As most of you already know, Sean’s been having back issues since this past February. In that time span, he’s been to see a back specialist, a chiropractor, a massage therapist and a neurologist. While his symptoms seem to point to sciatica, the doctors have been unsuccessful in pinpointing the exact problem, thus being able to provide a successful treatment for the issue.
The latest test Sean’s neurologist wanted him to go in for is called a lumbar myelogram. This is a relatively quick procedure where a doctor injects dye into the spine and then a CT scan is performed to see how the dye is spreading across nerve junctions. The hope for Sean was to see if there was a blockage at a nerve junction which would indicate a pinched nerve that hadn’t been seen on any of the MRIs that he’s had on his back.
The procedure went very smoothly and only had a small headache (which is fully expected) while he was in recovery. We went home that afternoon and Sean took it easy for the rest of the day as directed by his doctor and we didn’t worry about anything. So, that takes us to Saturday.
Saturday morning Sean woke up feeling pretty good. He rested for most of that morning and then when I went out to wash my car, he came out and helped me out. We figured it wasn’t too strenuous and it would give him a chance to start doing things around the house. By the time we had finished washing the car he had gotten a really nasty headache, so he went in to drink some water and rest. I finished up cleaning out my car and when I went in, he was feeling a good bit better, so we had lunch and finished up some tasks around the house. At this point, Sean’s headaches were starting to come more frequently and his neck muscles were really fatigued. So long as he stayed in a slightly propped up position, he was fine though, so we just agreed that he would rest for the rest of the day and Sunday and continue drinking fluids. I had to leave for the airport that night so that I could be in at my customer’s early the next morning. I didn’t like leaving Sean, but he assured me that he would be fine, so I flew out that night.
Sunday was the same as Saturday. Sean was fine so long as he didn’t spend more than 10 or 15 minutes doing anything. He kept resting and when I got home that night from my trip he seemed to be doing better. We agreed that he would most likely be good enough to go into class and then work on Monday, so we went to bed early that night so he could get a good night’s rest.
Monday morning, Sean woke up with a headache, but he figured it would go away once he took a shower. He wasn’t great, but he figured he’d make it through the day. I left for work. He went into class. By the end of class, his headache wasn’t any better and he had to rest in the car for a few minutes before he could get to work. At work, things went downhill really fast. He got nauseous and dizzy and threw up a couple of times. After the second time, he realized he needed to go into the ER because something was wrong and he wasn’t healing like he should have from the myelogram. He had also talked to his neurologist earlier in the day and he had recommended possibly getting a blood patch (more on this later). I was in a yoga class at this point, but got a text message from him as soon as I got out. Thankfully, the ER (also the same hospital he’d gotten the myelogram at) is only 2 miles from my yoga studio. By the time I got there he was still going through triage and was looking pretty miserable. Blood was drawn for tests and we were finally admitted to a bed (well, it was really a recliner, but you get the idea). Once we had talked to a doctor, they hooked him up to an IV and gave him dilaudid. Sean started to feel a lot better. After another hour, they also gave him a caffeine drip which helps open up the blood vessels in the head, easing his headache. By this point, it was 10pm and the doctor came down to tell us that the anesthesiologist was really busy and didn’t recommend doing a blood patch, so we could go home with prescriptions to help with the nausea and the headache. We finally got home at about 11:30pm. Sean was feeling a lot better, so we didn’t worry too much more and crashed (Well, I crashed. Sean had just had caffeine injected into his system. He stayed awake for a while longer).
Tuesday we both woke up a little later than normal (I think we’re both entitled to get a bit extra sleep after a night like Monday). Sean started feeling bad from the get go, but he at least wanted to go into class that morning. I went into work and he headed off to class. Sean didn’t make it through his entire class. His English professor looked at him and told him to go home. I need to remember to send baked goods into her after all of this. So, Sean went home. His condition continued with him only able to be upright for about 10-15 minutes before the headaches came back. He continued drinking plenty of liquids and he took the pain drugs that the ER doctor had prescribed him. I skipped yoga Tuesday night and went straight home to see how Sean was doing. Even though Sean wasn’t doing well, we decided to see how things went for the next day and we would go from there. Went to sleep at a decent hour. Neither of us slept well, though.
Sean didn’t even get out of bed when I went into work that morning. By 11am, Sean called me up and told me that it had gotten to the point that he couldn’t stay upright for 5 minutes. We agreed that he needed to go into the ER, but neither of us felt comfortable with him driving himself and I couldn’t leave work until 2:30, so we agreed to wait until I could get home and I would take him in. Got home as quickly as possible, got Sean loaded into the car and we were back up at the ER (hi guys! Remember us?) by 4pm. Thankfully, the ER was a lot quieter this time. We also came armed with a lot more information on what Sean had been going through and how risky a blood patch really is. We were back in a real bed within about an hour this time. The ER doctor we talked to agreed that we needed to talk to an anesthesiologist and that he would page the one on call to come down. In the mean time, Sean got an IV and more dilaudid. Sean started to improve once again after he got the dilaudid, so waiting wasn’t too bad. The anesthesiologist (seriously people, could they not have come up with an easier name to type for these people?) finally came down, talked to us for a few minutes and quickly agreed that Sean needed a blood patch and that there were minimal risks for complications (chronic back pain can be a complication from the procedure) and that she had done a lot of them with no issues.
Okay, so here’s a quick run down of what a blood patch is and why Sean needed one. When Sean had gotten the myelogram done, he had gotten a spinal tap done in order to get the dye into his spinal column. This leaves a small hole towards the bottom of his spine in which spinal fluid can leak out. The reason he has to stay prone for a day or two after the procedure is to minimize the spinal fluid that leaks and allows the hole to heal on its own. The spinal fluid leaking creates a low pressure area in his head, thus causing the headaches that are common after spinal taps. The hole in Sean’s spine wasn’t healing as quickly as it should have, thus causing the continued issues. The procedure for a blood patch is to take blood from one part of your body (just a small amount) and inject it into your back where the hole is, causing a clot to form that “plugs” the hole. This keeps the spinal fluid from continuing to leak out while the hole itself has a chance to heal.
I got shoo’ed out of the room and Sean got prepared for the procedure. About 20 minutes later, the anesthesiologist came back out to the waiting room and told me that everything had gone well. I headed back to Sean’s room and sure enough, Sean was looking a lot better already. Apparently, the blood patch is supposed to cause a very quick change for the good, much to my relief. We got to stick around the hospital for another hour or so just to make sure that everything from the procedure looked good and then we were finally discharged. One stop at In-N-Out for dinner (it was after 9pm at this point, so cut me some slack. We got the best food for what was open) and we were finally back home. Sean immediately crawled into bed. When I got up, I convinced him that crawling into bed and at least getting under the covers were two different things. Finally, the day was over. Sean was doing remarkably better already. Sleep came well that night.
Thursday and Friday Sean stayed home and rested. He started to test himself on walking around the house for short intervals. The headaches were almost completely gone. He wasn’t completely back to normal, but he was definitely getting better and quickly. Since then, he’s continued getting better. He’s still got the occasional headache, but he can move around and he’s pretty much back to normal functionality at this point. Saturday night he threw a great birthday party for my 30th birthday and we had a great time. Today we got chores done around the house and he seemed to be holding up pretty well. I’m now on a plane heading back up to Denver, but this time I feel like things will go a lot better while I’m gone. He’s promised to take it easy this next week and not push himself too hard.
We’re still unsure what exactly is wrong with Sean’s back. The neurologist said that the CT scan came back with nothing abnormal. We’ve talked to the Mayo Clinic up in Scottsdale and they’ve agreed to take Sean’s case so all of his records and tests up to this point have been forwarded to them. Sean’s got an appointment at the beginning of December to go in and start talking to the doctors there. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that this is what it takes to find out what’s wrong and what we need to do to fix Sean’s back.
To everyone that’s called/e-mailed/posted on Facebook over the past week, thanks for all of the well-wishes. They certainly made it a little easier getting through the week knowing that we have so much friends and family out there supporting us, even if it’s just with a thought in our direction.