Most of you may not know what an L3 spinal injection is, and to be honest, neither did I until I had my first one earlier this year. An epidural steroid injection is a combination of a steroid with a local anaesthetic. These injections into the spine can help to relieve swelling and inflammation, and relieve pain by taking the pressure off of nerves and other soft tissues. The site of my injection was at the level of L3 (the 3rd vertebra of my lower back), as it is associated with feeling in the legs and would therefore help to manage my chronic pain.
Those of you who are familiar with this procedure, will know that it is normally straightforward with the patient going home after an hour or so, and many are able to resume work the next day. But due to my epilepsy this wasn’t the case for me.
BEFORE THE PROCEDURE.
I woke up at 04:30, went to the gym as normal, but made sure to push myself through a gruelling leg workout, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk easily after the procedure, and also that I’d have to miss a few days in the gym. I ate a good breakfast, worked in the office for a few hours and then made my way to St Thomas’ Hospital for day surgery. I met my brother, who only had a few days left in London before he went back to uni, and my sister in law, who happened to work at the hospital as a Radiographer. They both decided to eat in front of me, knowing fully well that I had been fasting for the past six hours. Soon after, my sister in law said her goodbyes as her lunch break finished, but she didn’t go very far as she was actually doing the spinal imaging for the surgery that day. Knowing this made me feel more relaxed, as she would be there with me.
I enjoyed the time catching up with my brother, but couldn’t ignore his face filled with worry. I tried reassuring him that I would be fine, but in reality, I was the one that needed reassurance, as I remembered clearly the events after my first treatment. I spent over eight hours in recovery as I was not fit to travel home.
DURING THE PROCEDURE.
I was the last patient to enter the theatre room and was so hungry by this point as I hadn’t eaten since 06:30, and it was now 16:00. Before the procedure started, I informed the consultant that my left knee had been acting up over the last two months and asked whether they could do both knees today (both sides of my spine). The consultant laughed, and said that they didn’t normally inject both sides of the spine in one session, but thought that I was a ‘strong lad’ and so could manage. I knew the gym gains were starting to show!
AFTER THE PROCEDURE.
I can’t tell you much about the procedure as I was heavily sedated. However, the recovery was a nightmare as predicted. When I woke up, I felt high levels of pain in both knees and had uncontrollable myoclonic jerks. I was given 2.5mg of morphine every 10 minutes to help try and get the pain under control. I was vomiting, but there was nothing to bring up as I still hadn’t eaten. Determined not to have a full epileptic attack, I tried to stay calm… The last thing I wanted was to be admitted into hospital. The on-call neuro consultant came to see me and even advised that I should spend the night, but I was adamant on not staying, I just wanted to get home and rest in my own bed.
Throughout the whole recovery period, my sister-in-law stayed with me and was a real help. I guess she got to see a whole different side of me and what I struggle with.
It took me about a week to recover from the procedure fully; my back was badly swollen, both walking and even sitting were an issue. I was so frustrated as I couldn’t go to the gym and had to rely on other people.
Would I get this procedure done again? Absolutely. Sometimes we need to go through short-term pain to avoid long-term pain. I’m not saying that I am pain-free but it does offer a slight reduction in the pain. Although I hate relying on people, I know that every now and again, we all need to trust that it is okay to ask for help.