Friday, February 15, 2008

Going Wireless

"You must get tired of constantly being poked and jabbed when you're a patient," friends often commented.

"Actually, no," I would explain while yanking out the cord attached to my arm (when I had a PICC line) or from my chest (after the Hickman insertion in July). I rarely felt the jab of a needle for a blood draw or the poke of an IV line insertion. Nurses simply had to hook up to the lumens at the end of my leash for a direct link to my vena cava.

Blood draws, chemo, hydration, medication, blood and platelet transfusions all came through my catheter. I even received my life-saving stem cells through the line.

But the ultimate patient accessory turned into my least favorite fashion accessory. I was reluctant to flaunt my PICC line in public and wore 3/4 length sleeves on the hottest summer days. After doctors swapped the PICC for the Hickman, I worried constantly that the hardware was playing peek-a-boo through my top. And I was forbidden to go into public pools or steam rooms (not that I was itching to do either with two feet of tether hanging out of my chest).

Here I am just minutes before the removal of my Hickman. Got chemo?

I'm pleased to announce that as of Wednesday, I'm wireless; I no longer need the connection. If a nurse needs blood, she'll have to get it the old-fashioned way - through a vein in my arm. I have no more dangling cords. I won't need daily flushes with Heperan or weekly bandage changes. My clothing choices will expand, and, YES, I will be able to return to the Kabuki Springs and Spa on my next trip to San Francisco (scheduled 2-23).

Paula once brought up the subject of what to do with an old Hickman. I believe she proposed creating a Christmas ornament or running over it repeatedly with my Prius.

The extracted Hickman catheter: The red mark is actually scar tissue. The length of cord below that mark (to the right) was concealed in my chest; the cord and hardware above was in plain view.

I have a few other ideas for recycling the Catheter:
  • Entertain Tiger and Heather with a new cat toy.
  • Paint it pink and create a commemorative bracelet.
  • Look for a pre-tween with a Malibu Barbie convertible and offer to make a gas pumping station.
  • Save it for a Fourth of July salute to the red, white and blue.

Suspicious at first, Tiger takes the bait, but soon grows bored.

I'm not quite ready to trash the contraption just yet. Who knows - it may end up being a prop for The Big C, Little C one day.


Nancy said...

Very Clever Susan. I still have mine in a ziploc bag somewhere. Don't know exactly why I couldn't throw it out, seems like a momento of much harder times. Congrats to you for going "wireless!"

Take Care... love, n

Susan Carrier said...

Nancy, I'm relieved to hear that I'm not the first patient who felt a little sentimental about her Hickman (especially after such a love-hate relationship).

I thought for sure I would opt for having medical staff dispose of it in "hazardous waste."

Karen said...

Yay! Congrats. I bet it feels so good to be "off the leash"! :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh Oh! I know! You could get a nose piercing and connect the cord through your nose, around your neck and attached to one earlobe! hahaha! That would go soooo well with the Banana Republic look.

No really. I'm jealous. When I was sick, they just repeatedly jabbed me then ripped off the tape til I had no hair left on my right forearm at all. One of those would have been great! But I do still have my eye patch. I couldn't throw it out either. I know what you mean.

Tara in VA

Lilli said...

Congratulations! And I'm all for hanging on to the Hickman if it feels right to you. It's a symbol of how far you've come on your journey. When you're ready to get rid of it, you will.

You are already fabulous! I hope you now also enjoy being wireless!