Back in April I wrote a little bit about my rocky relationship with PICC lines. Long story short, last month I had to start thinking about whether or not I wanted a port. I began asking anyone and everyone I knew for their opinion on the subject. I conducted polls on Facebook. I emailed several CF friends – some with ports, some without. I talked to the nursing staff here in the hospital. The overall response I received was very much in favor of the port.
On the other hand, there was the occasional “getting a port means admitting that I’m sick enough to need a port” type of comment. And of course there was the disturbing story someone shared about the blood clot in their port that nearly killed them. Fantastic.
Some things about ports that I had to consider:
- risk of infection and/or blood clots – both can be very dangerous
- upkeep – it needs to be flushed monthly when it’s not in use
- permanency – once it’s in there, IT’S IN THERE
Eventually I decided that if I stayed well and out of the hospital for a year or so (wishful thinking), I’d probably try a PICC line again. If I had to come back earlier, say, within the next 6 months, I’d consider a port. When I found myself back here just three weeks after being discharged, I figured a port was the only way to go. I was mentally prepared to just get it done but then one of the sweet cysters on the floor called in a favor from her friend down in Interventional Radiology and he came up to my room to discuss my options.
He explained the way they do things down in IR (with the use of X-rays and sedation — the good kind, not just a little pill) and told me that a PICC line may still be a reasonable option for me, as long as it wasn’t done bedside. He brought an ultrasound machine from IR (the PICC team also uses ultrasound when they place PICCs, but his was quite obviously a much better machine) to take a look at what he was working with.
“How many PICCs have you had?” he asked.
“Wow. Only six, huh? Your veins are pretty shot!”
“So I’ve heard.”
Our conversations went back and forth like this while he continued examining my arms until he finally told me that, yes, there were a couple possible entry points for a PICC and he was confident he could place one without causing me any emotional trauma. .
So now I was torn. I came in all ready to get a port but then he waltzes in with his fancy machine saying “I think you have more options”. HE GAVE ME OPTIONS, GUYS. Not only did he give me those options, he answered absolutely every question I could think of then gently encouraged me to make a decision for myself, no pressure or coercion involved. I tried to make him just TELL me what to do, but he refused. WHO DID HE THINK HE WAS???
His final piece of advice was basically “flip a coin” because either option would be a good one for me, as long as I was happy with it. I was able to think about things overnight since they didn’t have an opening in the IR schedule until the next afternoon. I was very back-and-forth on the issue. PICC. No, port. Definitely port. Well, maybe I’ll just do one more PICC. No, I might as well get a port and just get it over with. Port, for sure. No, PICC. My last PICC. But what if…
I was fairly certain I had made my decision as I was wheeled down to IR, but then again as I changed into a gown and climbed onto the table, I began second guessing myself. The nurse was just about ready to push the sedative into my IV when she asked me, “Now, are you sure this is what you want to do?”
I don’t remember whether or not I gave her a final answer.
Later that night when my nurse told me my new port flushes “like a dream”, I knew I’d made a good choice. I’m so glad I did this and I’m beyond excited by the thought of never having another painful PICC placement again.
Plus, I never looked this cool getting wrapped up for a shower with a PICC.