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How a Lumbar Puncture Modified my Life


This publish was printed on April 10, 2018, with newer updates and extra assets on the backside of the publish.

On April 1st, I went for a brief stroll to look at some Florida marsh hens rustle by way of the reeds and cackle on the wind. The date marked one month since I began strolling once more. I sat there, awkward and sore on a tiny bench dealing with the water, combating again tears. Regardless of a newfound pleasure about native wildlife, and my gratitude to be to be strolling once more, this was not the place I deliberate to be.

April 1st additionally marked the 10-year anniversary of leaving my profession as a lawyer in New York. On that date, I set off for Chile, forsaking a comfortable job and half a decade in a metropolis I known as residence. Within the years since, I deliberate to commemorate my 10-year journey anniversary with an enormous get together in a metropolis I beloved.

As soon as I moved to Oaxaca, I discovered it to be the right spot. The occasional thought would pop into my head throughout my lengthy wanders round city. I’d plan for my favorite stalls to take part, giving hungry guests a style of Oaxaca’s wealthy culinary curiosities. Israel’s head tacos, Mateo and Sarai’s grasshopper pizza, mole, tamales, chilaquiles, pozole, and a lot extra.  Anybody who needed to come back might, and I’d put collectively an itinerary for the week the place they might benefit from the metropolis, stuff their faces, and revel within the pleasure of studying about Zapotec and different cultures by way of meals. We’d have a mezcal-soaked multi-day academic extravaganza, with bumpy collectivo rides into the valley and loads of smiles.

my experience with a lumbar puncture leak and what blood patching
In a discipline of marigolds throughout Day of the Lifeless preparations exterior of Oaxaca. This image was taken close to Zaachila.

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, I didn’t begin Authorized Nomads with a purpose of changing into a full-time journey/meals author or public speaker. I didn’t go away the legislation with even an inkling of a brand new profession. I left for a one-year sabbatical, hoping to return to the legislation with some adventures and new experiences to name my very own.

I don’t suppose I used to be significantly good at touring. I bought sick rather a lot. I hated packing, all the time and without end. And I didn’t even care what number of international locations I visited or sights I noticed. I simply needed to continue to learn, and consuming, and exploring.

Nonetheless, in the middle of absorbing all the pieces I might, I discovered that journey and meals had been the right foils for my enduring want to write down. I all the time wrote, even when nobody was studying. In notebooks, on scraps of paper, on my laptop computer. It was catharsis and processing, rolled into one.

In Mari Andrew’s great, whimsical ebook Am I There But, she shares the story of how a shopkeeper in Berlin modified her notion of art-as-craft. “She spoke about artwork as if she had been speaking about her finest good friend or a bubble bathtub,” Mari writes. “She wasn’t creating for accolades, however for the satisfaction of a brand new paintbrush dipped in fuchsia.”

That satisfaction, of stringing phrases collectively in new methods, of sharing a perspective that hopefully affected some change, was all I wanted to really feel artistic. Writing was a software that linked me to the world in methods I by no means contemplated. By way of journey and images, and the natural journey of my surprising profession shift into meals and journey writing, I used to be capable of construct a life that taught me new classes that I might share each day.

Now, on this seemingly countless stretch of surprising adjustments, writing has been bodily tough at a time I wanted it most. For a lot of months, I’ve been in great quantities of ache, unable to take a seat or stroll or stand. I actually felt like all the pieces I labored arduous to construct was gone.

It All Started With a Lumbar Puncture…

For these of you simply tuning in: sudden and really scary signs led me to the ER in Brooklyn, the place they carried out a lumbar puncture to rule out sure situations. Honestly, it was probably the most painful experiences of my life. It’s not alleged to be a painful process, however for me it was as a result of the native anesthetic didn’t work.

I used to be instructed one of many rarer dangers of the process was “a headache” that may go away after just a few days. What I didn’t know on the time, and want that I did, was that lumbar punctures are the commonest iatrogenic reason behind spinal CSF leaks—and that the chance of a leak will not be as uncommon as believed, particularly for petite ladies like me.

After my painful ER go to, I returned to the house I used to be cat-sitting at after midnight, solely to search out it burgled in my absence. Upon my sharing this element with readers after the shock wore off, one thoughtlessly commented that I should have “angered the karma gods.” Really, it might be fairly the other. We’ve a screenshot of the particular person as he got here in by way of the window, due to my mates’ nanny cam of their baby’s room, the room climbed the hearth escape to enter. His head is absolutely coated in a patterned ski masks, he’s sporting gloves, and he’s carrying a white material in his hand. His description matched residence invasion rapes in that borough, the white material in these circumstances soaked in chloroform.

Do we all know what he deliberate that night? No. Upon seeing the screenshot, mates agreed with my vile principle that housebreaking may very well have been the comfort prize. The entire thing made me sick to my abdomen to consider.

Already in a lot ache following the spinal faucet, I couldn’t be alone within the house, even through the day, since I used to be confined to mattress. Pals stepped up and rotated day and evening till my mum and stepdad might arrive from Montreal to take me again to Canada. Some introduced meals, others introduced hugs. Most easily sat with me, soaking within the madness of what I known as my “black swan evening.”

I didn’t point out this a part of the story in my earlier, as a result of at that time my mind was a frozen video, buffering nonstop. However it is vital now as a result of lots of you might have requested why I’m not extra indignant, which is a sound query. I don’t suppose anger serves me right here, and it definitely gained’t assist my therapeutic. But in addition, there’s a clear line within the sand from that very traumatic evening.

The divergence of fates: the Jodi that stayed residence, versus the one which went to the ER.

A Winter of Extremes: Submit Puncture Dural Headache to Spinal CSF Leak, and All the things in Between

The lumbar puncture (or spinal faucet, since many individuals use that time period as an alternative) led to a debilitating situation known as a cerebrospinal fluid leak, a spinal CSF leak.

Cerebrospinal fluid is the fluid that surrounds the mind and spinal twine, contained by a connective tissue sheath known as the dura mater. Latin for “robust mom,” the dura mater has a essential job: it retains the CSF inside its borders to cushion and shield the mind and backbone.

A gap or tear within the dura leads to a lack of CSF quantity, which means that the pure waterbed shielding the backbone and mind is lowered, and the mind sinks inside the pinnacle. When an individual is upright, this sinking impacts the physique in a myriad of torturous methods, together with “mind sag,” a telltale sensation of strain and intense ache in the back of the pinnacle.

Different signs can embody dizziness, nausea, ache between the shoulder blades, bladder dysfunction, low mendacity cerebellar tonsils, nerve ache, and in rarer circumstances subdural hematomas, Parkinson’s-like tremors, unsteady gait, seizures, and extra.

The positional signs are an essential diagnostic clue. When mendacity flat, CSF strain within the head and backbone are equal. When upright, the strain within the head is way decrease than within the backside of the backbone. For these affected by a CSF leak, the extra lack of CSF quantity from the leak causes a fair bigger drop in strain when standing.

Once I laid flat, the “mind sag” dissipated, as did most of my different signs.

I point out these particulars as a result of few medical suppliers are particularly taught to acknowledge and diagnose spinal CSF leaks. Given the dearth of coaching, myths persist that lead sufferers to be misdiagnosed or disadvantaged of therapy after a post-puncture leak.

Like me.

Initially, my signs had been categorized as a post-dural puncture headache (PDPH). Honestly, calling it a “headache” considerably undershoots the systemic ache that I described within the signs above.

That “headache” usually resolves with conservative administration: mendacity flat, caffeine, numerous hydration. However for a lot of sufferers it doesn’t and an epidural blood patch is required. It is a process the place the docs inject your personal blood into the epidural area, to create a clot that enables your physique to heal the realm of the leak. The patch will not be the lasting “seal” itself; the mechanism of motion encourages your physique to knit tissue again collectively on the leak web site whereas briefly stopping CSF outflow.

I did return to the hospital in New York to attempt to get one, however was instructed that it had its personal dangers and that I should heal high-quality by myself. I particularly requested whether or not or not it was doable that I didn’t heal, and that not getting a patch can be an issue for therapeutic.

“I’ve by no means heard of that occuring”, mentioned the physician.

I want he was proper.

A number of weeks later, at that time in Montreal, it was clear that I wasn’t therapeutic.

Terrified, and bleakly wanting on the calendar towards my supposed departure for Oaxaca in October, I spent my hours in a state of half-shock, half-Nancy Drew. I learn research, discussion board posts, panicked write-ups and extra from across the net for any assist I might discover.

On reflection, I spotted that lots of the points of the puncture—the place (curled over the facet of the mattress), the needles (18g, very giant), the sort (chopping needles), and that it wasn’t completed underneath steerage—all contributed to my leak being advanced however to the truth that I obtained a spinal leak from the process.

The hospital’s recommendation to put down that night after which simply keep on as regular additionally prevented self-healing after a process with all of these danger elements. I didn’t know that lots of the issues I did—like shaving my legs within the bathe, bending in sure methods, lifting a jug of milk, and so on. had been all issues that doubtless impeded my therapeutic at a essential time.

Unsurprisingly, the most important assist for my subsequent steps got here from my very own neighborhood.

Just a few months previous to the spinal CSF leak, I made some extent of visiting a mini cow named Moochi, who I discovered on Instagram. I could or might not have attended a convention in Los Angeles partly to facilitate this bovine assembly. On the time, he was co-owned by a man named Tim.

It seems that Tim was courting a girl who beforehand had a CSF leak—besides she had hers for years previous to prognosis. Her leak was spontaneous, making it a lot tougher to find, and he or she ended up needing surgical procedure to repair it. She had a connective tissue dysfunction, widespread for these with spontaneous CSF leaks (each spinal and cranial) and was a beacon of sanity throughout these early months.

She added me to a personal CSF leak group on Fb with a number of thousand leak sufferers from all over the world.

serendipitous meetings led me to seek treatment at duke for a csf leak
I see no motive why this cow shouldn’t contribute to my rationale for attending a convention.

In that Fb group, I realized about individuals’s suggestions and methods for making an attempt to “self-heal” so I might maximize my very own physique’s capability to seal up the holes from the lumbar puncture. My days concerned numerous relaxation, dietary supplements, and restricted motion.

Sadly, sealing up with out assist proved to be fruitless. Confined to mattress, I spent hours reading, and feeling much less hopeful by the day.

Along with the “mind sag” I skilled the second I used to be upright, I additionally suffered a brand new slew of signs that I by no means had earlier than. Nerve ache in my tailbone and sacrum, burning ache up and down my backbone, a brand new, sudden reactivity to meals I had no points consuming earlier than, muscle twitching, insomnia, and a complete host of disagreeable different issues that I gained’t bore you with proper now.

Suffice it to say that CSF exterior the dura mater, the membrane that protects the mind and spinal twine and retains the CSF from coursing round willy-nilly, doesn’t really feel good for the remainder of the physique. My nervous system was deeply affected, and my physique barely felt like my very own.

Concurrently, there was lots of shock and grief.

I used to be alleged to be internet hosting readers on meals walks in Oaxaca, however as an alternative I used to be in lots of ache, an increasing number of deconditioned by the day. From individuals I spoke with and case research I learn, a number of months of leaking meant sealing the outlet(s) may very well be extra sophisticated than a easy blood patch.

Spinal CSF leak sufferers in Canada urged me to go to a specialty centre as an alternative of making an attempt to pursue therapy domestically.

American sufferers even mentioned they wished that they had gone straight to one of many specialty centres as an alternative of their native hospitals. And on condition that Canadian docs had already claimed I had a migraine as an alternative of a spinal CSF leak, I didn’t want a lot convincing.

The issue was, with ten years of nomadism, I had no residency or major physician to refer me.

I needed to discover the power to get artistic and discover a manner for the centre to take me on, which felt not possible in my present state. However, I slogged by way of and organized to get the MRIs wanted for my submission to Duke, wrote a canopy letter that my mates proofed for me, and despatched it off. Mendacity down for 23 hours out of 24 in a day, I used to be merely in purgatory, hoping that Duke would comply with see me.

I considered easy methods to share the sheer futility of what waking up felt like with out sounding dramatic, however there really isn’t any manner. These starting few months sapped any pleasure for all times that I had out of me, and I might open my eyes within the morning questioning what the purpose of combating was. The ache was excruciating second to second. I actually felt waterlogged with sorrow.

I couldn’t placed on my socks for months, or bend, or twist, and my subsequent steps had been a swirling limbo of administrative papers and MRIs. I noticed life by way of a prism that solely confirmed me extremes.

after the spinal tap but before epidural blood patching
Sundown in Montreal throughout a chilly autumn night in November.

Throughout these months, what saved me afloat was family and friends, and help from my neighborhood. My shut mates had been a bridge to a state of sanity that felt far out of attain. They jogged my memory every day of all of the (sometimes loopy) issues I did battle for in my life. Once I merely replied that I couldn’t formulate phrases anymore, they’d all the time maintain area for my disappointment.

North Carolina for the First Time: Blood Patching at Duke

All of us knew was that Duke gave the impression to be the finest within the enterprise for patching spinal leaks. So I attempted to place what little vitality I had towards combating for the MRIs I wanted from the Canadian facet as a way to be thought-about for therapy.

Fortunately my stubbornness paid off, they usually agreed to take me on in early December. My mum and stepdad, who had already fetched me in New York after which fed me and adjusted my socks for months, volunteered to drive me all the way down to North Carolina. Laying within the again seat and staring out the sunroof throughout a number of painful days gave me loads of “what ifs” to consider.

By the point I bought to Duke, I used to be shaking with exhaustion.

I hope to write down extra in regards to the patching course of, in addition to issues I wanted I knew forward of time, as there are lots of.

The salient factors are: the primary and second spherical of patches didn’t work. The third did, and threw me into agonizing “rebound excessive strain,” the place the leak was sealed however I had extra CSF fluid since my physique was so accustomed to leaking. Then, two weeks into being sealed, I fell again right into a chair as I used to be sitting for dinner, and tore by way of my therapeutic.

The rollercoaster of highs and lows from this expertise was itself a international, polarizing spectrum of feelings. From not figuring out if the patching labored, to navigating excessive strain, then adjusting remedy to attempt to stabilize strain, adopted by the crushing data that I used to be again to leaking after I sat too closely— it was all an excessive amount of. I used to be so extremely cautious with each single motion I made, and a small slip was all it took to be thrown again to sq. one.

Blood and Glue Patching for a Spinal CSF Leak

I ended up needing 4 rounds of blood and glue patching at Duke.

This concerned injecting the blood and glue into my epidural area, unfold alongside twenty-two focused patches whole. The jaw-dropping a part of this whole CSF leak expertise is that it’s very tough to know precisely the place to inject. For iatrogenic leakers like me, who bought a lumbar puncture or epidural or injection, they’ve a normal thought. However puncture leaks present up on imaging solely a small share of the time and thus pinpointing the precise location within the dura could be very tough.

So regardless of figuring out the final “lumbar space”, it nonetheless took a number of rounds to get me sealed. The preliminary spinal faucet was not completed with fluoroscopic steerage, and there have been a number of makes an attempt. In some circumstances, the needles undergo to the anterior facet and the affected person requires a 360 diploma patch—one thing Duke pioneered, and I obtained.

right before blood and fibrin glue patching at duke's radiology department
Me, in my llama rainbow shirt — a present from my good friend Honza — proper earlier than my first patch at Duke

The whole CSF leak crew at Duke Radiology was extraordinary, and sometimes work collectively for difficult circumstances. I tipped into that class following patching spherical two, and was impressed with how they every consulted one another. They had been clear about their course of, and prior to every patch my physician sat down with me to debate his technique for the process.

My physician was compassionate and sort, and prepared to reply my many questions. He checked in with me steadily by textual content following every patch, and known as when issues bought worse. On condition that he was the one physician I had, I very a lot appreciated his care. He additionally gave me extra religion within the medical career after feeling so disillusioned by my therapy in New York and Montreal.

Spontaneous spinal CSF leakers like Tim’s ex-girlfriend can blow leaks of their dura merely residing life. The situation known as SIH, spontaneous intracranial hypotension. These sufferers usually have an underlying connective tissue dysfunction that makes their tissue much less strong than regular. As a result of MRI and CT imaging will not be but delicate sufficient to simply present smaller leaks, it stays very tough to diagnose these sufferers and/or know the place to patch.

The imaging to search out leaks is itself invasive: on the lookout for a leak usually requires a CT-Myelogram or Digital Subtraction Myelogram, each requiring intrathecal (contained in the dura) injections of distinction dye to search for the leak web site. So discovering the leak requires making a brand new gap, which itself can and has made new leaks.

It usually takes them years and years of misdiagnoses earlier than SIH sufferers are capable of get therapy for a CSF leak.

In my case, my narrative was clear: I had a lumbar puncture, and was incapacitated proper after it. Regardless of these information, and that I didn’t have neurological points or complications previous to the lumbar puncture, the docs I noticed rejected me for a blood patch till I bought to Duke. It’s much more tough to get look after spontaneous spinal CSF leak sufferers.

These spontaneous spinal CSF sufferers are a giant share of Duke’s CSF follow.

For a 2021 replace that connects the dots to why my lumbar puncture led to a power spinal CSF leak, please see My Continual Ache Defined. It seems that I’ve each a connective tissue dysfunction, and a mast cell dysfunction, each of which make my scenario extra sophisticated.

Gradual and Regular Wins the Race: Recovering from my CSF Leak

After the fourth spherical of patching, it wasn’t clear whether or not I used to be sealed. I used to be in a cycle of getting leak signs and laying flat, then propped up with larger strain signs, feeling like my head was going to pop off my neck. Rising above the snarled periphery of very tough information proved to be a problem.

It wasn’t till early March 2018 that my signs evened out. I made a decision that I might begin strolling on March 1 no matter how I felt, however in late February I nonetheless wasn’t positive what was happening. After patching, I spent most of my days meditating, visualizing my physique’s therapeutic, and studying. Vipassana meditation proved very invaluable, as did different meditations I’ve tried through the years.

All through, the main target is on a ‘second to second’ scale. When your entire moments are strung along with a tightrope of ache, nonetheless, seconds really feel like hours. It took fixed vigilance to tirelessly reroute my ideas and keep in a spot of risk. I fought myself on the information that augured failure, and the hum of dread that sucked me again right into a spiral of ‘what ifs’.

By early March, my dad and stepmum had been taking good care of me in Florida. On March 1, I walked from their home to the top of their avenue, just a few homes away. I got here again exhausted. Daily, I compelled myself a home additional. By the top of the week, I made it to the cease signal. And by mid-March, in what felt like a miracle, I used to be strolling an hour a day.

The walks got here with lots of again ache and mind fog, however with out the “mind sag” feeling that I felt for 5 months when leaking.

In my dedication to quiet my thoughts, I’ve been capable of hearken to my physique. Prior to now, I’ve pushed my physique previous exhaustion. Now, when it says to cease, I cease. There’s a distinction between including an additional home on my stroll and tipping right into a deep weariness.

I struggled to distinguish between the 2 through the years, however the excessive stakes throughout this journey have confirmed a wonderful motivator to get higher at listening. This implies taking issues very slowly, a lot extra slowly than a Jodi would have completed through the magnetic, vivid depth of those final ten years.

recovery post blood patching
I can’t complain with views like these.

The Present of Give up

Once I checked into Duke for that final spherical of patching, I used to be not nervous for the procedures. I assumed I knew precisely what to anticipate. The blood patches had been painful however easy. I even knew the nurses by title! However spherical 4 veered far off-script once I had an allergic response to the fibrin glue and went into anaphylaxis. Fuchsia from head to toe, my coronary heart racing, eyes swollen shut and throat starting to constrict, I obtained IV steroids after which an epinephrine jab within the leg.

I’ve by no means wanted to hold an EpiPen or had allergic reactions earlier than. The expertise of anaphylaxis was each surreal and scary, however I’m sharing for one major motive: within the midst of all of the commotion, I felt full calm. Although my physique was shaking wildly from the epinephrine, my thoughts was regular.

Later that day, my physician requested me if I used to be calm on account of shock. Nevertheless it wasn’t that in any respect. I felt deeply at peace with the prospect of dying. I felt no massive regrets, solely the small nagging ache of particular time wasted that I wanted I might undo. I pursued a life that excited me, and I constructed a enterprise I beloved. I caught to my requirements and wrote items I used to be pleased with. Someway, this stuff introduced in an unimaginable neighborhood of readers who supported my work and located worth in it. After all I most well-liked to stay, but when this was the top, I used to be comfortable with that.

On the finish of final 12 months’s publish, I wrote that the lesson for that 12 months was one in every of acceptance. After virtually a decade of being a digital nomad, I settled down in Oaxaca and put down some roots in a scrumptious metropolis I beloved.

As with virtually all the pieces else on this story of unwitting transformation, acceptance teed me up for this 12 months’s basic message: give up. When all the pieces that is smart distorts right into a haze of mindless confusion, all you are able to do is let go.

It took many months for me to get right here.

First, the disbelief. Then, as I understood extra of what had occurred to my physique and the constraints many have, even when healed from a CSF leak, extra grief. “In the end there’s no escape from residing with uncertainty, for anybody,” says The Atlantic. There’s no rocket science there. However what occurs when the not-knowing includes each facet of your motion and life?

Most of the spinal CSF leak sufferers who had a tough time getting sealed, or re-leaked months or years later doing one thing seemingly innocuous. They blew a leak of their dura doing downward-facing canine throughout yoga, or when the aircraft re-pressurized upon touchdown. Or leaning down to select up some laundry. Some by no means get sealed in any respect.

For now, there is no such thing as a bending, lifting, or twisting. “Perhaps without end!” jokes a fellow affected person, and as with all morbid humour, there’s some reality.

Who is aware of. None of us is aware of a lot. In any case, life is actually chaos and our personalities dictate the place on the “exhilarated to terrifying” line we fall to deal with the disarray.

My present not-knowing is so disproportionate, so definitive. No matter what occurs, I’ll by no means have the ability to transfer with out consciously pondering of potential harm. I can’t danger it. And I’ll by no means have the ability to stay the life I led earlier than. That’s to not say I can’t construct a special, good, life with what I’ve now. I’m working towards constructing a special model that may deliver me pleasure in new methods.

However there stays a fantastic deal to course of and grieve inside the very eventful final seven months, as issues have irrevocably modified.


I reread Viktor Frankl’s ebook Man’s Search For Which means throughout these tough months. Frankl’s time in Auschwitz led to his growth of logotherapy in his psychiatry follow, however the ebook delves into his theories of why sure individuals managed to outlive the Nazi camps.

Frankl noticed life as a quest for which means, present in work, in love, and in braveness throughout tough instances. Amongst his beliefs was that struggling itself is meaningless, however we give struggling which means by the way in which we reply to it. Or, as Harold S. Kushner writes within the introduction to the newest model, that “forces past your management can take away all the pieces you possess besides one factor, your freedom to decide on the way you reply to the scenario.”

As a substitute of beating round in grief, I’ve chosen to deal with the presents which have come out of this very sophisticated 12 months. With these information, issues might have been rather a lot worse. As a substitute of being confined to isolation, I’ve you to stroll this path with me. My neighborhood all over the world raised their voices and opened their pocketbooks to maintain me afloat once I couldn’t handle it. You reply to my progress walks on Instagram, you cheerlead each replace, and your birding expertise helped me establish the beloved marsh hens that I fell for throughout this restoration.

A number of of you might have mentioned you may be pursuing a prognosis for CSF leaks primarily based on the signs I shared. Others wrote to say you had been docs or anesthesiologists, and when you had been skilled to know CSF leaks, my story helped remind you of the dangers. Once I say neighborhood, I imply everybody. Household. Pals. Readers. Journey bloggers. Mother and father of journey bloggers (the quantity of notes from mother and father of journey bloggers has been astounding and exquisite.) Strangers.

I’m fortunate since you’ve helped me really feel like my work issues. You’ve helped me bear in mind why my life had which means. And even when I can’t return and do all the pieces I used to do, I nonetheless have my phrases.

Attending to give up wouldn’t have been doable with out my shut mates. There are a number of who stepped up, however I wouldn’t be right here with out my sister-from-another-mister Shannon. You might know her from my 2011 winter in Chiang Mai and plenty of subsequent misadventures. She occurred to be in Virginia once I bought to Duke, a mere 4 hours drive away. Because of her versatile schedule and skill to work anyplace, I used to be capable of keep close to Duke and get the therapy I wanted over the course of many weeks. She not solely drove me down from North Carolina to Florida, however stayed with me for over two and a half months, and shouldered the exhausting job of taking good care of me whereas managing the numerous, many nights of tears.

shannon a little adrift
Shannon from A Little Adrift, and me, in North Carolina. I couldn’t have gotten by way of these months with out her.

I did spend time mired within the unfairness of the scenario, and fearful of what might go fallacious subsequent. Regardless of the stats that say many individuals leak and re-leak once more when their first leaks are tough to repair, I made a decision to decide on risk. Regardless of the second to second ache that’s my current. It doesn’t matter, as a result of really we simply don’t know what’s doable.

There was a quiet, twisted grace in that give up to risk, a present I by no means anticipated.

What’s Subsequent for Authorized Nomads?

My mates, I have no idea.

I nonetheless need to write, and I’m grateful that I’ve Authorized Nomads, the place I can accomplish that. I nonetheless have many celiac guides to place up. I’ve a course about storytelling I used to be planning to launch. And so many tales about Oaxaca and Day of the Lifeless, in regards to the historical past of various meals, and images from all over the world.

The fantastic thing about a location unbiased enterprise is that it exists wherever there’s wifi. Whether or not or not I will journey, nonetheless, could be very a lot up within the air. This will probably be one thing I take sooner or later at a time, identical to my therapeutic.

It’s this enterprise that gave me a full shot at therapeutic. The power to remain close to Duke as wanted. The buddies who additionally led versatile lives and will come to assist out. The celiac playing cards and maps of meals that promote although I’m not on-line. The truth that I don’t must file for incapacity or fear about shedding my job. I’ve lots to fret about by way of stability and skill to work, nevertheless it’s rather a lot much less nerve-racking than had I nonetheless been a lawyer.

There’s loads of speak about digital nomads, and an increasing number of mainstream information items protecting the motion. Most interviews level out how liberating it’s to maneuver at will, and for me doing so whereas forging nice, lasting friendships has made the final ten years an unimaginable journey. However the flipside is the flexibleness when life goes awry, one thing I considered however by no means needed to train with such impunity.

One Day We Will Have a Celebration Collectively

The flowers on this publish’s header picture are cockscomb celosia, my favorite flower on the planet. I found them years in the past, and beloved that they regarded like tiny brains. To me, they symbolized resilience and marvel, and I usually purchased them in New York throughout my lawyering days. I fell for Saigon in a heartbeat, and clapped my arms with absolute glee once I discovered that my beloved flowers had been a mainstay of the lunar new 12 months, Tet. In Oaxaca, the third metropolis I fell for, I realized that they had been an essential part to Day of the Lifeless.

(In the event you’re questioning, the second metropolis I fell for was Lisbon, and although I deliberate to maneuver there Oaxaca stole my coronary heart within the interim.)

Folks inform me that these flowers symbolize braveness and boldness. I used to be drawn to them for his or her quirky form, however after the final seven months I really feel brave, too.

After touring to locations throughout army coups, getting sick alongside the way in which as travellers do, stepping into accidents, and a lot extra, it was a easy medical process in New York that introduced me down.

The stubbornness that saved me going through the shadow days of long run journey helped maintain me afloat right here. And the neighborhood I constructed alongside the way in which took over once I simply didn’t have the vitality.

jodi ettenberg
April 1, 2018. I took this after a brief stroll, marvelling at what an intense ten years it has been.

I nonetheless plan to have that get together sooner or later. It doesn’t matter how lengthy it takes, or the place it finally ends up being held. All of you who need to attend and rejoice with me, ought to. A commemoration of what others may even see as unconventional, however now additionally a nod to resilience. To the help we are able to afford one another when shit will get actual. To remembering that whereas we typically appear very totally different from each other, deep down all of us share a lot.

It feels surreal that this all occurred through the previous seven months. Life can change with one small misstep, or a sequence of massive ones. I couldn’t have written this movie-like script if I attempted, in my most artistic circulate state. It’s simply so loopy, and even with this intensive publish, I haven’t shared the total extent of what has gone fallacious.

It’s been one deeply tangled net of a 12 months, all sharp angles and concern. Even the small occasions appear virtually extreme of their depth and impact.

However I’m nonetheless right here.

That alone is celebration sufficient for me.


UPDATE OCTOBER 2018: My Spinal CSF Leak Reopened

My therapeutic continued on a gradual course, regardless of some setbacks, and in August 2018 I used to be capable of climb Mount Royal in Montreal with my mum – an enormous feat after all the pieces you learn on this publish. I used to be clocking in 4-5km a day of strolling comfortably, and trying to lastly get again to work.

Sadly, late September 2018 I sat on the ground and stretched the fallacious manner. I felt a little bit of a “pop,” after which the entire signs of leaking returned over the following few weeks: the mind sag, the neuro signs (muscle twitching), circulation points, mild sensitivity, neck ache, tailbone burning and ache, and way more.

I knew I couldn’t do fibrin patching once more, given the anaphylaxis I wrote about above. Blood patching alone, the docs mentioned, usually took a number of makes an attempt for advanced circumstances, and I had already tried 4 patching rounds with fibrin.

Folks have requested about surgical procedure, however I shouldn’t have a precise leak location, since my exact space of the leak didn’t present up on imaging. There’s the choice of exploratory surgical procedure with one physician, however they recommended exhausting much less invasive choices first, like one other spherical of patching.

I hope to return to Duke for blood-only patching once I can.

UPDATE: 2022, nonetheless leaking 🙁

It turned out that there have been different problems that bought in the way in which of going again to Duke. I’ve not been in contact with them for a while whereas I determine these problems out with the assistance of specialists. Amongst them is important mast cell dysfunction, which led me to write down a assets web page about mast cell activation dysfunction (12,000 phrases and counting!). I replace that information when new research come out. Attempting to get on high of that situation is a giant problem.

As well as, I’ve some nerve harm and adhesions in my backbone that confirmed up on a current MRI, which add further dangers to patching. I hope to get my physique robust sufficient to get patched sooner or later.

It has been a heartbreaking growth after slowly increase power throughout these months of being sealed and on my solution to healed. The toughest a part of being again right here is figuring out how arduous it was to seal up final time, and the fragility of that seal even months later.

Since 2018, I spent a very long time in mattress and slowly gained extra mobility over time. Presently, I’m “functionally leaking”—or semi-functionally not less than. Since 2021, I stay independently. My brother and his companion come over as soon as per week to assist with groceries, laundry, and batch cooking when wanted.

I’ve arrange the house I’m in with accessible choices to assist me day-to-day. I stroll 3km just a few instances per week when climate permits. I stand as much as sort and write once I can, making an attempt to benefit from my few “up” hours a day. A few of that point goes to the fundamentals of residing alone, like cooking or doing dishes or the like. Principally, it’s a day of calculus: how a lot can I do earlier than I want to put flat once more?

And it’s a day filled with ache.

In the previous few years, I self-experimented with regenerative drugs, dietary supplements, and extra to attempt to get me upright sufficient to perform as I’m. These did get me extra standing time, however didn’t seal the leak. I anticipate needing to be patched once more to attempt to get a seal, however the problems talked about above issue into the choice and for now I’ve taken a conservative method.

After residing with household and prolonged household for 4 years, residing alone has been delightfully quiet. My head is so delicate with a spinal CSF leak that having nobody speaking round you makes a giant distinction.

Once I releaked I assumed it will imply I might be dependent without end day-to-day. I’m definitely not unbiased by regular means, however clawing again some semblance of life once more has been rewarding, and it has allowed me to spend a few of my time working by myself initiatives.

Amongst them is a protracted assets web page for CSF leaks (spinal and cranial) that’s not but full. Hopefully it helps others keep away from the confusion and panic of making an attempt to determine what was happening in my physique after my lumbar puncture.

I realized all of this too late, however hopefully my writing helps inform individuals to have the knowledge in hand once they want it most.

These previous couple of years, one of many hardest issues has been the psychological facet of adjusting to the truth that a life I beloved was taken away. Accepting this case took lots of work, however I extra resilient for it.

I discuss a bit about how I’ve completed that in an October 2021 video interview with The Browser:

I extremely suggest a therapist specializing in grief for anybody working by way of this important of a life shift. The lack of what you knew and the acceptance of this difficult place as an alternative are each very tough with out that further steerage.

How You Can Assist

I get many beautiful messages asking easy methods to help me on this time. The very best methods are:

  • By way of a one-time help donation, under, which helps cowl my enterprise bills and hire and permits me to assist sharing free assets and lift extra consciousness for my situation.
  • By way of my Patreon, the place you’ll be able to help me in my writing and work on a month-to-month foundation. I share movies and assets for dealing with power ache, meditation strategies that work for me, and reply questions from the neighborhood about accessibility, leaks, journey, and extra. (You’ll additionally get a hand-drawn fowl as a part of your rewards for no matter tier you select!)

patreon jodi ettenberg

Sources for Spinal CSF Leaks





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