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PICC Line Fiasco, Part II

Posted by on July 14, 2010 in IL-2, Immunotherapies (IL-2, IL-15, PD-1s, etc.), Medical Procedures and Other Drugs, My Health Updates - No comments


We’re on dose six. The medical staff seem impressed, as it’s not unusual for people to go home after 3 or 4 doses at this late stage of the treatment. So I guess I should feel good about that. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’ve spent most of my time unconscious. I sleep like a dog. Or a construction worker blocking traffic on I-95.

I suspect that I will be able to leave here looking good externally, though my insides will be a mess. The shorter cycles of treatment don’t seem to result in the worst of the skin problems or swelling. The problems come with insanely high heart rates (which make you nauseous), fluid in the lungs and low bood pressure (which makes you nauseous and dizzy). For example, my blood pressure right now is 70 over 40.

So I’ve spent most of my time here generally sick and tired. (Not the “sick and tired” that my mom uses when she is sick of my mouth but the more literal kind — naseau around the clock and extreme fatigue.) Standing up and walking is a major production around here, with nurses eyeballing me and watching for the inevitable fall. So far, no fainting yet.

Speaking of fainting, I am proud to report that I did not faint during the — count them – three PICC line entries on Monday evening. I had a vague foreboding when the first nurse slapped some cold jelly on my neck and started swirling the sonogram camera around.

“Hmmmm, I don’t see anything,” she said.

“What are you looking for?”

“Sometimes the catherter, instead of cuving downward to your chest and vena cava, it turns up into the jugular.”

The jugular? The thing in the movies where somebody stabs you with a No.2 pencil or, in the case of Godfather III, a stem from a pair of glasses and blood spurts out in pulsing streams? That jugular?

“Can you feel anything in your ear,” she asks.

My imagination runs wild. Why, yes, yes I can. I feel your rogue needle. I feel a No. 2 pencil. I feel blood, parasites, tumors, tiny reptilian vermin. My god, why did you ask that question?

She is swirling her sonogram camera around on my neck, ticklish and cold. “I don’t see anything. I think we’re good.”

As Dena reported yesterday, we weren’t good. The x-ray showed that the catheter had not gone into the vena cava and it took two more tries to get it right. I think that may have been when the sick and tired phase first kicked in.

Currently I don’t eat or drink much and am living off of whatever nutrients and fluids they send through the IV drip. I had been hopeful that they could come up with some kind of Willy Wonka-inspired drip that tasted like turkey smothered in gravy, some mashed potatoes and a fine red wine. Turns out, you don’t taste anything. You just get a vague nauseous feeling.

This is my sixth cycle-and as Dena (our resident math whiz) just pointed out – I’m currently receiving my 50th dose of IL-2 – not a bad run – but I’m ready for the long break that comes after this.

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