The neurosurgeons had somehow sucked out my tumour and patched the hole with some fatty tissue from my thigh, but they weren’t 100% sure that they had sealed up the hole. A cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak is super dangerous as it might let meningitis in. So I was stuck in the hospital till they were sure. They sent a sample to the lab, but said it took two weeks to identify. The neurosurgical chief resident said, “Maybe it’s CSF, maybe it’s not.”Or did he say, “Maybe it’s snot.”
Some people have nothing running from their nose after surgery and are sent home the next day. Not me. By the fifth day after surgery, the neurosurgical residents, both named Mohammed (to avoid confusion, one went by Mo), decided that if pressure was relieved from the graft plugging my wound, it might seal more quickly. I would have a lumbar tap (!) to drain spinal fluid.
Mo moved me to the Procedure Room and stuck a large needle into my spinal column between the 4th and 5th vertebrae. I asked for more freezing. Twice.
Eventually my drain was set up. I wasn’t allowed to move for 24 hours. By Tuesday at 4:00, they still weren’t sure. They let me get up, but kept the spinal drain in, turning it off when I sat up for ten minutes, then turning it on again when I lay down. Every hour, they checked the drainage. If it was draining too much, they turned it off for a hour.
By Wednesday, they decided to prep me for surgery. A porter moved me onto a gurney and wheeled me down for a CT scan. Contrast dye was added to my IV. They put sensors on my forehead and behind my ears. The scan creates a picture that helps the surgeon see where the endoscope is going (I think). The sensors correlate to the CT scan and must not be removed.
Wednesday night, they say I’ve been added to the emergency surgery list. Mohammed said, “We hope we can get you in within 48 hours.” I’m attached to an IV for nutrition and meds. I was forbidden to eat or drink, even water. I have markers on my head, my CSF is draining. They wake me up every few hours for vitals. They take blood. And this continues all day Thursday as I wait for a second surgery to fix the assumed leak in the plug.
4:00 pm. Thursday. 8 days after the initial surgery. Dr. Reddy, head of neurosurgery, appears. He asks me to hold my head down to see what is leaking from my nose. At this point, nothing. He says, “We just got the results back from the lab. There’s no CSF. Get dressed. Go home.”
And I did.
Narrowly escaping a second horrific surgery.