Did I scare you? Sorry. Despite what the title of this post suggests and based on some of my more explicit stories, you may have thought, “Oh boy, this guy is gonna post a photo of his junk for the entire Internet to see.” If you did think such a thing, well, I guess I’m curious why you’re reading this post and didn’t immediately disregard it. But hey, for the sake of our friendship (and my readership), let’s just pretend you knew I was joking — let’s keep it moving, shall we?
Ha, okay, right, so you saw right through my shameful play on words; you obviously knew the title had nothing to do with an explicit photo of me. But before I explain what the hell a “sexy “PICC” is, let’s back it up for a minute.
In April I was unbelievably sick — unable to chew food, talk, sit-up, or tolerate light. I was essentially waiting to die. Then my doctor ordered the placement of a foot-long IV catheter starting in my arm and running to within a few millimeters of my heart. The IV is called a peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC for short, and let me tell you, it is anything but sexy. I’m sure there’s a good reason and circumstance for placing a vein-dwelling catheter so close to the heart, but the thought of it still freaks me out. A LOT! I find it especially terrifying because I wasn’t told that the PICC sits so close to the heart until the procedure was over.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the PICC placement and how excruciatingly painful it was for three weeks before I took it out. The pain was unrelenting, shooting up my arm and into my chest. It didn’t stop until I took the PICC out, which itself was quite the experience. There’s nothing like seeing a foot-long tube being pulled out of your arm. I just kept thinking, “Wow, is my arm really that long?” Of course it is, but still.
For several months following the PICC, a nurse made bi-weekly trips to my house to place a peripheral IV in my forearm. To my relief, the peripheral IV was only an inch-long. Eventually my arms started to look rather suspicious, like I had a serious heroine addiction or had taken my last acupuncture appointment a little too far. So after my veins stopped showing up and I got tired of looking like someone’s flesh-covered voodoo doll, I was left with no choice but to get another PICC, or so I thought. After doing some investigating, I found and subsequently decided to go with a mid-line IV. Instead of spanning an entire foot to my heart, it runs a few centimeters up the arm and stops around the armpit.
Last week a nurse came to my house to place the IV and hopefully end my stint as a human pin cushion. Coincidentally, the same nurse placed my PICC back in April. The only difference this time was I got to see his face. In April my eyes were so sensitive to light I had to keep them covered the entire time he was here. At the time I only knew him by his voice which my ignorance led me to think he was a tall, lanky white guy. And in my defense, it doesn’t help that his name is Dean. So last week, when a short Filipino-American man of middle-age walked into my room, I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell he just so happened to have the same voice and name as the lanky, white guy who came last time. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that naive but I was definitely confused. Dean also seemed confused.
“You’re not the same guy I saw back in April,” he said as we seemed to hold a relatively normal conversation, not one involving a severely ill patient who could not talk a few months prior. “Look at you, you’re sitting up, talking, and you have the blinds open. There’s daylight in here. None of this was happening last time. What has helped you so much?”
“Saline,” I replied.
“Really? That’s it?”
“Yeah. It’s been the biggest help.”
“Okay then, well let’s get you an IV so you can keep getting better,” Dean said, setting up a sterile drape on my arm.
Then he moved my arm laterally to a 45-degree angle with my torso.
“Whoa! Look at that! You couldn’t even move your arm an inch away from your body last time, remember?”
I nodded, affirming his observation. Then I braced as he stuck my left bicep with a needle and proceeded to use a bunch of other tools I had never seen before. 10 minutes later I was hooked up to a saline drip and had a mid-line IV to conceivably last me several weeks.
It has been a week since the mid-line placement. I barely feel it anymore and although it gives me some trouble at night when I’m trying to sleep, it has been much better than the not-so-sexy PICC I had in April. In my opinion, the difference has been two things: the use of a shorter IV catheter in my vein, and a decrease in my body’s sensitivity, which is undoubtedly thanks to my improved health. Six months ago a hug felt like being crammed into a trash compactor, so you can imagine how a needle poke and catheter shoved in my vein felt. Now, my body can handle much more pain and pressure. For that, and all my health improvements, I am so incredibly grateful.
*I’m excited to say I recently had an essay published by Men’s Journal. Take a look.
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