11 April 2007

Day One | The Spinal Tap

So after I arrived, and got the tour, I went to bed. Four hours later, I was up for my mother's spinal tap.

If you're just tuning in, my mother has Multiple Sclerosis. It's a nasty devil of an affliction. It leads to all sorts of other awful things. As it progresses, the treatments have to change. In order to gauge the stage of the MS (and therefore the treatment), doctors check the fluid on the brain. But the brain does not just leak fluid when one wants it to leak fluid. Doctors have to take a bit as it travels along it's merry little way. Over the years I gather doctors decided the best way to get some of the fluid is to grab it from the spine. And the spinal tap was born.

I've never had one. And from what I hear, they're super painful. But the staff at whatever hospital we were in made it as pleasant as possible. Vicki and I (serving as the peanut gallery) were also there to lighten the mood. Look at those sexy socks! I took some home. I most certainly did.

But I tell you, spinal taps are serious business. Usually you curl up in the fetal position and they stick you. These fancy Maryland doctors thought it better to bend my mother over a table. Must be some newfangled treatment. From what I saw, it wasn't worth it.

First they lay her across the table. Then they supposedly numb the area. Then they go between the vertebrae and allegedly suck out the fluid. That's what they teach the doctors to tell you. What really happens is quite different. Sure they lay you across the table. And they put something in your back that supposedly numbs it. But in my mother's case, the supposedly numb area still had feeling.

When Dr. Theresa and her sensible shoes tried to get the needle in, she could not. And my mother felt it. She did not feel "slight pressure." She felt pain that made her nauseous and clammy. But that Dr. Theresa was apparently on a mission. She kept trying and my mom kept saying she was going to vomit.

Dr. Theresa took a break.
Nurse Pamela (her stage name) got my mother some cold water.
My mother drank it.
Theresa and her shoes tried again.
My mother screamed.
Dr. Theresa took the hint.

She called Dr. Fleischman. He's her boss and the chief of the Neurology at this hospital. He apparently does not take "no" for an answer. Not even from vertebrae. He popped down, popped that needle in and got his fluid in a flash.

Little known fact about spinal fluid: it looks like water. Another little know fact: they only take about an ounce. It looked like I could have just spit in a vial. They don't even fill it to the quarter mark. But they get 4 vials. Hospitals are wasteful.

Once that was over, they prescription is rest and fluids. Apparently caffeine helps the spinal hole close. But oh-ho! My mother is a diabetic. I don't think caffeine is on her good list. I could be wrong. But I know everything she has to drink is diet or sugar free. Doctors are dumb. But the spinal tap was over.