Thursday, 28 May 2015

the mother of all headaches

Post-dural-puncture headache. Have you ever heard of it? I hadn't.

I knew that having an epidural can slow down labour. I knew that having an epidural can increase your chances of having a caesarean. I've heard of the chance of becoming permanently paralysed.
But I didn't know anything about the severe pains in the head/neck/back that occur in 1 out of 100 epidurals in Australia, when the needle has been inserted too far and punctures the spinal cord, allowing the spinal fluid to leak out.

These "headaches" can last 7-10 days and will usually go away by drinking a lot of caffeine and taking pain killers. I love caffeine!

So I had Mr Z on Monday morning and spent the rest of the day laying down. I had a slight headache and a bit of neck pain when I sat up to eat. On Tuesday, I was able to get up and have a shower. Thankfully I had no tummy pain after the caesarean and wasn't even on regular Oxy like I was after having Miss L (that drug is GREAT for the pain, but not so great when it wears off and your body is withdrawing from it.) I was able to be wheeled down to see my baby but I was in excruciating pain - my head felt like it was going to explode and the back of my neck was worse. The only thing that offered relief was to lay down. I was planning on breast feeding Mr Z and we had one little try which he seemed to enjoy and the midwives hand expressed me a couple of times but then wanted me to use the machine. There was no way I could get out of bed and pump for 20 mins on each side while my head was in agony, so I made the decision to formula feed.

By Wednesday morning, my head was feeling OK, although I hadn't been moving around much except to go to the toilet. They decided they would discharge me and I was happy to be able to go home and sleep in my own bed and spend time with my little girl. I had a prescription for Panadeine Forte and thought I would be fine. But all I could do was lay down. If I was up for more than 5 minutes I was just in so much pain. I had to sit with my head tilted backwards to ease the pressure a little bit. The Panadeine Forte was not helping at all. All the caffeine in the world would not have made a difference. I rang the hospital and said I'd be back in the morning for a procedure called a blood patch. They take blood from your arm and insert it back into your spine where the epidural went in, then you lay down for a couple of hours and the pain should be gone. Of course there is also a risk that they push the needle in too far again. I went back into the hospital on Thursday morning but they didn't want to do the blood patch right away - they wanted me on stronger pain killers and see how I was in the morning. I didn't sleep very well at all that night and just as a did manage to drift off at 3am, a loud midwife burst into my room literally yelling at me to wake up and feed my baby! I had already told the midwife in the nursery that I would not be able to go down there and it should have been in his file that he was formula fed. They'd never contacted me any other time he was due for a bottle except the times when he was able to come to my room.

This time, the pain wasn't even going away when I was laying down. And they weren't even giving me the stronger pain relief that I was written up for - only Panadol and Nurofen. When the anesthesiologist finally came to see me, I cried when they told me I could finally have the blood patch done. I just wanted to get better and be able to spend time with my babies. They gave me the strong pain killers and I was able to sleep before I went in for the procedure at around 11am. I then spent an hour in recovery because my blood pressure was really high. When I was taken back to my room, I spent the next 4 hours laying down and every 2 hours my bed head was raised a bit until I was sitting up. At around 6pm, I felt well enough to get out of bed - and the pain was gone! I was even able to walk to the Special Care Nursery for the very first time and give my man a bottle and cuddles and walk back to my room again. They said I could go home any time that night or tomorrow morning, it was my call. So I decided to go home. I felt so happy that the pain was over and I felt human again.

If I hadn't had the epidural, my labour would have probably been longer but Mr Z might not have gone into distress and I may have been able to push him out. Then again, it could have still resulted in a c-section and I would have had to be knocked out and not seen him in those first few minutes of life. I will never know.

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