In Where She Emerges from the Other Side...
The past week of my life has been hell on earth. I've spent every moment of that time in so much pain that had I had the means to, I would have happily ended it all. Having never had any real headaches in my life before (other than the occasional small tension headache, or sinus headache), I used to think that people who talked about migraines were overreacting a bit. No more.
I've experienced more pain in the past week than I have in an entire 35 years on earth. If you added every single painful experience I've had up, collectively it still wouldn't have even come close to that headache. I would rather have natural childbirth 5 times in a row than to ever let an epidural needle anywhere near me again in my lifetime.
But no, the headache itself wasn't enough - add to that nausea that wouldn't (and still won't) let me keep anything down (projectile vomit salmon, anyone?), even saltines most of the time, and I'm still not out of the woods. I can see the edge of the forest but am still fighting to get there. But, as I've said, this too will pass, and in a month hopefully things will be back to normal. But in the meantime, life fucking sucks. Just because one can have a positive attitude about the eventual outcome doesn't mean one has to enjoy it while it's going on.
What pisses me off is that it took that stupid anesthesiologist a week to agree to do the blood patch (which is, BTW, the first line protocol for a dural puncture in the US) - he wanted to be "conservative" and "treat the symptoms" with fluid, drugs, and time. After 6 days of "time", by yesterday morning, my attitude was "fuck that, give me the fucking blood patch". He still didn't want to do it, warning me of all the risks "menningitis, infection, paralysis, etc", I'm convinced because he would rather me stick out the pain until I got to the US and then I would have become someone else's problem. Nevermind that there is no morphine drip on the plane, and that I would have been in abject misery. I, in no uncertain terms, yesterday argued protocol with him, told him that if he didn't have the skill or the confidence to perform to the procedure, that I would find someone who would, no ifs ands or buts. My surgeon (who I have nothing but respect for, btw, and agreed with me completely on what the treatment should have been for this) backed me up, and I got the blood patch done yesterday.
About the blood patch. Let us just say that the procedure itself hurt and traumatized me as much as the headache. The procedure should be somewhat straight forward, bascially they're supposed to sedate you, insert an epidural needle, pull some blood from your veins, insert in through an epidural catheter into the space where the dura leak occured, then within a few minutes the blood is added to your epidural space is supposed to clot and seal the leak that is causing the cerebro-spinal fluid to drip out and cause the headaches.
For me, the procedure was totally unsedated, where I sat on the edge of the OR table while this guy rooted around in my back with a heavy-gauge 6" epidural needle, with no idea where he was going, hitting nerves along the way in a game of and hit and miss that went on for about an hour - with him pulling out the needle occasionally and trying a different angle of approach.
Eventually he said "I got it - don't move a millimeter" and I sat there sobbing, scared to death, while the stupid catheter in my artery had already clogged and they needed to rip out the iv in my other wrist, to go rooting around for enough blood to fill the syringe no matter how they got it. It was absolutely excrutiating, so painful at times that I almost started screaming. The only thing I could think of during this time was that it was my weakness that had gotten me into this position in the first place; that if I weren't such a undisciplined fat pig, I wouldn't have needed to get a revision to my weight loss surgery in the first place, and that my vanity and/or need to not weigh 400 lbs. may end costing me the use of my legs or even my life if I were to breathe the wrong way. I have never felt such a loss of control in my life, and I never want to feel that way again. I still don't know how to parse the emotions of the last week - it's not a painful experience that I can asborb into my life experience and learn from, instead it's something that bring to tears whenever I think about, and haunts my nightmares (I keep reliving the experience whenever I sleep).
Having said all that, I don't regret coming here to have the surgery. I have no question of the skill level of my surgeon, or the caring of his nurse. I would once again with confidence put my life in the lands of this surgeon. He has done everything possible to make this whole ordeal tolerable, advocated for me when I've needed it, and basically has checked in on me one way or another day and night. I do have few choice things to say about the hospital itself, but that's another post for another day, and again, doesn't reflect on the skill of the surgeon.
And please note - while my experience has, admittedly, been nightmarish, bear in mind that out of over 400 North American patients, plus 2,000 Brazilian patients, I am the first one who has experienced this particular complication with the epidural anesthesia. Not that it makes any less shitty, but complications happen, and I just happened to get hit with one.
So thank you everyone for your comments and well wishes, and I'm sorry I haven't been able to post previously. I just hope that this all ends up being worth it in the end.