8 Sep 2011

Life Threatening Illness: In The Hands of a Neo-Neurologist

Disclaimer: before I go into details about childbirth, I want to share with you an important story about my life which is going to influence  my wishes. You can read The Symptoms and What Is Meningitis? to begin with


Thanks to the prompt intervention and appropriate medications, few days after my recovery I began to feel better. By Wednesday, 11 August 1999, I could eat normally and dance again. Although dancing was still a little bit strenuous, I couldn’t resist moving about to reassure myself I was still alive. I read magazines when I was too weak to do anything else. However, I was happy because few days before I couldn’t do any of of what I liked doing.

However, the senior doctor, to determine the condition of my meningitis, scheduled a lumbar puncture (LP). It was needed to collect and look at the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) surrounding the brain and spinal cord.Spinal_needles


During a lumbar puncture, a thin needle is carefully inserted into the spinal canal low in the back (lumbar area). Samples of CSF are collected, then studied for colour, blood cell counts, protein, glucose, and other substances. Some of the sample may be put into a special culture cup to see if any infection, such as bacteria or fungi, grows. The pressure of the CSF also is measured during the procedure.

When the day came for me to go under the ‘operation’ I thought about the positive side of the procedure.  I am going to get out of here after this thing. They are going to reassure me that I am completely recovered.

The neo-neurologist came into my room and asked me to lie on my right side, facing the hospital wall. He asked me to draw my knees up toward my chest.



Nicely curled up, he marked my lower back (lumbar area) with a pen – it tickled, but I was looking forward to get out of the special unit. He then cleaned the area with a special soap and draped with sterile towels. After that routine he used numbing medicine (local anesthetic) on my skin.

But when he put the thin needle in my lower back I felt the pain overtaking my positive thoughts. Yet, I didn’t scream, I put all my bravery into action and bit my lips. The neurologist removed the needle and I let out a sigh of relieve. But soon he replaced the needle in another spot. At this point he told me “I couldn’t get the fluid, I have to try in a different area.” The pain was out of this world. In that moment I was thinking The anesthetic is not working.

I wanted to scream but I kept my cool. However, at the third attempt I couldn’t stand the pain any longer and my thoughts turned into negative He is going to ruin my back, I am going to stop walking if he doesn’t get the fluid and stop poking my back with the needles. I started to cry out loud. He was distressed therefore decided that he would stop the lumbar puncture for the day.

Even after two hours he was gone, I couldn’t stop crying. I was still curled in my position and tears streamed down my cheeks. I had to lay still to prevent fainting sensations. I was so scared and sure that I was paralysed. At that thought I couldn’t stop tears  from falling.

Few days later the senior doctor came to do the lumbar puncture and surprise-surprise I didn’t feel pain or even the needle going through my spinal canal. The result came out fine. I was safe from meningitis. I was lucky to recover totally from the meningitis within weeks but, although the last lumbar puncture was successful, my fear for needles near my lower back survived.

I am sure that experience scarred the neo-neurologist as much as it scarred me. 

Up to date, whenever I thinking about it, I am still terrified. I am aware that lumbar puncture is very different from an epidural, I am still scare because it entails a needle going near my lower back. 

I recently read an article about a girl whose spine was permanently damaged during an operation to remove gallstones at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. This happened because she had been given an epidural anaesthetic to control the pain, but the anaesthetic was left in place for too long.

For this reason and bad experience with LP, I wouldn’t mind going through all the intense labour contractions without an epidural. Yes, I am so petrified by the idea of an epidural. My midwife is going to schedule an appointment for me to go see anesthesiologist, who can answer all my concerns just in case I want one in a state of delirium. But I pray Almighty to let me go through labour without one.

Questions: Do you know anyone who had an epidural during labour? Did you have one? Would you have one? Any bad experience with needles? 

Please share with me.


  1. Almost all of my friends have had an epidural. I'm scared of them. The hospital I hope to use gives a spinal, it's a "walking epidural" where they just give u a needle in the spine area but it doesn't stay in, and you are free to roam about instead of being tethered to the bed like with an epidural. I am not good with pain...so I'm really scared about the actual birth part of things, but I really don't want an epidural...

  2. I heard about the 'walking epidural', but still scared of it.

    I am going to start a natural birth classes next week and then go see an anesthesiologist for more info on epidural. But still I want to try no medicated birth. One of my friends said that the birth is not painful, but the contraction that led to the birth - the most painful part is second stage which doesn't last long.

  3. I really hope you get to give birth without an epidural. I didn't want one simply for multiple reasons like the medicine making the baby drowsey (I'd rather have an alert baby than a sleepy one). I didn't do the natural childbirth classes and therefore I don't think I am prepared enough to handle a med free birth.

    I'm rooting for you!

  4. all my girlfriends who have had babies have had it ... my mom did it naturally and my little sister planned on doing it but circumstances changed ... i think that whatever you choose to do will turn out just fine! :)

  5. Begged for an epidural, but I was over 8 cm dilated and it was too late.

  6. You should do whatever you feel is right, but I had an epideural. I was very fearful about the pain, but I had been in labor for almost 12 hours and was not dilating properly, by the time I was dilated enough I was so tired and in so much pain, I didn't feel the needle. Get the information, but be open to the idea. As you say, in your delerium you may want one, and you should be okay with your decision.

    Truth: I would have had to get one anyway, as I had a c-section. But I would have chosen one either way, just to relieve the exhaustion I felt. I had one, slept for 2 hours.

  7. That experience would totally freak me out of an epidural. My BFF had an epidural and her pains werent so bad after that. In the end I believe the right decision will be made by you. In the moment I think you will just want Berry to get here safe and sound:-) pray on it and I'm sure you will be fine:-)

  8. Everyone is different when it comes to meds....I know women who had one and felt nothing...I had one myself and it didn't take (which is apparently rare) Do what you feel is most comfortable for you! I went into it thinking I would try to hold out and maybe I would be able to handle the pain but, I ended up asking for one towards the end of my labor. No shame in it, your baby will make it one way or another!

  9. Tidbit of Info:

    Many women suffer mild uncomfortable life long pain from receiving an epidural. The pain is generally centralized in the lower to mid back. Others complain of a sharp shooting pain that travels upwards to the base of the neck. These women often have difficulty sitting or standing for long periods of time, in addition to experiencing an achy pain when bending or kneeling. However some patients never suffer any adverse reactions. Wishing you a safe & healthy delivery.

  10. I had one with my son. I was told that problems arise only if you move while they are inserting the needle so I guess the key is to be completely still. They wait for a contraction to end and then do the epidural before the next one comes. Though I had no problems or side effects from the epidural I want to try for a natural birth this time.

  11. I also read that article about the girl in Birmingham as well and that scared me. I have decided that I don't want an epidural. Have heard too many stories of people who have after pain with it.


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