A stick in the foot

By | September 28, 2016

I follow the nurse into the infusion treatment area (ITA). There is a familiarity to it, and yet it is new to me. I reflect on how nice this ITA is. This is the ITA that I chose not to use when I did my treatment. Not because of the niceness. I knew that the ITA was nicer here than where I got my treatment, but I like the doctors better.

The nurse seats me in the brand new infusion chair. As with all my treatments, I was chipper and smiled while the nurse setup to jab me. I figure that they have enough grumpy people in the ITA that I do not need to add to that burden.

I remove my shoes and socks. The nurse uses the electronic function of the chair to raise my feet, which also lower my back into a semi-resting position. I feel like I’m relaxing in a recline, ready to take a nap except that my feet are cold. She puts a warming pad on my right foot in hopes to make the veins easier to find.

She puts on the blue gloves, unpacks the blue butterfly needle, and prepares to jab me. I close my eyes and then pain. Ouch. ^&%$. She moves the needle around, and with each move I’m subjected to another bout of sharp pain. Ouch. Then no blood. She removes the needle and prepares to try again. I comment that the needle seems really big/thick. She tells me that the MRI folks require the thicker needle. This time she uses a pink butterfly needle. It is like my veins are playing ‘hide-and-go-seek’. They do not want to be found. She finds a new spot in my foot. I close my eyes again. Again I feel the sharp pain as she tries to find a vein. Again she fails. Again she moves the needle around. Ouch. No luck this time.

They have a rule at that ITA. The nurses only get two chances to stick you. If they don’t have any luck then they have to find another nurse to try. The new nurse comes and we again put the warming pad on my foot. She identifies a new vein in my foot. I close my eyes. This time the stick is not nearly as painful. The nurses realize that by raising my foot they are not getting blood flow. Once the needle is in, they lower my feet. Blood trickles out of the needle. Yay. I don’t think I could handle a fourth stab.

The nurse crouches over my foot IV filling the vial with blood. When the vial is full she prepares the saline flush. I recall that I will be hit with a taste and smell of saline that comes from inside my body. I associate that taste with the access of my port for chemotherapy treatments. It is a familiar feeling. What is interesting is that the reaction is delayed. With the port, the taste-smell of saline happens immediately. In the foot it takes about 10 seconds before I get that taste-smell sensation.

With an IV in my foot I cannot walk the distance required to get to the MRI. The nurse finds me a wheelchair and delivers me across the medical campus to the MRI imaging center.

You might be asking why I’m getting an IV in my foot? Since my bout with minor lymphedema last year, I’m not allowed to get IVs in my arms. The cancer surgery involved the removal of a few lymph nodes from each arm. Since I’ve already had a minor (very minor) bout of lymphedema in my left arm, my lymphedema doctor has proclaimed that I should not get IVs in my arms. Fortunately I can still do blood draws on my right side, so I do not need to go through this production of getting a foot IV that often.

I am learning that I will forever be familiar with the local ITA. The ITA is where the nurses are at can do things like access veins in my foot (which often requires doctor approval). I find that interesting too. I’m the patient. I’m the one telling the schedulers and nurses that I need the IV in my foot rather than my arm, and yet they sometimes need to call a doctor to get approval for it. Fortunately, the nurses in the ITA get it. They understand what it means to have lymph nodes out on both sides. They see it. Maybe not every day, but often enough to know.

I see my lymphedema doctor at the end of October for an annual follow up. Since I no longer have any symptoms (no swelling in my arms), I’m hoping that I can relax the precautions a little. It is a difficult choice. I’m at a lifetime risk of getting lymphedema. My risk was considered really low, and yet it happened. So now, I wonder, how careful do I need to be? Especially when that careful involves added pain? This is yet another quality-of-life question.

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