Thursday, February 20, 2014

This isn't the worst thing in the world // My PICC Line

There is little you can do to me, medically speaking, that scares me.  IVs are probably the top of the list ranking even over injections (a breeze), dental work (bitch, please), and blood draws (temporary setback). So having to live with a PICC line for the next six weeks is not only daunting for me...I find it a downright disgusting prospect.

What's a PICC line? Quickly, so that I do not pass out while typing, PICC stands for peripherally inserted central catheter. (Gagging.) Basically, it's an IV that can be used for a longer period of time than a standard IV, and goes farther into the vein toward the heart for faster dispersal of medication. (Gagging and fidgeting my arm.) It is located on the inside of my left arm. The catheter hangs out of my arm 3 centimeters and is held in place with a stitch and covered by clear bandages. I have extensions on the catheter so that I am able to administer the medication myself. All of this is covered by a gauze arm cover in order to help protect it.

Why do I have it? Briefly, this is to combat a bone infection of the left foot. I had a PICC line 6 years ago to combat the same diagnosis in the right foot, and it was successful. Having the PICC line 6 years ago helped me be much less anxious about my current one. I knew what to expect, and in fact my medication regimen is far simpler than it was 6 years ago as it is being treated with a different antibiotic. While the doctor estimates I will be doing this PICC line for 6 weeks, my last one was nearly 3 months.

I had the PICC inserted on Tuesday. While I couldn't have watched the process even if I wanted to (the view was blocked by a blue sterile cloth), I can tell you that any pain or discomfort I have or had with the process is 90% mental. I have terrible veins, but because they used an ultrasound to locate a viable vein, they did not have to poke me repeatedly as they normally do. I was given a few injections of local anesthetic, but I cannot tell you exactly how many as it wasn't even a big deal. (I think 2?) In fact, other than inserting the catheter and stitching it down, I cannot tell you much else that went down. There were other small things, like stretching the skin slightly to make sure that the opening was large enough for the catheter, but for as awful as it sounds I barely remember it.

Do good writers relay every small detail with colorful descriptions? Yes. However, I was breathing and meditating my way through this entire process. As I said, this was 90% mental anxiety, 10% physical discomfort. (I wouldn't even call it pain.) Anything to do with veins positively revolts me. That being said, I have moved, shifted, swallowed, and taken many deep breaths just trying to write what I have thus far. My biggest problem is that I'm grossed out.

I have two mental hurdles with this PICC line, and one was getting it placed. Now that that's over, my next battle over the next six weeks is repulsion. With my first PICC line, I was repulsed to the point of barely moving my arm for several weeks and had difficulty sleeping. My first experience equipped me with a better frame of reference: I knew that I eventually got used to (as much as I could) my last line. I knew that during the last few weeks of treatment, I was able to finally administer the meds myself. (My husband did them EVERY DAY for nearly 3 months for me because I could hardly stand to look at it, let alone move.) This time, I hit the ground running: I met with the home nurse solo in order to learn how to administer the meds myself. Success.

I think about the actual problem very little. As with most things, this is probably a mixed blessing. Because I am so mentally preoccupied with being revolted by this setup in my arm, I'm hardly worried about healing. This is probably because 'healing' is a relative term for me. I'll never be 'NORMAL' (everyone's favorite word). I only get to swing for the fences of normal (harder than most people do) and hope that I'm actually playing baseball because it looks like there's a ball coming my way. (OMG, this is my first sports analogy.) And then once we figure out what sport I'm playing, I'm the alternate on the bench of NORMAL. This is my medical calling. And I'm only slightly less angry about it than I used to be. That's a start. 

I have no feeling (neuropathy) in my feet, so I am luckily not plagued with physical pain. (Another mixed blessing.) For this reason, I bow down to anyone who has dealt with BIGGER medical issues. Is it helpful to remind people enduring medical issues that other people have bigger problems, so they should be grateful for the ones they have? No. However, this is a realization I came to myself for this particular issue. There are worse things I could be dealing with. And people enduring those issues look to someone else and think about how their own situations could be worse, and thus the cycle continues. When we come to this thought process ourselves the empathy helps us endure. Perhaps this is slightly selfish, but anyone going through medical drudgery would wish it upon very few people. If someone can look at me and feel better about that root canal they have next week, more power to them, because I'm thanking my lucky stars I'm not enduring the chemo the other patients in the infusion center were getting. I don't get a gold star of martyrdom for feeling for them, I am in their debt that their burden made mine look simple.

We all have problems, and this is mine. And this isn't the worst thing in the world. You could compare it to some issues and it could look extreme, while it could look minuscule in comparison to the plight of someone else. Either thank your lucky stars you're not me today, or scoff at my adversity. Today, I'm feeling a bit better than I was in my last post. But that won't stop me from medicating with cupcakes and retail, nor does it guarantee I will maintain this relatively positive attitude.

No comments: