That time I had an intercostal nerve block

I think that I might, finally, kind of, sort, maybe, cautiously optimistically, might be, feeling, a little bit better.

Like not completely healed go out and do jumping jacks and then yoga and then run a marathon or anything. But maybe make it through a whole day without codeine. Or  maybe just one codeine.

I’m very scared to write those words.

To put them out into the ether. To make them real. To jinx things.

The pain has just lasted so. so. long.

Since Feb. 4 it has felt like someone has been stabbing in my lower right rib. Or, well, sometimes it has felt like someone has just hit me in the ribs with a baseball bat. And other times it felt like someone dropped a cinder block on top of my chest. It really just depended on what time of day you asked me.

My latest, and hopefully final, diagnosis is “nerve pain related to scar tissue from my gall bladder surgery from five years ago.”

Which I didn’t even know what a thing until Monday. And truthfully I’m kind of really mad it wasn’t listed as a possible side effect when I had the stupid thing taken out in ’08. Not that I would have not had it taken it out, but it would have been nice to know that  someday, should I feel like someone was stabbing me with an imaginary knife, it could have been related. You know?

Who am I kidding? It was five freaking years ago. It probably was listed as a side effect and I just have no memory of it whatsoever.

Anyway, on Thursday, afternoon I had a small procedure called an intercostal nerve block, which is what I’m hoping has finally made so that maybe I only need one codeine to get through the day.

Well the doctors call it a “small procedure.” I call it, “‘That crazy thing they did to me that I am so, so glad I had my mom and my grandma come all the out from an hour away to be with me because it was scary as crap’ procedure.”

First of all, they told me in advance that I would get to be put to sleep for the thing, but then when I got there, they were all, “Well we need to be able to converse with you in case someone goes wrong, so we’re only going to give you something to help you relax and some local anesthesia.”

And I have it on good authority from my good friend John Rowley, who had the same procedure multiple times, that they were lying to me, because he got to be put to sleep every time. But whatever. Now I can tell you nice people all about it.

Step one, the IV:

They gave me an IV. I almost fainted because I was so nervous and I was watching the nurse (whose name was Sandy, which made me feel more comfortable because I really, really love my Aunt Sandy) do the whole thing and she couldn’t get it to work and she was talking to me and the blood was going in and out and in and out and in and out of my arm and then all of a sudden the blood drained from my face. And then the nurse,  was all, “Umm, are you going to pass out?” And I was like, “I don’t think so.” But she’s a professional and she could see that I was wobbling. So after she got the IV situated, she got a wheelchair to take me down to the procedure room, instead of having me walk, just to be safe.

Step two, going to the procedure room:

They had me lay on the bed stomach down in the procedure room. They wrapped the hospital gown up around my head but left my personal yoga pants on. Considering the fact that I’ve been in near constant pain for more than two months and haven’t washed those things in at least a week, that probably wasn’t the hospital’s most sanitary decision of the year, but it was their most comfortable.

Then, they gave me whatever drug they give you that makes you relax without exactly putting you to sleep. It’s an odd phenomenon to be awake in a procedure room. And this was the first time I ever experienced it.

The doctors and nurses are busy getting everything ready around you, and they almost act as if you’re an inanimate object. Like the doctor would tell the nurse, “Yes, move her up on the table because I’ll need her back to be flat.” And then the nurse would go to move me, but she wouldn’t really talk to me about it, but would just go to move me. And, at another point, someone in the room took a purple marker and freely drew on the right side of my back to mark where they needed to do stuff. Like I was a windshield they were replacing.

Step three, the local anaesthesia:

Just as I had finally relaxed enough to kind of fall asleep, someone woke me up to tell me they were about to inject the local anaesthesia.  Which I would say was a stupid time to wake me up, except that it would have worse if the injection had woken me up instead.

When they injected it, the shots burned really bad and I didn’t realized there would be three of them. Except in my drugged up stated I couldn’t quite articulate that, so I just let out a long moan. Like, “uggugugugugugugugaaaa.” And then, in my head, I realized I needed to ask if there were going to be three intercostal nerve block injections, because I had been under the impression that there was going to be one, but I couldn’t figure out how to articulate it. So I think I said something along the lines of, “Three shot of other one?” And the doctor said, “What?” And I was like “Will I get three shots of the other one?” And they said, “Yes, but it won’t hurt, you’ll just feel pressure.” Which I suppose was technically true.

 Step four, the actual intercostal nerve block injection:

I have no idea what the heck they did when they injected the stuff for the nerve block because I was stomach down, so all I can tell you is what I felt and what I heard.

They did the whole thing under X-Ray, which going in I had assumed meant they would be under a live X-Ray machine. But actually, it meant that they had to keep taking pictures with the X-Ray machine and then posting them on the wall in front of the doctors. This lead to the doctor and the resident saying, “Picture” over and over and over and over and over to the technician during the procedure. It’s probably my most vivid memory. I think if I really wanted to I could have tilted my head up and seen the pictures, but I didn’t want to risk moving at the wrong time and then having the doctor miss and puncture my lung.

When they injected whatever they were injecting I did indeed feel the aforementioned pressure. Although it wasn’t so much “pressure” as it was a feeling of someone jabbing a rusty spoon into my back and moving it around for a really long time and then yanking out.

Obviously, I responded, very clearly, in my drugged up state, with, “uggugugugugugugugaaaa.” And the doctor said, “Does that hurt?” And I said, “No. Just pressure.” And he said. “Good.”

And then, what seemed like 12 rusty spoons later, they were finally done.

Step five, waiting for the drugs to wear off:

After that, the doctors got the heck out of there because it was like 4 p.m. or whatever, but Nurse Sandy waited with me for about a half hour for the drugs to wear off.

I remember that my feet were really cold and I basically feel in and out of a light sleep. The local anaesthesia made it so the injection site and my ribs felt pretty great.

Then, after I was at a point where I could stand up, she walked me over to another room where I met up with my mom, my grandma and my boyfriend. She took the IV out, gave me some orange juice, and some crackers, which was very exciting because I hadn’t been allowed to eat since the day before. Then, they told me that the injection might make my nerve pain worse for a couple days before it got better, had my mom sign me out, told me not to make any legal decisions today and sent me on my way.

Step six, the day after sucked:

Holy cow, when they said my pain was going to suck they day after, they meant by 9 p.m that night. My boyfriend called to say good-night and accidentally woke me up, and by that point everything had worn off and I woke up feeling like I was going to either die or kill myself. I couldn’t even talk because I was crying too much. So I just hung with him without even really talking and then I went back to sleep.

Friday was pretty much more of that. The injection site hurt. My ribs hurt. I thought I was going to die. I talked to John Rowley who told me this is all very normal. He also told me that the fact that they already did an intercostal nerve block means they’re taking my pain very seriously and that it took him six months to get to the point I’m at. And that I should wake up feeling better Saturday and that by Sunday I should be feeling pretty awesome.

Step seven, it’s Saturday morning:

I haven’t actually done too much today, but I’m hopeful. I think, I might, finally, kind of, sort, maybe, cautiously optimistically, might be, feeling, a little bit better. Fingers crossed.

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Comments (4)

  1. Nicholas Lindell

    “They had me lay on the bed” is incorrect grammar. They had you *lie* on the bed. “To lay” is a transitive verb; “to lie” is intransitive. Snap to, professional journalist.

    Reply
  2. admin (Post author)

    Lol. Thanks. But take a look at the title of the blog. :)

    Reply
  3. Stopped by...

    Did you ever finish what happened after day seven?
    How long did the injection last?
    Were you completely free of pain at day 7 and beyond? For how long?
    Did your Dr end up doing an additional procedure?
    Many thanks.

    Reply
  4. pamela Isenberg

    My son has a similar situation. We are considering this nerve block. Can you please let me know how you are doing today? Thanks, Pam

    Reply

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