Saturday, February 25, 2006

Valentines Day: Straight in to the Jugular

Tuesday was due to be my second chemo day, but then I also got a letter telling me I was to have my Hickman line put in. So, 7am on Tuesday morning, after a light breakfast before 6, Paul dropped me off on the ward. The nurse showing me to my bed made it very clear that Paul was not welcome to stay and support me, so I spent the morning waiting for results of a blood test before I could go to theatre, getting more and more nervous. Although I have had several operations before now, this was due to be under local with sedative, and I was dreading it. I was also trying to make sure that I would have my chemo later in the day (you don't expect different departments to coordinate, surely?)
Finally, after watching the other people in the ward have dinner, I was given a trendy hospital gown and wheeled down to the x ray theatre. Here my line was to be inserted under the guidance of x rays to make sure it went down to right vessel ad didn't puncture a lung or anything (the joys of being told all the possible side effects before you sign the consent form!)
I then waited for ages in an anteroom which was piled high with boxes and with lead aprons with cat designs all over them. By this point I was quite upset, especially since there was a bloke in the next cubicle, who had hi wife with him. If she could be there, why couldn't Paul? I was finally seen by a nurse who provided necessary tissues, then by the surgeon. The surgeon was wearing a lead apron: but his was plain black and looked rather more like a Roman soldier than a worker in a cat home. The surgeon was also quite dishy, which helped. And he explained properly what was about to happen. I had spoken to a registrar earlier, who said that the line would go into one of the 'big veins that goes into your heart' : The surgeon told me that he preferred to go in on the other side from previous surgery, and to either use the sub clavian or the jugular, but the jugular was better. Apparently with the subclavian vein there is a possibility if it gets blocked that your arm could swell, and considering I’m at risk of that on the left anyway, I don't want that possibility on the right too. But with the jugular, since there are two jugulae (?) I'm unlikely to end up with a swollen head (!)
The surgeon the looked at the line they had provided and told them to take it away and bring a groshong line instead: 'you don’t want that cheap rubbish'
They gave me a choice of walking into theatre or going in in style on the bed. Considering the open nature of hospital gowns, I chose the stylish option. I was then hooked up to various machines measuring my heart rate, oxygen saturation and breathing. I spent a fascinating few minutes changing my breathing and trying to lower my heart rate, before they put me on oxygen and I had less control over the readings. They then injected the first (double) amount of sedative and started cleaning me up. Beyond that I am only vaguely aware that something happened: It wasn't like being out for a general, but it wasn't as awful as I thought it'd be. I now have a stitch on my collar bone, and a tube coming out of the side of my right breast (they told me that I would still be able to wear plunging necklines. I'm not sure whether that means I’ll be able to start wearing plunging necklines...)
Chemo, when I finally got there, was a doddle. They plugged me in, and let it drip. And blood tests too will be easier. But I will need to have the system flushed each week and the dressing changed. That joy is for next Tuesday.

A note about dates: I wrote this on my Psion whilst in the hotel last week. So next Tuesday has already happened. I've had the stitch out using a curved razor blade thing. The nurse was tugging quite hard at the stich and I had visions of it suddenly giving and.... but it didn't. The flush, dressing change and blood test went fine.


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