Excerpt: Spinal Tap

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According to the National MS Society, analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid, which is sampled by a spinal tap, detects the levels of certain immune system proteins and the presence of oligoclonal bands. That means that if you are hospitalized with MS type symptoms, you are probably going to get a huge needle stuck in your back. In this excerpt from, “The Dog Story” I have just had local anesthesia and my neurologist is in process of sticking a monster sized dart in the small of my back…


Just then I feel some pressure in my lower back.  The pressure comes quick and hard.  And it hurts like a son of bitch.  Didn’t Dr. Kumar say there wasn’t going to be pain?  Shit!

I close my eyes and swallow hard.  This isn’t going to be easy.  It feels like a small sword is being pushed slowly into my back.

I open my eyes and stare sadly at Shelly.  She smiles back.  I try to focus my attention on the rain hitting the window.  The pressure increases.  Blood is rushing to my brain.  I keep hearing this strange metallic ringing in my ears.

Then the pressure stops.  There is muffled conversation going on behind the bed.  I can hear movement.  Clanging sounds on the metallic tray.

A minute or two passes.  Shelly looks concerned.  I am fine.  This doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought.

Then it is back.  With a vengeance.  The pressure returns.  A sharp pain shoots up my back into the base of my neck.  Tension begins to mount in my lower back near my waist.  I wriggle my bottom a bit, trying to get more comfortable.

“Matthew, please stay still.  We’ve had a small complication.”

Complication?  What kind of complication?  It has been at least ten minutes by now, I thought we were almost done.

Another couple minutes pass.

The pressure is wearing on me.  It feels like someone is piling bricks on my back.  I am beginning to feel faint.   Sweat begins to bead on my forehead.  The pain is unbearable.  I have to say something.

“Dr. Kumar, this is really uncomfortable.”

“Sorry, Matthew, but this is not going as expected.”

I turn my head and look at Shelly again.  Her trademark smile has turned into a stricken look of concern.

The pressure is growing increasingly worse.  I am suddenly short of breath.  Sitting, leaning with my elbows on the table while arching my back is becoming almost intolerable.  I adjust my elbows a bit, searching for a more comfortable spot.

“Matthew, hold still.”

What can I do?  I need to find a more comfortable position, but I am frozen stiff by a gigantic needle poking deeper and deeper into my spine.  If I move the wrong way, will I be paralyzed for life?

I really have to start asking more questions before I let them do these things to me.

Sweat is raining down my face and stinging my eyes.  I am burning up.  A strange taste floods my mouth.  The ringing in my ears grows stronger.  The pressure has spread from my lower back up my spine.  My entire back and neck feel severely bruised.

Finally, Dr. Kumar breaks the silence.  “Matthew, we have a problem.”


“You have a calcification in the ligaments at the spot of entry.  I have been unable to get all the way through to the spinal cord.  I tried a smaller needle to make the process as painless as possible, but I had to switch to a bigger needle.  I knew the level of discomfort would increase, but we had to get through this.”

“Okay. So, are you finished now?”

“Unfortunately, we were unable to gain access from this point of entry.  I tried to manipulate the needle through the calcification, but even the bigger needle was unable to get through.  Unfortunately, we must proceed with the worst case scenario.  A double puncture.”


To read more check out the whole story here for print books or here for ebooks.