Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007 - The PortaCath

Dear Blogmeister,

Today was the day that I had the
put into my upper chest, just below the collarbone. And what an interesting experience that was... I have a funny feeling I'm going to be experiencing more interesting experiences on this journey I've never been on before. Everyone from the medical profession to those who either have had or known someone who has had one of these devices have told me I'm going to be really glad my oncologist set this up. It will be much more convenient than them having to set up an IV each time I need to get a chemo session... especially since one of the chemo drugs will be dispersed over two days with that little portable pump. One doesn't want to have an IV needle in their arm and try to move around as normal when at home or out somewhere. Then there will be all the blood work that needs to be done before each chemo session... this saves them poking around looking for veins, which is getting harder and harder to find on me as I'm getting older (grin). I swear, when my veins go anywhere near a lab or nurse, they head for the hills, or behind bones... anything to avoid getting poked (grin).

So Maggie the PortaCath is going to be my friend... could be for a year or longer! The IV nurse told me not to be in any hurry to have it taken out once the treatments are finished, on the off chance I need to get more meds, then this device will work like a charm... and it doesn't have to come out since it is quite fine to stay in for years if need be.

Ok... so off I went to the hospital! Word from the wise, if anyone locally is planning on driving to VGH on 12th Avenue... parking is impossible!! They have a nice big parkade across from the hospital, which is filled up by 8:30am. They have another big parking parkade of Laurel St... it too is filled up by 9:00am. So if you are arriving any time after 9am, you are going to have a tough time finding parking. I ended up parking in a lot just off Broadway and about a 3 1/2 block walk to the hospital (hahaha... totally forgetting that when Jo came to get me after the procedure I would have to walk back to the car with her because she wouldn't have known where I parked) (grin). Thank goodness it was a lovely, sunny day today... walking in the rain, to/from the hospital would not have been pleasant.

But hey, the new wing of VGH (Jimmy Pattison Pavillion) is GORGEOUS!! What a wonderful facility and so modern. And, as probably is universal in all hospitals, the staff were fabulous. :)

Luckily, I gave myself plenty of time because I knew parking might be a bit of a problem... and let's not forget, expensive!! I knew I'd probably be at the hospital about 3 or 4 hours... and for that, it cost me $10.00!! Yikes! I think parking alone is going to be the worst part of all this medical attention!!

Ok... jump to the chase. They were right on time and I got in with no waits. Once I was changed and in a bed, the IV nurse came to put an IV in my arm. The IV was for the saline solution, an antibiotic, and the sedation. Sure enough, she had the hardest time finding a vein. Tried 4 different places on my left arm... no luck. Tried to get a vein on my right arm.. still no luck. SOOOOO she had to go for a vein right on the surface of the wrist... probably the most sensitive part of the body when it comes to poking for a vein. OWWWWWWW!!! Did that ever hurt! They had to do that to me in St. Paul's Hospital at one time too... one doesn't forget that kind of hurt (grin). Sooo, I kept reminding myself... that is why I'm getting this device put in... so I won't have to go through that ever again through this journey.

Once I was all prepped with an IV and she had the saline solution dripping and a small bag of antibiotics, the surgeon came to talk to me. He explained what he was going to do and that he didn't foresee there being any problems, but should he have trouble with the insertion into the vein, he may have to go through the neck (again, I had a line in the neck when I was at St. Paul's, which they put in during the surgery). But he said that he probably wouldn't have to do that... but would I sign the consent form, both for the possibility and for the procedure itself of putting the PortaCath in. I signed the form.

He told the IV nurse that I could have some sedation, which I was now looking forward to. It wasn't that I was extremely nervous, but I have to admit, when you are lying on a hospital gurney, hooked up to an IV that is giving you antibiotics for a procedure where they are going to make an incision, it all starts becoming a reality.. and you do get a tad bit anxious. I really want this PortaCath because the last thing I want is 7 1/2 months of being poked and having painful IVs in veins that refuse to co-operate. But it's that being rolled into yet, another, OR that is a little scary.

Once in the OR, they started prepping me... and it was DAMN COLD in there!! I was freezing and there was no warming up! They had this big machine thingie which is like a mini-CAT scanner. This would be used to show where the line was so the surgeon could make sure he gets it in just the right place. Interestingly enough, the OR bed was hydraulic, so the bed would move electronically to be placed in position under the machine, rather than the machine be moved into place.

They also set up a frame work and then draped it, so that, although I was awake, I couldn't actually watch the surgery in progress. Kind of like those TV medical shows when a woman gives birth by Caesarean section... you see her wide awake, behind a draped frame.

Haha... so I was wondering when would they give me that sedative that would put me in la-la land! Finally, just before the surgeon started, the nurse said, "Ok, Cheryl, I'm giving you the sedative now"... and yet, I felt nothing! No sleepy time... no "nirvana". I realized I was no longer anxious, but no "feel good feeling"! So I was totally wide away and very much aware of what was going on.

The surgeon froze the area with needles and a local anesthetic. In all fairness, the freezing was very good. A couple of times I started to feel something, so he gave me more freezing. I did not feel any pain during the procedure, but a lot of pressure and tugging. He was doing a lot of pulling and tugging and cotterizing and I just knew instinctively that once the freezing wore off, I was going to be pretty darn sore. The procedure, itself, was about 45 minutes. The incision was put back together with staples that my GP will be able to take out in 7-10 days.

Back to the holding room where I was given a snack of a turkey sandwich, apple juice and 2 digestive cookies (no eating allowed since midnight the night before). They waited a bit before starting to unhook my IV and take me off the saline drip. Then the IV Nurse, Susan, went over the instructions. In the 24 hours after the device is installed, if I feel dizzy, get chills/fever, have trouble breathing, etc.. I'm to go to the nearest Emergency (St. Paul's). It would mean my heart is having problems with the "foreign object".

Once the freezing comes out, I may find I'm "tender, sore and maybe a little swelling" (her words), so I didn't think anything of it. She also gave me a Medical Alert card that I'm to keep in my wallet to let folk know that I have a PortaCath installed.

By this time, Jo was there to pick me up. So, I got dressed and the nurse gave me m documentation (plus a prescription for Tylenol #3s with codiene) and Jo and I left the hospital. Seriously, I think I would have been able to drive home myself... but legally, I guess because of that sedative that I never did feel, I was legaly impaired to drive. So Jo drove me home in my car... and I felt just fine.

HA! Until the freezing started wearing off. Thank goodness for Tylenol #3s with codiene. I already had a bottle of them so didn't get the prescription filled, but even taking two at a time... well, suffice it to say, I am sore and tender... and swollen (grin). But, that was expected, so no biggie... and it should only last 24-48 hours. I've noticed that, because of the tenderness, I can only raise my right arm about waist high... it will probably be better tomorrow and certainly better by the weekend. Jo took Bridget out for her walkie when we got home. I took her out to the back lane tonight, but realize, at the moment I can't actually take her for a walk, since I'm used to walking her on the right side with the leash in my right hand. Tomorrow morning, Mimi will take her out and we shall see how the afternoon goes.

Soooo, that was my day! Very, very interesting!! And I just know Patti the PortaCath is going to be my good friend! It is because of this device that I won't have to worry about the chemo drugs dripping under the skin (causing burns) or destroying muscle/skin tissue since they will be going directly into the vein. Isn't modern techhnology quite fascinating???



Bonnie said...

My friend just had hers removed, one year after her chemo ended ... and she was very sad to see it go, heheh. Now her poor arms will have to be poked once again. Here's hoping you and Patti co-exist nicely for as long as you need her! And I hope the pain is starting to subside a bit now.

Anonymous said...

I hope the swelling has gone down and you are feeling better.

Hugs, Maryann