Needles to say… by Sam

**Yes, I know that says “needles,” instead of “needless.”  I did that on purpose.  If needles are a problem for you, RUN NOW.  I still love you.  Oh, and they’re a problem for me, too; but, sometimes, you have no choice.

Well, I certainly do know how to keep ’em hopping! This morning I went in for what was supposed to be a routine nerve block. Routine for me, that is, because, while most people are told to fast and not drink water before the procedure, I am told to drink water and a cup of coffee before mine, since I have a tendency to faint. Oh, and, yeah, nerve blocks are pretty routine for me these days. Now, usually, this procedure takes about 15 minutes.  Shane drives me to Kaiser, I register in the Pain Management Department, and, within in a few minutes, they call me back.  We have learned to make sure I am well-hydrated (and have had a cup of strong coffee) when I arrive; that I am given oxygen during the procedure, and that my vitals are monitored throughout.  You know, and that there are smelling salts handy.  No, it shouldn’t be this hard.

When I arrived, my blood pressure was already low, so the doctor decided to start an I.V.  I warned him that a) my veins are tiny, and b) I am a great big baby.  Every time I need to have a blood test, I lead with, “I tend to faint.”  They have me lie down, and, as a result, I hardly ever faint.  This morning, I was sitting in a chair when the I.V. was inserted.  It honestly did not occur to me to ask if I could lie down, even though I have fainted with I.V.s before.  The doctor put in the I.V., and he did a great job.  Got it right in on the first try, and I remember thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t bad at all.  I barely even felt it.”

And then I was coming to.  They were hooking me up to all kinds of monitors and giving me oxygen.  Poor Dr. Pastushenko.  I am always doing stuff like this.  Well, since I was already there and hooked up to an I.V. and everything, they decided to give me fluids and monitor me until my vitals were back to normal.  This took some time.  Poor Shane was sitting in the waiting room with absolutely no idea what was going on, so, once I was settled, I asked the nurse if someone could let him know that I was okay, but it was probably going to take a little longer than planned.

After about 45 minutes, I think ~ it’s hard to tell, as I was a bit hazy at the time ~ my vital signs looked good, so I was moved in to the room and prepped for a lumbar sympathetic nerve block.  These nerve blocks aren’t especially entertaining.  First, you’re lying face down on a table with a pillow under you, so your bum’s in the air.  In my case, you’re doing this while attached to all kinds of tubes and wires, and the pulse oximeter keeps slipping off your tiny fingers and setting off alarms until the doctor, in a stroke of genius, clamps it on your thumb.  Problem solved!  Oh, but before the doctor comes in, they open the back of your gown and pull your pants half down.  So, face down on a table, hooked up to a bunch of crap, setting off alarms, with your half-naked bum in the air.  So, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe it is entertaining.  It’s like your typical wild party.  I mean, if that’s the way you party, I guess.

Luckily, the I.V. fluids and oxygen helped a lot.  Also, I found that picking a spot in the distance to focus on while taking deep relaxed breaths helped.  I didn’t even have to close my eyes.  Why I usually have to close my eyes is beyond me.  It’s not like I can see my lower back while lying face down on a narrow little table.  The actual nerve block was par for the course.  First, you are numbed locally.  They do this, I think, to lull you in to a false sense of security, because, the truth is, when they administer the actual nerve block itself, you can still feel it.  Well, I can still feel it.  I have no idea how it is for anyone else.  But, you know, then it is over, and, though it is not the way I would want to, say, celebrate my birthday, I know that, in the long run, it will lessen the pain in my foot and leg, so I can continue to use them more normally, and that’s important to me.  It’s been flaring up a lot lately, and the pain now travels farther up my leg than it had, so something had to be done to try to halt it, at least for a little while.

I am monitored until the I.V. fluids are gone (not all of the I.V. fluids in the hospital, just the ones that were already hooked to my arm), the doctor evaluates me, and I am cleared for take-off.  Very slow, walking, on the ground take-off.  No lifting, pulling, driving…or, you know, actually flapping my arms and flying, I suppose.  Already, my leg feels better.  When I walk on it, I am aware of the difference.  Pain doesn’t shoot up through my knee with each step, and that is a vast improvement.  My feet are the same temperature ~ which is still probably colder than normal feet, but better than when the CRPS-affected foot is markedly different in temperature than the other one.

So, now, I rest.  Since the procedure took a couple of hours longer than anticipated, Shane called in and took the rest of the day off.  I hate to make him miss work, but I am glad to have him here, so I can just rest all day.

The verdict, in the end, was that the I.V. helped enough that we are going to have to make it part of my protocol.  From now on, however, we are going to make sure I am lying down with my feet up when it is started.  Everyone is always surprised that I have so much trouble with needles, when I have so many tattoos.  The thing is, no one ever tattooed into my veins.  I can take other kinds of needles.  I pierced my ears with pins ~ CHILDREN: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.  It was a really stupid idea, and I am lucky I still have ears.  I actually have a pretty high pain threshold. I think I must just have a very low “vein threshold.”  I don’t really even like talking about my veins, or seeing them through my skin.  *shudder*

So, I have to figure out how to get over the whole fainting with I.V.s thing.  But not right now.  Right now, I’ll just read a book.  A book that’s not about veins.

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