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Tom Galli

IV'e Got Veins, Maybe

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I'm stuck.  Often as it turns out, and I'm more than a decade away from active treatment.  My veins, or what is left of them, run away and hide when in proximity of one of those IV devices.  I'm down to about 4 scheduled draws a year.  When in active treatment, I'd get poked that many times a week.  What results from all of this mayhem -  an irrational fear of blood draws.

Needles and injections are a piece of cake.  While in the army, we got vaccinated frequently, before every deployment, on a just in case basis.  We had a thing called an official shot record that was faithfully recorded each vaccine but it was never consulted by army medical authorities.  You just lined up for the assault by "jet injectors."  Everyone would walk the line and a medic would grab each arm, dab with an alcohol swab, hit you with the jet injection, and tell you to move on.  But there is a vast difference between an injection and an IV insertion.

My first year after diagnosis, IV insertions were relatively easy.  Sometime during my second year of treatment, missed insertions became common place.  Moreover, even successful IV sticks often failed to deliver the infusion.  Could it be callouses?  I often went through 3 or more nurses trying to install a functioning IV.  Once, they needed to call a CT technician to the infusion area because I used up every nurse in the place!  Further, I once had an IV installed in my foot!

Hospitals are the worst place to get an IV.  Unlike my small cancer treatment clinic, where everyone knew my name and IV history, hospitals proclaim: "we are the experts".  They proceed to stick and wiggle while inflicting high trauma, all the while saying "now sir, just relax, we know how to do this"!  I hope I have time to make a large "Summon the Hard Stick IV Team" sign before my next hospital admission.

Lessons learned.  I've acquired a few.

Most important, if you are offered a port before chemotherapy, get one.  If not offered, then ask for one.  A port settles the raging IV storm.  Drink lots of water before the stick.  Start drinking days before, not hours before.  Tell the medical "professional" to use an inflatable blood pressure tourniquet in place of one of those thin rubber devices.  Warming an area with a heating pad is nearly worthless unless the area is iced first.  And, the heating pad must be tightly secured to be effective.  Lidocaine patches work well if applied to a candidate area about 30 minutes before the stick.  I've had some success with the aerosol freeze spray that is now in widespread use.  I also take a .5mg Xanax about 30 minutes prior to a stick but my wife drives. 

Do not go quietly into your next IV stick session.  If you are paired with one of those hearing impaired medical professionals who says "we know best" after you tell them you are a hard stick and they miss.  Complain!  Loudly!  You are paying for all this madness, even for every miss.

Stay the course.







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Being a hard stick is no fun.  My oncologist didn't want to insert a port since I only had 4 treatments and he said their infusion nurses are the best.  Fast forward to chemo #2 and SEVEN sticks to get a vein.  When I had my CT at the beginning of July, they weren't able to inject contrast dye after five sticks.  For my thyroidectomy a couple of weeks ago, the nurses brought in a doctor and an ultrasound machine to find a vein.  Just another adventure!

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This thread needs to be reactivated, especially for the new people coming on. 

If you or your loved one has recently been diagnosed, ask about a port for chemo! It's been such a godsend for me. I've only had four chemo sessions to date, and my oncologist recommended I keep my port "indefinitely" for now, in the event we need to do more in the future (lo and behold, this may be happening soon). I hardly notice its presence, and the only maintenance it requires is a flush every 4-6 weeks. 

My port has been used my port for chemo sessions and for the in-between hydration sessions. So much better than a stupid IV. I still get vein stuck for contrast imaging and outpatient blood draws. Also, if I go to the hospital, and somebody isn't port trained or seems fishy with their training, I don't let them touch it. Use your best judgment on that.  

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