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Hospital part 1: PICC

Posted Jan 13 2010 9:05am

There are some close up images of needles, blood, stitching etc in this post. I don't think they are gratuitous or gory - I hope that if you are considering a PICC line or want to know more, this post will be reassuring - but if you think you won't like them, please feel free to come back tomorrow for a needle-free read.

So. I prepared. I put my red shoes and my red dress on. I did a little bit of self-hypnosis and visualisation before I left. Nathalie and Gerri picked me up, and before I knew it, we were in the Venous Access unit inspecting the kit.

I was feeling OK.

First, Gemma applied the tourniquet, which matched my dress perfectly. Well done, Gemma!

Then it was time to use the ultrasound to locate a suitable vein. We went above rather than below the elbow, because the veins are bigger and better there, and we thought it would be less in the way too.


Do you see that black hole on the screen? That's the vein we chose. It was about 3cm below the surface of my skin, and about 8mm in diameter.

Then local anaesthetic - bizarrely, the part I was looking forward to least of all, and the part I remember in the most vivid, terrible detail from last time. I used my hypnosis techniques (relaxing and substituting 'tickling' for 'stinging' in my mind) and it was fine. (Also, Gerri distracted me with knitting talk.) And because the first hypnosis technique worked so well in the field, as it were, I relaxed and felt sure the others would. And they did.

So. Next, Gemma found the vein, and put this in it.

Then, she put a wire into the vein, and removed the first thing. (I didn't find out the name of the thing.)The wire is the black line pointing south-east in the picture below.

Then, she put Thing 2 (I really must pay more attention when watching 'House') round the vein and used that to dilate the vein.

This was a little bit uncomfortable - here is my 'this is a little bit uncomfortable' face - and Gerri held my hand.

Once the vein was dilated, the line itself could be inserted. There was a bit of pushing, and I had to move my head so that I was looking left in order that the line went into the correct vein. Then I confirmed that I didn't have a rushing sound in my left ear, and I couldn't feel anything cold at the back of my neck.

And then came the stitches to keep the whole thing in place. (Nathalie, who took the pictures, was especially keen to get good stitch pictures, given our shared interest in all things knit, stitch and weave.)


And then we were done.




The whole process took about 45 minutes. The white dressing will stay on for 24 hours, and then I'll remove it and have a clear dressing over it instead.

I can't tell you how pleased I am with how it all went. I felt relaxed and calm through the whole thing, and there was lots of laughter.

Here's Gerri.

Here's Nathalie.

And here's Gemma, who coped very well with being photographed and answering all of our questions.

(I could have done with her having everything she needed before she started - she left the room to get things she needed 3 times. And medical things, not, say, a coffee and a muffin. Medical things I thought maybe she would have known that she needed before she started. Still.)

Then it was off for a chest x-ray to check that the line was in the right place. It was. (Also, I had a man say to me, "take your necklace and your bra off, but you can keep your dress on," which I can honestly say has never happened to me before.)

So now here I am, sitting at home and telling you all about this new step in my dance with cancer, and I still feel fine, although my arm is a little bit stiff and sore. I'm glad the PICC is here, because it will make life easier. (Also, Alan has agreed to refer to me as 'my bionic wife' at least once daily for as long as I have the PICC in place, which can only be good for a marriage.) The fact that it's on my inner upper arm means that it won't get in the way so much, and I can cover it fairly easily if I don't want to have the whole 'why I have a robot arm' conversation with everyone I ever meet. And now, with the help of Gosia, Nathalie and Gerri, I've dealt with something that I wasn't really sure I would ever be able to do again.

All good. The rest of my time at the hospital - not so good. Nothing sinister, so please don't worry. I'm going to tell you about that later. Check back soon for the latest episode of Bah! to cancer says Grrrr to Oncology....

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