PICC Me

   As has been the case since the beginning of my cancer treatment adventure, the anticipation and anxiety created by an upcoming procedure, has been worse than the procedure itself. The one exception has been having to give myself fourteen injections, that was worse than I had thought it would be.

On Day One of my transplant procedure, I had a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC) line inserted into my body. The PICC line is a small skinny tube that is inserted directly into a large artery in my arm and fed along that vein to my heart. It doesn’t enter the heart, that would be bad, but it is positioned near the heart, so that the medication gets to the heart quickly. It is meant to replace the need for an IV line every time I need to have something administered into my blood stream.

   That explanation is watered down, but it still sounds terrible and it sounds painful. This is the point where I have proved to be my own worst enemy. Even though I know people that have had PICC lines in the past, not once did I try to reach out and get some concrete information. I simply stuck to the literature about its use and the procedure required to have one put in my body. I spent all my time cringing and worrying as I read, which made the anticipation of my first day in the hospital a nerve-racking experience. I could have alleviated some of this by talking to someone that had had a PICC line, but I never did. I just fretted about it. So, let me help out any people that may need to have a PICC line installed in the future.

Having a PICC line installed took just under an hour, most of which was taken up by explanation and preparation, including ultrasound to locate a vein capable of handling the line. The actual line being inserted took about ten minutes. I didn’t feel the tube as it made its way up the vein.

   The only actual pain was at the insertion site on my arm, after that there was nothing. The procedure was preformed by a clinical nurse. Professional and efficient, she explained everything in advance and again as she put in the line. When it was all said and done, I had two valves hanging out of my arm. They were secured and bandaged in place and I was sent to have a chest x-ray, to be sure that the device was in place properly. With that all done, I was sent to admitting with my luggage in tow, to begin my extended hospital stay. I really don’t feel the PICC line, except maybe in my mind.

The first use of the line I expected to be the next day when I was due to receive my blood-killing dose of chemotherapy medication, that was not the case. Once I was settled into my room, I was informed by the nurse that she would be needing to take blood. I threw out my arms and told her to pick a vein. She looked at me with a smile in her eyes, and said she wasn’t going to poke me to draw my blood. She then took out a few empty vials and proceeded to insert them into the valves of the PICC line. How sweet is this?!!! No more smacking my arms to get a vein to pop up, no more puncture wounds or needles inserted. She just attached the vials and they filled with my blood! I hate to say it, but it was ‘easy-peasy’!!

   While I am in the hospital all fluids going in and out of my body, will be going via my PICC line. Day Two will be the chemo and Day Three will have my stem cells transplanted back into my body and in between, blood being drawn out. All done in a painless process.

I still can’t shake the thought that I have a piece of rubber hose running into my body and ending near my heart, but truthfully, there is no pain, and the only discomfort is where the valves hang out of my body. Any sensations I feel, I think are being generated by my overactive imagination and not from the PICC line itself. At least now I can move past the worry and get on with the rest of the procedures, knowing that I won’t be subjected to a continual barrage of skin piercing.

   I have written this on the morning of Day Two, while I wait for my chemo to start. I know that most of you weren’t expecting anything written so soon after entering the hospital, but the one thing I have is time. I also know that many of you want to have a question answered, or at least Uncle Jeremiah does… Yes, it sucked having morning coffee without a cigarette!!

Gotta go… my first IV bag has arrived. Time to settle in, get comfortable, and let the drip begin.

 

 

 

 

 

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