The team wasted no time in getting started on their tests for me. The day after my 15 vial blood test I was due to start my pincushion episodes with the lumbar puncture.
A lumbar puncture is also sometimes referred to as a spinal tap. The cerebra-spinal fluid (CSF) is a crystal clear fluid which travels down the spinal cord and throughout the brain. It does not move with force or a pulse as the blood does, rather it flows at a slow rate. I don’t know what is in it and I won’t go in to specifics but I will confirm this test was to conclusively confirm or rule out Anti-Phospholipid Syndrome, but may do other things for other unwell patients. I had harassed the nurses to describe in detail the process.Tim was the doctor who stuck me, and the large icky needle only hurt whilst he injected the anesthetic in to my lower back. Tim poked the big Tap needle in a few times before he found good access in my lower spine for the puncture and then we waited an hour as the crystal clear liquid dripped slowly in to the collection vial.
The Tap was Champagne, meaning there was no blood or contaminants within, the name being because the fluid is clear and sparkling when in optimum condition. There was no residual injury from the lumbar puncture, and the bruising was only minimal. The pain had barely started to recede when I went to sleep early that night. The next day I was awake at 5 for a surgical shower and to await my white and green checkered chariot, the transfer ambulance to take me to the hospital that would perform my Angiogram.
An Angiogram is a special MRI that takes images on the vessels of the brain. It is a surgical procedure that only some hospitals perform due to the equipment and process involved, or so I believe. When I was wheeled in to the theater they loaded me up full of the drugs that would take away the feeling in my body and make me dozy, but keep me awake and responsive. A small incision was made in my right groin and a catheter inserted in to my Femoral vein to trace the length of my spine. As the catheter arrived in my neck the doctor could inject tracer liquids which would highlight my cerebral vessels and show any and all blockages within my brain, possibly also what they were. The tracers all caused slightly different sensations in various parts of my head and some I didn’t like so much, but none lasted long. Of what I can still recall the images were quite beautiful, but I do as much think the feeling of doziness that stayed with me all day was just as beautiful. I was back in my own hospital bed by early afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed breaking my fast! By this time it was weekend and as I would have to wait until the next work week for more tests, I could take the weekend to recover before my Transoesophageal Echo-cardiogram (TOE).
It took a while for the doctors to organise the TOE and they were unsure of exactly when it would be so they warned me to be ready to go for it. The nurse picked me up and, on instructions from the Physiotherapist, I walked to Cardiology. A TOE is an Echo-Cardiogram which is performed from within the oesophagus. An Echo-Cardiogram is an ultrasound of the heart and the purpose of performing it through the oesophagus is that is isn’t attempting to ready the heart rhythms through ribcage and intercostal muscles, so it can gain a much finer and more accurate image. You are required to be awake for the procedure however many people do not recall it afterwards due to the anesthetic. Some people also have a sore throat from the sonar and piping running down the oesophagus, which I luckily did not experience. I did have a very dozy ride back to my hospital bed and very restful afternoon.
The final MRI’s were taken the morning after the TOE and were relatively dull after the tests I had been through. They gave me contrast dyes and played Triple J. I slept through most of it. The next morning I was informed I had completed all of my tests and would be awaiting the full teams visit, as well as an in-depth discussion with Abigail before I could go home. An end was in sight.