I have frequently been told that MS will have its good and not so good days. My experience undergoing a lumbar puncture process fell into the latter. A lumbar puncture or a more common alias “spinal tap” helps to complete a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis or demyelination.
The procedure entails inserting a needle into the spine, through the bones and puncturing into the spinal cord in order to drain some of the fluid.
My lumbar puncture was scheduled to start at 17:00, I was taken into my room for 16:50 where I was left to change into a paper gown and wait for my doctor to arrive. The needle and other paraphernalia was left beside the door ready for action. I kept telling myself that within an hour everything would be done and I would be able to get back to the nicer environment of my home and family. However it wasn’t to be that simple, I had to wait in solitude until my doctor finally appeared at 18:45.
He greeted me with the news that new lesions had appeared on my latest MRI scan, which was not good as it implied that my MS was active. I had read that when MS is active steroids could be used in order to calm the body down and reduce the inflammation. I had hoped that these steroids would be an option for me in helping my vision problems which tended to manifest themselves when my body temperature increased and had been causing me problems whilst playing football. It was when I was curled up in a ball on the bed that we were discussing this and the news was delivered to me that the steroids would not help my vision and that it would never improve again. The read across was that competitive football/ squash and any physical sports was now over. To me this was something that no amount of local anaesthetic could numb. Sport has been a large part of my life, it has been a means of stress relief of achieving satisfaction, a way of escapism. Football in particular holds a place with me where the troubles and stresses evaporate when you strike a ball into the back of the net or play the incisive ball for a team mate to score, when you push your body to make that last ditch tackle just before your opponent pulls the trigger…. and now no more.
The doctor proceeded with the lumbar puncture, despite the body being numb I could feel the pricks every so often and sporadically I could feel him hitting the bone. At one point the nerves in my leg were set off and pins and needles went through my left leg like having a funny bone hit. Despite words of encouragement the procedure had to be aborted after three unsuccessful attempts… I could not believe it – all of that pain an palaver for nothing. I was told that it would be carried out again with the help of a guided X-ray machine …. why this isn’t the standard procedure I have no idea!
Lumbar Puncture Part Deux
I arrived for my second lumbar puncture at 8:30am the following week, it was scheduled to take place at 9am. The warden who escorted me to my room attempted to make small talk asked me what I was in for, when I told him he said “Oh sorry I feel for you!” – Great! After waiting two hours in the room I was told the consultant was no longer able to perform the procedure and that they would need to try and find someone else. In the meantime I was ambushed with some blood tests – I am not the best with needles. I hoped someone else would be found to step in as I didn’t want to have to take another “long weekend” out of the office. Another person was found – a good one I was told. I recommend anyone going for a similar procedure to also ask for someone “good”. The new procedure time would be 13:30 and I would be under sedation. The “good” consultant came to see me at 13:33 and explained how the procedure would work.
I was then taken down to the operating room. I was not expecting the operating theatre to be so big and busy. There were about 8 people in the room, nurses and assistant radiographers. They put a cannula in my arm – in case I needed the sedation, I expected I would be ok just with local anesthetic given I had had practice the previous week. I found the whole experience pretty intense. There was a big screen with my X-rayed back in front of me I kept my eyes closed for most of it and just kept counting to 10. Each injection induced a sharp pain but the numbing was more effective then previously as I did not feel the actual bigger insertion. After 10-15 mins the consultant hit the right spot and drained a few samples from my back.
- My cholesterol levels were reported to be down to 4.3 from 6.4 three months prior.
- Similarly my Vitamin D blood test, revealed levels of 243 vs 67 prior.
- Most importantly, my wife was there in my hospital room waiting to greet me with a cup of coffee – dairy free 😉