Friday, December 24, 2010

The joys of having a port-a-cath

How can it be Christmas Eve already? Where has the time gone?

Yesterday the nurse came to flush my port. The port has to be flushed every four to six weeks to prevent clotting in the catheter and since I only receive Pamidronate every eight weeks, the nurse has to access and flush the port in between Pamidronate appointments.

My port is a little finicky to access. When I first got it, the nurses had trouble accessing it because it would slide around and the needle would end up going alongside the port. Thankfully, scar tissue has grown up around the port and now holds it in place. Now the port finicky because it's set a little deeper than most ports which stick out so much that you can clearly see them underneath clothes. Because I'll have my port forever I didn't want it showing that much so the doctor put it in a fleshier area and set it a little deeper than usual.

My finicky port has given even experienced nurses trouble and yesterday's nurse wasn't experienced: she had accessed and flushed exactly one port before mine. She ended up poking me with the access needle six or seven times. She even managed to get the needle only half-way in, which I didn't think was possible and is something I'd never seen before. In addition to the multiple needle sticks, there was something about the way she was holding the port that made the experience even more painful. I think she was actually pushing the port down instead of fixing it in place and pushing it up, if that makes sense. The area around the port is now very tender and I know it'll be a while before the access holes heal up.

I don't usually mind when new nurses access my port because it's good experience for them but it's not usually so painful. If I'd known that she'd never accessed any ports before yesterday I would have asked for one of the more experienced people to come with her and show her how to handle a tricky port like mine. I ended up giving her tips on accessing my port which finally led to success. She was grateful for the experience because she learned a lot and got to see the process through to the end.

At least the port has been accessed and flushed and I'm all set to go. I guess I can think of the experience as my gift to the nurse. The pain will fade away soon enough and she did learn a lot about dealing with finicky ports. And it's not like I can access the port myself: I don't have what it takes to stick a needle in my own skin and since I'm a bit squeamish, I have no desire to learn how to do it. So Merry Christmas, nurse!

So there's one gift done. It's not the kind of thing I usually expect to give but it worked out fine in the end. As long as no one else expects to get this kind of gift from me, I think I'll be good to go.

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