PJs every hour as my fever breaks. Get up to change 'em - time for a puke-fest! But Sarita, don't you need to have diarrhea, as usual, you might say? Oh yes, another puke-fest. Finally, at midnight, as I am shivering in my clammy bed, too beleaguered to fight, I ask my fiance to drive me back to the ED.
On the way out to the car I hurled in the parking lot outside of our quiet building not just once, but twice. In the triage area of the hospital, as I'm heaving, they are having trouble getting a blood pressure reading. I beg them to let me lie down. Eventually a doc comes in and tells me I have a post-lumbar-puncture spinal headache. It is caused by a leakage of cerebrospinal fluid that causes a drop in pressure in the spinal column; it actually pulls the meninges (the protective layers around your spinal cord) back towards the base of your skull. DisGUSTing. Eventually again, of course, I have to have diarrhea. I drag myself to the bathroom with a bucket in tow, and sure enough I am not one but TWO garden hoses working in unison.
The treatment at first was IV morphine, Zofran, saline and caffeine. 9 hours later an anesthesiologist drew 30 cc's of blood from my arm and injected that into the lumbar puncture site. This is called a "blood patch" and served the purpose of forming a clot around the "leaky" spot in my spinal column.
I left at noon yesterday feeling like someone had just played murderball with my lumbar spine, but infinitely better today.
Just a story I thought I'd share. DO NOT get a lumbar puncture unless you absolutely need one. And yes, if you have a very high fever and headache, you probably do need one! Not all of them will end up like mine did!
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