My ob/gyn’s office got a real taste of the real me on Friday. Sort of. Not the cheerful, friendly me, but the intense demanding slightly hysterical me. I woke up in the middle of the night with a hell of a headache. Enough to make me take a Tylenol, which I know is fine, but I still resist when pregnant. By 7am, it was really bad. By 7:30am, I was throwing up and my temperature was measuring at about 95 (which we later figured out was the result of the thermometer being crap–it was just a little bit low, 96.4 or so). I called the answering service, and the woman on the line was rude, “You’ll just have to wait for the office to open.” That set me off. “As I told you just two seconds ago, I am pregnant and I had a spinal block on Wednesday. This could be serious. GET MY DOCTOR A MESSAGE NOW.” Why not go straight to the ER, I thought, and somebody else might wonder? But really, given that every nurse I talked to in the OR had no idea what my procedure even was, I wasn’t excited to go somewhere without an OB.
So how serious could it have been? Really serious, from nothing to a spinal headache to sepsis. The latter two are rare complications, but I’m not exempt from that.
I didn’t get a call back after 30 minutes. I called again, after my sister affirmed I should take it seriously. I also threw up again. This time, only the office staff was in, so I left a message for a nurse. No call back after 30 minutes. Called again, and this time I said I needed to talk to someone not leave a message. My doctor’s out of town, but I got her nurse on the phone. She suggested some caffeine. By that point my head was really, really bad,even keeping my eyes open felt like torture. I seriously lost it then, and as often happens down here, the nurse couldn’t understand my accent under stress. So I passed the phone to Josh, and she again suggested caffeine. He didn’t take that well, and I yelled at her from the background. Honestly I can’t exactly remember what happened next, but I know I said that this was really serious and they would either see me at the office or I would go to the ER. I don’t know why I thought that was a threat but by then I was a serious mess. I still did not want to go to the ER just randomly because it would involve lots of explanation, and I still wasn’t confident about their prep for dealing with high-risk pregnancies. Anyway, shortly after that my doctor’s partner called me back and asked me to come in right away. It took about 2.5 hours from my first phone call to being seen.
It should’ve gone faster, but this is a small town, and I did get to the head of the queue when I got there. When I walked in to the office, it was really apparent that I wasn’t okay. He thought perhaps I had a spinal headache. It’s really hard to explain what that feels like, but apparently people who get serious migraines would have some idea. It felt like the world was crushing in on me, darkness smashing in from the front and sides of my head, while someone punched me at the base of my skull. I couldn’t see well and the pain radiated down my back and into my hips and legs. Lying down in a dark room made it a little bit better. Apparently lying down relieves the spinal headache, but the stress of the headache can trigger other headaches.
He sent me to the hospital, to see the anesthesiologist. Again with the waiting, and I was in bad shape. Samuel was done with daycare by then, so he and Josh were in the waiting room with me. They went off to get some lunch, and I sat on the couch wishing I could kill every person who spoke in my vicinity. The light and sound was unbearable. And the guy who came in talking loudly after smoking a cigarette? I really had unkind thoughts about him and was glad I’d already lost all the food I’d eaten recently.
When they got back, I was still in the waiting room. Josh went to desk and managed to get me to a room right away. Fast forward, I did have a spinal headache caused by spinal fluid leaking out of the puncture from the anesthesia on Wednesday, which in cases like mine where it’s getting worse should be treated with an epidural blood patch, which is less pleasant as it sounds. They took blood from my arm and shot it into my back with an epidural needle. The shot hurt like hell, and the sensation it produced in my back and nervous system was cold and gooey. That makes no sense but I don’t how else to describe it. It was weird. But it helped, a lot, and almost immediately. Yesterday and today I still have a dull headache, but the pain is gone. My back hurt terribly yesterday, like it was bruised from the inside out. Today it’s better.
Lessons? First, I really have to be pushy here. Second, I really hope I can avoid an epidural during delivery. For no other reason than that I do not want to go through that again.
I thought about not posting this experience, because this complication really rarely happens and is really rarely this bad. I don’t want to scare people or spark a debate about the risks and benefits of spinal anesthesia. I had to have it for the cerclage and would do it again for that. But then I thought, you know, this blog is about me dealing with rare complications that rarely happen, and about holding on to hope and humor throughout them.