I am sitting in a shade of what might be a Virginia sweetspire in the lovely zen like courtyard at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda Maryland. Birds are trilling. Bees are sipping at lavender blossoms. Mysteriously, I have the courtyard to myself.
There are easily a thousand life-altering/extending dramas going on inside this complex. Once I post this, I will take the elevator to the fifth floor, check into Day Hospital, and allow someone to pierce my spinal cord with a needle and extract some fluid. The procedure itself will be not be much more involved than the extraction of blood earlier in the day. The tricky part is the aftermath.
The first time I had a lumbar puncture, it was followed by a spinal headache. This happens when the puncture doesn’t close, and the spinal fluid continues to drain. The brain has nothing to float in, so it scrapes against the brain pan. As a consequence, moving my head in any direction prompted extreme vertigo. It was torture. My husband called the University of Iowa, where I’d had the procedure. They advised me to drink a lot of caffeine. I drank coffee. The torture continued. Finally, my husband drove me back to the hospital and they pumped my spinal cord up with fluid. (What the fluid was, I cannot recall. My blood, maybe? That coffee they were so fond of?)
Anyway, I must really trust the NIH. Or I must be really curious about what my spinal fluid might reveal. I had a lumbar puncture here a few years ago, and Jamie, the doctor, did an amazing job. I laid low the rest of that day, and walked out unscathed. I’ve got a phone loaded with funny podcasts and I’ve got great new headphones. I’m all set to go. I wonder what this puncture will tell us.
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