PICCing Up Steam, Part 1: Everything is Fine

In May, my doctor started the process of getting me approved for PICC line placement and IV antibiotic treatment, and getting all the moving parts going and working together. By the beginning of July, I still did not have a date for line placement set. Between May and July, I fought with my insurance company for coverage for my treatment, to no avail. My wife and I decided to go ahead with the treatment without coverage, while continuing to fight and appeal the decision.  Arrangements were made with home infusion companies, visiting nurses, hospital schedules, and FEDEx deliveries. It was a stressful time. Everything felt even more uncertain than usual, and there was a dizzying amount of phone calls and emails happening.

Finally, I was given an appointment to have my PICC line placed on Monday, July 18. As is my tendency, I researched PICC lines thoroughly. I’ve never had any kind of surgery before, and everything was new to me. I was fortunate to find an internet group dedicated specifically to PICC lines, which was extremely helpful. I found first-hand descriptions of what the procedure to place the line was like, suggestions for protecting the site when showering, and all sorts of useful tidbits of information. I started to feel ready.

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Left arm: before and after

The line placement was much easier than I anticipated! I was awake for the procedure, with a local anesthetic, as is typical. It was over in just a few a minutes and hardly hurt at all. I was able to request to have the line placed in my left arm, as I am right-handed, and my nerve pain typically effects only my right side. The right is the default for a PICC (shorter distance to heart), but my request was accommodated without much trouble.

The worst part of the whole thing was having to wait around the hospital for ages to get my first dose of IV meds, and then wait for it to drip into my arm.

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1st Rocephin infusion at hospital

We finished the whole event with a flurry of excitement, when the nurse came out to the discharge desk as we were checking out to whisk me back to the room for some unknown reason. She proceeded to draw blood from my line and abruptly leave me with a saline syringe hanging out of my PICC/arm. That’s when I started to worry…. When she returned, a man I had met earlier that day was with her. He took a breath and said, “Everything is fine,” with a forced definitiveness that smelled like rat.

He proceeded to explain that the nurse had accidentally flushed my line with too much heparin (blood thinner used to prevent clots), but that I was perfectly fine because it was still a very small amount, and people are routinely given much more for various reasons. I was sent on my way, and returned to my confused and slightly concerned wife who had been stuck out in the waiting room wondering where the heck that nurse had taken me! Ah, good times. Fond memories.

That night the I started to feel the effect of the meds. The flu-like body aches and fatigue set in. The next chapter had begun.