I said ouch. That really doesn’t cover it. A PDPH headache is profoundly disabling and should not be taken lightly. I thought about it, and came up with this description: PDPH is like your head having back labor without the breaks in between contractions. Add in repeated hammer blows, and you are getting close. IE – if you’re a guy, you can’t even begin to imagine what this feels like. I suppose you could start with crushing your balls in a vice, but even that would just be starting to get close to back labor.
On day four, I caved and called the ambulance. I’d woken up at 0230 in pain and was unable to find a position that reduced it. I’d tried drinking more water, taking an extra acetaminophen, and walking around. I ate a couple of gluten-free rolls. Nothing was helping, so I picked up the phone. The first ER sent me off to the big university hospital where my neurologist is based, and things got moving there. The ER doctor smiled a sad of kind smile and said “we can try some different drugs, but you just need to lay down”. I must have had the most incredible expression on my face. I remember telling her that I just wanted to sleep. Some medication appeared, and I fell asleep. Two hours later, I awoke and was whisked upstairs into a double room, where I promptly fell right back asleep. For several hours. Make that days. I slept through day five and most of day six. As I did this on one side, without moving very much, I managed to pinch a nerve on the left side of my skull, which took some time to unkink and left me with a stuffed up eustachian tube for a while.
On the afternoon of day seven, I sat fully upright for the first time in a week. A few flights of stairs brought back the tinnitis, but it abated after a while. The Chief of Neurology visited and said “you sign the form, but it really doesn’t prepare you, does it?” No, it does not. She was quite kind, something often missing in doctors, and went through my symptoms and how the situation progressed. She noted that when she saw my chart, the first thing she thought was “skinny chick, she’s toast”. And there I was, toast. She also confirmed one of my suspicions – that the most damning factor is low blood pressure. As I’d woken up one morning and produced a spectactularly fabulous 80/60, you can see where I was coming from.
Day eight was finally the day that I could say I was human again. After a week of either significant or total disability, I was so thrilled to simply stand up tall that I wanted to walk around for hours. Had the sun been out, I think I would have fainted from joy. I was discharged and went shopping, just to look at things that weren’t on the floor.
The moral of this short series is that, in the words of Mark Twain (who is actually not the author of the quote), there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. And in this case, the statistics told the truth, but not the truth that applied to me.