Tuesday, March 2, 2010


For Stephanie Jones Jordan

To catch up on her story (these will open in separate tabs: part1, part 2, part 3, part, 4, part 5

This is the point that life slows down, as if she is moving underwater. Her husband, mother, sister, father are on the phone with doctors, hospitals, pain specialists, administrators. The soonest she can see a neurologist is four months. While she's waiting, she visits twelve different doctors. Twelve- that's a dozen- that's a carton of eggs. Only each egg is a different hospital visit, a different series of tests and questions, a different doctor- all of them backing away and shaking their head. We can't help you, they say. It's too risky. You have headaches now, but if we tried to help you you might end of a quadriplegic, or dead. It seems no one has experience with spinal leaks, especially leaks in the upper spine.

The neurologist passes her off to a neurosurgeon- another 4 week wait. The surgeon performs a myelogram, an injection of dye which courses through her column and illustrates where the leaks occurred. Her insurance company has by this time thrown up their hands- for an injury this rare, it seems as if all procedures are ‘experimental’. So she pays out of pocket for the myelogram, ten thousand dollars.

The myelogram is hell. Over and over she voices her fear, but the nurses and the radiologist only nod, instruct her to lie down. The neurosurgeon never even walks into the room. Instead, it is a medical student performs this enormously risk procedure- his first ever. As she lies on the silver table in the antiseptic room, shivering and clenching her teeth to hold still, she starts to give up a little. Starts to sink away a little bit, starts to give up. She can hear the radiologist hiss at the medical student- not there! Not there! Okay- Now inject- that’s too much! That’s too much!

Her modicum of comfort arises from the the presence of flouriscope- the radiologist can watch the entire path of the needle into her neck by way of x-ray. This technology was absent during the shot that caused the injury, all those months ago. She remembers thinking, well, at least this way if the needle misses, I’m going to be a paraplegic, not a quadriplegic.

What she doesn't know is that neither the radiologist or the medical student had even glanced at her charts. Nobody knows that this entire tragedy began with a faulty needle to the spine.
As she is wheeled out, a nurse whispers to her, "I'm sorry. I had no idea this was such a risky procedure." During the hours of recovery, the head of the department meets with Steph and her furious mother. The doctor sighs, rotates his wrists so that his palms face towards the sky. "Look, this is a teaching hospital. We should have told you that. This was a horrible procedure. I don’t know why they didn’t look at your charts. I don’t know why. But the good news, is that the procedure went off well. And we looked at your dies, and we didn’t find any leaks. You should be getting better any day now."

Yeah, any day now.

They tell her to stay down another day. She stays down for two- her practice now is to double the amount of time they advise her to lay flat. But on the third day she sits up- and her spine springs another leak- ( actually, another ten leaks, but how could they know that yet?). The headaches come barreling back, vision tunneling, throwing up over the toilet, and she is back to square one.

What follows is only natural. Crying jags that last for hours and hours, panic attacks, waking up at night to find she cannot breath. As the days pass with no answers, no improvements, the reality of her situation begins to sink in. She thinks to herself, I don't want to live like this anymore. She thinks to herself.

Look- I don't know how to write about this anymore. I can't do it justice in words, I'm not sure anybody could. I want to hurry and rush through these articles just to get to the end, to the happy ending. But the happy ending hasn't occurred. Not yet.

(Any day now....)


Katie M said...

Melina, I've really been enjoying your writing, your perspective, your rawness. Thank you for sharing Stephanie's story, I'm missing her!

Tracy said...

This story is breaking my heart. Please tell me there's a happy ending?!

On a separate note, Lina your writing is (of course) amazing.

martha said...

Oh what a terrible thing to go through. Hang in there Steph. You can do it!

Anonymous said...

I've been following this story and I wanted to say that I've been through something similar although not so severe!!!! But I am familiar with the feeling of 'will this ever end?' It will Steph, it will! Remarkable things will happen when it's all over.
-K. Bennet

Cassandra said...

Oh, how horrible... My prayers go out to Steph and to you Melina. xoxo

littlehouse said...

oh steph- i had no idea. thinking about you - alot.

melina- hurry back to NC.

Stephanie said...

And yes, there is a happy ending. I'm not sure what it is yet, but there will be one. There have been so many lessons a long the way so many that I wouldn't even change the circumstances. I'm forever grateful for the teachings and for those of you that have continually supported and encouraged me and my family, especially on those darkest days.

And Lina, thanks for making me feel so special. You have a real gift!

Brett Barton said...

Melina, great writing. I just read through all of these and I have no words to other than I am stunned. I had no idea something was possible. Stephanie, my heart goes out to you. If I can help out have Ammen call me.