PICCing away

G'day all!

Today I had another grand adventure. Today I got my PICC line in.

It was supposed to be tomorrow but they changed it. Most peeving cos this means I had to go to the hospital for breast clinic yesterday, PICC today, flushing of PICC and changing of dressings tomorrow and then chemo on Friday. That is FOUR DAYS IN A ROW. Man, I am going to hate that place by the time we are done or I'll be moving there cos it is home. One or the other.

So we arrive, I hand over the form, Nathan settles in for a bit of reading, I settle in for some knitting. A little while later, they call me in. I go get changed into a gown ("upper half only"), do the consent, etc, then wait some more. By the time I get called into the xray theatre, nearly 45 minutes have passed. I've had a little chat with a couple of peoples there, one of whom admired my knitting (yet another chemo cap for me, probably the second last one for the moment - the last will be horrid fun fur in a lurid purple cos who doesn't want purple hair?).

I lay down on the bed under the xray machine, with my right arm flopped out. The bed is rather uncomfortable, being a metal tray with a sheet on top. That's ok cos two minutes later I get to swap around and lay the other way, with my head where my feet were and my left arm flopped out on the tray. At this point I am glad I said I'd take my shoes off. I asked for the right arm to be catheterised but it has to be the left arm cos the right one will get surgery and if the PICC line is still in, it will have to come out. So I had to swap ends cos they can't move all the equipment to the other side of the bed - the x-ray machine is in the way. I've already hit my head on it once. LOL. A nurse dashes in and sticks an x-ray plate under me.

So the radiologist comes in, does a quick ultrasound of my arm, has a brief chat with me, finds some "ok" veins (if I read the ultrasound right, I seem to have two to three veins running quite close together by the humerus under the bicep) and goes off to do other things whilst the nurse preps herself for aseptic surgery and then me. It takes quite a few minutes for this to happen - I've done surgery before so I know it is a whole process. She starts off by putting on a lead gown, then mask and eyeshield, then scrubs her hands, dries them carefully on a sterile towel, puts on a sterile gown, gloves, someone else helps her by tying the gown up, then lays out all the things needed for the catheterisation.

I get a blankie to keep me warm :-)

I have to have my arm wiped with an antiseptic solution. The nurse can do the underside of my arm but to do the upper side needs the helper, who holds my hand up. Then my arm can be laid on a sterile cloth and the whole area is draped with more cloths ("drapes"). The drapes are dark blue not the usual surgical green. The ultrasound probe gets a high tech (we joked about this) sterile freezer type plastic bag put over it and secured with a sterile rubber band, then another sterile drape is wrapped around the probe and another sterile ribber band or two hold that on.

I feel jealous - she is off to Thailand in 10 days and he is off to Malaysia to "visit an ancestor" in a couple of weeks. I'll be planted on me butt in Melbourne then, staying away from people. But good news -

Hooray! We are ready for the return of the radiologist. He scrubs up, gowns up, gloves up and we are rocking. Anaesthetic in, incision made, catheter in - he feeds quite a bit of it into me. (Maybe the wound was dressed at this point - can't remember cos my butt was numb and telling me all about it by this stage - yes I was lying down!) Bed moves me into position - "Oooh a free ride!", x-ray machine moves into position and takes a pic of my chest. This is to make sure that the PICC line is sitting correctly - we don't want it to perforate either my vena cava or my heart. Either of those would be Very Bad Indeed. Anyway, the whole operation part is done in roughly 5 minutes. I've been watching the clock.

Radiologist has left to do Other Things. Nurse works out how much catheter is in me (40.5cm), dresses the wound and bandages the area firmly to help reduce bleeding. 10 minutes later the area is rebandaged more gently. I have to wait until we get the go ahead for moving - the x-ray has to show the line is sitting correctly.

More hooray! The line is nicely in place.

Nurse helps me off the bed - I've been lying down for quite some time and various bits have gone numb. I don't go white and fainty. So 90 minutes after walking in the door, off I go!

The upside of having the PICC is the chemo goes into one of my largest veins so the chemo gets diluted and won't damage the veins as badly. The downsides? I can't shower without a plastic bag on my arm. I can't get the line wet. (I'll be dong sponge baths some days I reckon.) I can't lift a washing basket or a heavy bag of shopping with my left arm. I'm glad I don't have a big heavy handbag (purse for Americans) cos I'm not allowed to carry that with my left arm. 1-2kg is my lifting limit at present. That is nothing! This means that I can't even lift the cats up one handed any longer, not that I usually do! No stretching either. No kinking the line. No this that or something else. But I am allowed to garden as long as I don't throw dirt over myself, particularly the dressing. (This could be an issue!) Plus I have the feeling neat fitting sleeves will be a problem too. I have to monitor the wound closely and my temperature too (though I already have to take my temp every day and more often if I am not feeling well). The dressing has to be changed every week, which means going to the hospital. Blah. Ah well. Hopefully it will be worthwhile and I won't get any infection. I certainly will wash more often than the old bloke who did chemo at the same time as me last time - he has a PICC line and I think his way of dealing with the washing problem is just not to bother.

For those of you who have struggled all the way through this, I give you a pic of me wearing my mother in law's wig from 9 years ago when she was on chemo. I am not sure I'll end up with a wig (cash flow problem and also? ITCHY!) but this amuses me.


I am doing a good impersonation of my brother there, not that he has hair like that but the expression. I am also told I look like Dusty Springfield with the wig on. If only I had her voice!



  1. OMG how different do you look with the wig on!!! Have you got anymore to play with? On cool days they might help for keeping the head warm as long as the itch factor isn't too much.

  2. Most amusing photo of you bewigged!!!
    I love the warm blanket they put over you, sooo warm. Very exciting procedure, I haven't had that one. It is horrid when you seem to spend all your time at the hospital.

  3. Wow, and you typed all that with a tube in your arm? I guess that means it's also no impediment to knitting (more important!).

    I had a freaky moment there because, with that wig on, you like a lot like another friend of mine.

    I wonder... could you line it with silk fibre to stop the itch?

  4. I quite like the wig! Shame about the itching though.


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