Thursday, March 19, 2009

Secrets of an IV Junkie

If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you might know that I'm a super huge fan of my port, which happens to be in my upper left arm. I've had this sucker for 9 years (since I was 18) and I absolutely LOVE it. I love pretty much everything about it: how I can cover it so easily just with long sleeves, how I can vest without any discomfort or inconvenience even when it's accessed, how even in tank tops it's basically invisible when it's not accessed, and how it doesn't, um, get in the way. Ever ;)

The only things I don't like about it are: 1) I can't access it by myself, and 2) it moves more than a chest port (so I've been told) and kinda freaks out some of the nurses who aren't as familiar with the arm placement. But other than that I love it. Well, today I found a third negative, and while it still doesn't convince me that I want my next port to be in my chest, it's still annoying as hell.

Basically, the fact that I can't access the thing by myself means that I am at the mercy of the homecare nurses for pretty much anything, including monthly flushes and dressing changes. This has honestly never bothered me too much b/c the monthly flushes are no big deal and the dressing changes just happen when they come to draw blood labs. So no big problem, right? Right...well, most of the time. This time, though, I'm on IVs for 6 weeks. That's double the time I normally stay on these things, and it's far and away my longest course ever. So because I can't access myself, I just rely on the nurses like normal. And because I have to rely on the nurses, the skin around my port is ALWAYS covered by the dressing and tegaderm. It only gets to "breathe" for like 30 seconds when they pull the old needle, alcohol the area, and then put the new needle in and the new tegaderm on. No time to shower or wash the area, no time to let the skin relax, basically no time to do anything at all. It's normally not an issue, but this time around it's not particularly pleasant.

The nurse just came to change the dressing and my poor arm looks like it wandered through a particularly brutal war zone. The skin is red and irritated - it has little bumps from the tegaderm and the area is totally raw from the sticky adhesive. Yuck. To top it off the port needle has this little place where the needle joins the tubing, and the nurse last time failed to put the usual gauze under that area, so now I have a nice little HOLE in my arm from that thing digging in. Double yuck. Thankfully it's far enough from the actual injection site that I'm not too concerned about infection (and it's under the tegaderm, so clearly the area is sterile), but still. Not fun. I didn't even feel it, most likely because the constant pressure just sort of dulled the whole sensation. Again, more yuck.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for IVs and for all the medical miracles that help CFers and blah blah blah. But truth be told, next Wednesday cannot come fast enough. I am soooo over these IVs and ready to get this damn access pulled already! If not for my sanity's sake, then definitely for my poor arm!!


  1. Oh man.. that would definitely be a con to an arm port. Too bad the nurse can't go to lunch while you take a shower and then come back to access you. Anyway, I bet you will definitely be glad for next Wed to get here.

  2. They should try using opsite instead of allows the skin to breath a little better, I always use it. If and when you ever need another port I LOVE where mine is (I refused to get one in the chest too) it is on my left side where my bra strap goes..I have had it for 6 years. I can't access myself either but even when I am accessed I can where a tank top and you would never know and since I live in South FL that was important! When I am not accessed you wouldn't ever no it was there at all! Glad you will be done with IV's soon...My last dose is tomorrow morning! HOORAY! :)

  3. yikes! Thankfully, my picc veins are still happy to oblige my need to abuse them, so I'm sticking with PICCs as long as they'll take, but the arm mutilation is one thing I can relate to all too well. Four things that have changed my life...or at least my post-PICC arm skin fate:

    1 - shaving my arm before I get a picc placed, or in your case, your port accessed. Don't exfoliate or anything, but it keeps from ripping out those little baby hairs and seems to help my skin after it's all over with.

    2 - OpSite IV 3000. I react pretty badly to Tegaderm, and the OpSite is the only real sterile dressing tegaderm-alternative I've ever been introduced to, but the adhesive is in lots of little dots instead of one big smear, so it's easier on tender arm skin. If your hosp. doesn't have them, you can get them online relatively cheaply.

    3 - detachol brand adhesive remover to take the dressing off. Also available online, they've been using this on me since I was a wee one and it really helps get the dressing off without taking your skin with it.

    and lastly, once all this is over and done (woooo!) use Aveeno Intense Relief Hand Cream on your poor skin. You only have to use it once or twice a day, it doesn't sting like lotion can on the torn/raw parts, and it will get your skin back to normal really quickly. Plus it doesn't smell at all, and it absorbs practically instantly, so it's not like other "intense" stuff that's basically vaseline - blugh.

    Sorry that ended up so long, hope some/all of that helps - it's a totally valid and awful annoying sidebar to this whole CF nonsense! Glad to see you're feeling a little better :o)

  4. Oh I second the opsite, I don't know the number, but it used to have orange edges. It really allows your skin to breathe.

  5. I absolutely loved my port too! I was so sad to see it leave 6 months post transplant. Even though I was happy I didn't need it anymore.

    I was in mourning for a bit ;-)
    And that feeling came back last month when I needed IV's, how I missed my IV's with every new try to get a venflon in.

  6. AWE poor arm!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am excited for you to get de-accessed next week too!!! So exciting!! :)

    I am considering an arm port if I ever decide to get one.

  7. Just think of the "real" shower you can take to. AHHHH that will feel so good!

    I use opsite because for some reason I am allergic to tegaderm on my chest but not my arms weird?

    You're lucky its in your arm I wish I could of gotten mine there,but I have grown quite attached to my "Thipple"

    Next Wed here you come!!

  8. How are you doing Piper? Haven't heard anything from you.