(Day of Diagnosis – 12/5/06)

When I finally was transferred to a room, I met Dr. John. He was a kind man, who was quite handsome and funny. But in the end, he was also quite useless.

“Please tell me if I should call my parents,” I said to him. “They don’t know I’m here, and I don’t want to worry them if I don’t have to.” They’d been helping me move for a week, and after all, I was an adult who didn’t need her mommy and daddy just to be told she had a pinched nerve.

Studying my chart, Dr. John told me I was going to be given a spinal tap. Then handed me his cell phone.

He had trained to be a brain surgeon, he told me as I lay on my side waiting for the spinal tap. Ok, I said to myself, then you are like McDreamy. I was obsessed at the time with Grey’s Anatomy. Kelly and I watched it every week religiously with a large bottle of wine.

He had two residents in white following him around and being very Meredith and Christina, but much less intelligent. Meredith said she needed protection in case the fluids went flying during the spinal tap. I wanted to hit her just then. She was uncomfortable and clueless, and maybe a lot like me.

But today, this bothered me. It wasn’t endearing to have a girl who reminded me of my fear standing behind me during the spinal tap. The first one of my life.

“It’s probably a virus in the spinal area,” said Dr. John carelessly. “They come and go, it’s nothing to freak out about. We won’t be shoveling dirt over you anytime soon. You look like a million bucks.”

Yes, Dr. John really did belong on Grey’s Anatomy. Who tells a 27-year-old panicked girl anything about shoveling dirt in an emergency room with numb legs?

Lying on my side, the one that reminded me of Meredith, was giggling uncomfortably as the doctor prepared the needle that would be inserted into my spine. Having a high tolerance for pain, I wasn’t too afraid. But when the needle began to sink into nerves I felt a sensation of suction as the fluid was being drawn from the small space between my the bones of my spine. The pain was intense and it took all that I had not to scream out in pain. I was suddenly so petrified of moving that not a peep escaped my mouth as simultaneously I let out a silent shriek in my mind. The needle was at last removed and I saw a brief glimpse of the fleshy colored fluid with a slight red tint as it was hurried away into a plastic baggie for testing. A baggie that had my name stuck to it with a flimsy paper printed label.

spinal tap

Just as the horror of the test was complete, I saw my mom, dad, and sister lingering in the hallway.

“Hi,” I said a bit shyly, wrapping my baby blue hospital gown around me a bit more tightly. I felt suddenly exposed, like I’d been discovered sneaking alcohol or candy from a locked cupboard. But really I was just trying to hide my potential diagnosis.

“When were you going to tell us?” my mom asked me, incredulously.

“Well, I didn’t want to worry you,” I said in a voice that sounded so small I wondered if it reached her.

“Worry me?? So you drive yourself to the Emergency Room?” she asked in shock.

“Well, I guess I didn’t think it was a big deal, and then Dr. John said…” my voice trailed off, sucked into the emptiness of the hospital walls and plastic containers, absorbed into the cold tile floor and the glass viles, waiting to be filled with blood.

Dr. John, as if hearing his cue from off-stage, entered stage left. Shaking my parents’ hands, he said to them reassuringly, “It’s not MS, so you can get that out of your heads right now.” They were words that I had never even considered, and to this day, still haunt me.