Huge news – I finally did a lumbar puncture!
The LP has always been my white whale, and having tried multiple times previously and never managed to reach that elusive ‘gin-clear’ fluid that is promised by frustratingly smug textbooks, I was considering giving up entirely, hoping there would always be someone more competent around to do it…
Not exactly a great solution to the problem, especially given my desired training plan of becoming an anaesthetist. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to learn to perform the procedure successfully, and it was simply a matter of practice practice practice
(see my previous The Anxious Doctor post – It’s okay to fail )
So when the opportunity arose on a rainy Sunday morning to have another crack, I swallowed the knot in my throat and put myself forward for the task. I knew the procedure through and through, given I’d done all the steps several times previously, so everything right up to the needle going in was plain sailing. I slid the needle in…
Bump. The all too familiar feeling of bone on needle advised I aim a little further north. Bump, same again. The familiar sinking feeling and cold sweat trickled down my back.
“You’ve messed it up as usual, you’re never going to get this”, my brain helpfully offered up. I started feeling incredibly hot and bothered under the facemask and heavy gown that had become the new norm.
“Just keep trying” my registrar calmly offered up, not a hint of hurry in his voice. So I continued to readjust, checking my angle of attack and ensuring I wasn’t hitting anything important.
Then I felt it – pop
“Yeah that’s it!” smiled the registrar, noticing the unmistakable sight of needle popping through ligament.
An enormous grin tore across my face as the beautifully clear fluid trickled out of the end of the needle, and plipped into the collection tube.
I’d finally done it! And with that, my fear of a procedure that had eluded me for years vanished in a matter of minutes. It’s really hard to keep forcing yourself to practice procedures that you’ve struggled with in the past, especially when they involve putting needles in the very person you’re trying to help feel better, but the persistence pays off – you’ll get there in the end.
The Medical Registrar. A legendary fountain of wisdom and hope for juniors everywhere.