6 Sep 2013

I Was So Scared…

Day 4 of Blogtember is share a story about a time you were very afraid. I shared this experience back in 2011, but it’s the time I remember I was so afraid and it does affect many decision I make when it come to needles near my spine area.



August 1999, after a wonderful Friday night out with a friend and some guys I went to bed happy. But, in the middle of the night severe headache, fever and chills woke me up. I was home with my uncle because my mother was on holiday in Ghana. I called out for my uncle and he came from the other room just in time to give me a bucket in which I vomited my ‘guts’ out. After vomiting I curled under winter covers to be able to warm myself to sleep. It wasn’t hangover!

The following morning I went to work as usual but I couldn’t concentrate or eat. To make sure I had something in my stomach my boss ordered my favourite breakfast – crossaint and ACE (orange, carrot and vitamin E) juice. I couldn’t take a bite or a sip. He could tell it was very serious, because normally I wouldn’t let that delicious breakfast stay there untouched. Plus, the morning light outside increased my headache.  He sent me home.

In the afternoon, after a long sleep but still feeling rotten, my uncle phoned my cousin who came to take me to our local hospital. Once there the doctors gave me fever medication. I felt better and went back home. My cousin’s girlfriend helped me take a bath. After the cold bath, I started to be chatty again. However, for precaution my cousin decided to sleepover.

It was luck because in the early morning of Sunday, the fever and chills took hold of me again. I needed to vomit and my senses were limited. I remember my cousin carrying me on his back, because I couldn’t walk to his car. The last thing I remember was insistently telling the doctor that I didn’t have malaria, because I haven’t being out of Italy for the past seven and plus years.

One of the doctors listened to my hallucinations me. I was recovered. My cousin and uncle were worried, because my mum was not around. What if something bad happened to me while in their care. They didn’t want to tell her anything to worry her. I don’t know what they said when she phoned each day wanting to talk to me while I was recovered.

Sunday morning the senior doctor, a smiling lady, visited me. I had to follow her to one of the testing rooms but I couldn’t walk. I was so feeble I had to hold on to her. She laughed and said: “Wait and see when you have to give birth. I can’t imagine how you coping well when you are in labour.” I turned to look at her with my sleepy eyes and said “I am not thinking about labour. I want to get well.” My breath seemed to have departed my soul. She could tell I was suffering and wasn’t in the mood to joke. She did the test and sent me back to my room.

Sunday afternoon she referred me to the special section of Verona’s General Hospital, my case was an emergency. The nice female doctor was not certain, but she suspected I had a life threatening illness.

While in the ambulance on my way to the hospital, half conscious, I thanked God for His protection – for waking me up in the middle of the night instead of letting me sleep through the night. For my uncle who didn’t sleep but stayed up the whole night to look after me. For my cousin who came and stayed with us in case I needed him. For the doctor who listened to me and didn’t send me home with fever tablets. For the nice female doctor who recognised the emergency of my situation.

The following day, Monday 09 August 1999, at the Verona hospital, the senior doctor confirmed the suspicion. I had the a life threatening illness, meningitis.


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? 


That was the most scary experience of my life that comes to mind.

1 comment:

  1. Yes I had an epidural. The pain of labor was crippling and I was worried I was going to pass out and not push out the baby and he would be in distress. The epidural went fine, Dominic came into the world, I felt
    Nothing but a little tugging (I'm assuming his head) and within a couple hours I regained feeling in the lower half of my body again. The key is to always demand a doctor
    Who knows what they're doing ! I'm sorry you had a bad experience with the first doc.


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