About eight years ago, I fell down. And this wasn’t one of my typical falls, which happen with such frequency and consistency that I’m fairly certain that one side of my head is permanently floor shaped. “Please, only photograph me from my flat side,” I say to the imaginary paparazzi.
This fall was epic, in the sense that I fell with such wild abandon and force that I tore all the muscles in my neck. I of course did not go to the hospital because that would be an expensive habit when you fall recreationally as much as I do. But as the pain got worse I eventually went to see my doctor, who diagnosed the injury and yelled at me for not going to the hospital. He literally yelled. I started physical therapy, which went on for about as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy felt like it went on. I eventually achieved a level of near constant pain that was acceptable and called it a win.
At the beginning of this year, both my arms started doing this super adorable thing where they would turn into fiery tubes of pain. I typically describe it as going numb, which isn’t accurate because I can feel everything. But most everyone has had that pins and needles sensation, so it’s a more approachable description than “millions of ants armed with flaming swords storming my arms and fighting their damnedest for queen and country.” This sensation at least only happens at the most convenient of times – when I’m sleeping, driving, typing, or using a knife. Or standing or walking or petting the cat or hugging my daughter. Also known as almost constantly.
My doctor (a new one, not the yelling one) took some pictures of the inside of my body and I was promptly diagnosed with bone spurs in my cervical vertebrae, arthritis in the same area, and inflamed discs. All this mess was pressing on my nerves, causing the super fun Sleeves of Pain. No, you can’t use that as your band name.
In an effort to help alleviate my perpetual discomfort, I was sent for a therapeutic epidural. I had had an epidural while giving birth to L. The concept of a needle being placed into the rope that makes my body go was terrifying, but the totality of the pain of labor was enough to get me past it. This time, I had nearly a month before the procedure to contemplate the horror that would befall me when inevitably the doctor sneezed while placing the needle, because that is just the sort of bad movie premise that is my life. (Oscar clip, featuring Kristen Bell as me and David Tennant as the surgeon: ME: Bless you. SURGEON: (sadly) It looks like you’re the one who will need that blessing…)
So when I headed back to the procedure room, it is safe to say I was nervous. Shoulder tension makes my arms much worse, so they had been meat tubes full of hot sauce and knives all morning. The doctor and the nurse were both incredibly kind, patient, and caring, and neither sneezed at all while they walked me through what they were going to do. Essentially, they were going to have me lie face down and use an x-ray to help them guide the needle to exactly where it needed to be in my spine. Then, they would fill me full of drugs like a donut full of custard and send me on my way. Easy peasy, butt cheek squeezy. They had me practice deep breathing, using a straw. The doctor said I won the award for the longest exhale they have ever had during the breathing practice. I made a comment about being full of hot air because when I’m nervous I’m as funny as a four year old’s knock knock routine but still feel compelled to use humor as a protective shield and therefore make some stunningly horrible jokes.
They helped me up onto the table, which given the jello-filled sausage cases of suffering my arms were was quite a trick. They had me lie on a couple of pillows and then had me get back up to re-arrange the pillows to create a boob divot, as the gals were preventing me from lying on my stomach such that my back was flat. After they finally had me settled in, the nurse very sweetly and gently tied me to the table. (Evidently including sentences that may lead to my posts coming up in a porn search is my thing.) She assured me this was so I could let my arms relax, and not to prevent me from running away. I accepted that premise, as I had no choice, what with being strapped to the table.
The procedure went smoothly until the end, when they were mid-spinal custard pump, when I mentioned how terribly hot it was in the room. It was as if I had said some magic word, like on PeeWee’s playhouse but with less puppet screaming and more cool compresses. (I think that might be my new slogan… less puppet screaming and more cool compresses. Vote Me in 2020.) I was evidently having a vagal reaction, which I misheard several times, leaving me very baffled as to why my nether regions were getting involved in things at all. But evidently my body decided that despite my amazing ability to exhale everything WAS NOT OK, and enacted emergency maneuvers, which to my body means slowing my heart down to a nice relaxing 50 bpm. Because my body sucks at survival strategery. Please do not share this information with any area bears.
But many compresses and glasses of water later, I was fine and ready to go home and recover. The doctor advised me that I should mention the vagal reaction in the future, which I assume means this should be my new fun fact I use to break the ice at parties. “Did you know that if you put a needle in my spine, chances are good I will pass out?” That sounds like a perfect way to get the cheese plate all to myself. And if that isn’t the road the health I don’t know what is.