A Visit to Dr. Peterson II
Day 7 (Mon) – The Dreaded Lumbar Puncture
My L.P. is scheduled first thing in the morning. I am prepped by Dr. P.’s wonderful nurse of 17 years. Her voice, her actions, everything about her is calming. The test is done in a regular exam room, nothing exceptional is done and street clothes remain on. By 9 AM it’s over. The few pricks felt as the Dr. finds the right spot to withdraw the fluid are nothing to write home about as I lie in an exaggerated fetal position on the exam table on my left side. Once the correct spot is found the longest wait is for the fluid to fill the three vials. The entire test takes 20 minutes.
The nurse talks me through the process and Dr. P. never speaks until it’s over. His first words “Excellent, you’re the poster child for the LP”. Ha, Ha, guess been skinny has its advantages… for a while anyway… because now comes the worst part… lying flat on a hard-as-a-rock exam table till 5 PM. Yes, 8 hours! Being skinny means no padding and an eventual bruise on my left hip. I am allowed to move to my other side or on my back and that’s it.
While on the table blood is drawn for AM/PM cortisol levels. I am also given almost 2 L of fluid to see if they will help raise my normally too low blood pressure… which they do. I’m hoping they’ll also help me recover from the ordeal of the entire week – perhaps keep me from ‘crashing’ – but mostly, help my body replenish extracted spinal fluid.
A leader of fluid will fill up your bladder fast so it wasn’t long before I am taught the contorted procedure of how to use the restroom. My head must remain level with my heart at all times. Keep in mind that the reason for all this “flatness” is to avoid the dreaded headache. Supposedly if you raise your head, your brain will sense the missing fluid and will basically “freak out”. Not immediately, however, and that’s the tricky part. The price would be paid two days later. So the goal is to give your body time to replenish the spinal fluid before you sit up.
Not to be chauvinistic but Dr. P.’s nurse told me it’s usually men who suffered the worse headaches after the LP, simply because they don’t follow instructions. She said oftentimes they’ll try sitting up the next day and when they don’t notice any discomfort they figure it’s okay to remain upright even though it’s only been 24 hours or less post-LP. She said it isn’t until the third day that they are hit hard….. major headache. After hearing that, I decided to remain supine for two days.