Sometimes my tube would dry out a bit (the saline usually kind of sits in there from the last flush). One weekend, we got caught in a snowstorm during what was supposed to be a day trip, so I didn’t bring any of my supplies with me. We ended up stranded in a hotel about 2 hours from home for two days. I was already a little worried about two days without the meds, but then I noticed my tube was completely empty. Ok. So this tube goes into my bloodstream. I knew that air wasn’t supposed to be in the bloodstream. I knew that air in the bloodstream was probably bad. And I was pretty sure I’d seen at least a movie where air was used to kill someone that way. (Yes, I’m aware that movies are extra dramatized and everything you see on TV isn’t real, but I was stranded in a hotel in a snowstorm with no supplies for the new tube in my chest which I still wasn’t totally familiar with.) What I didn’t know was how much air was bad? dangerous? deadly?
Hooray for the 24-hour help line! I called right away, and the nice man who answered reassured me I wasn’t going to die any minute. Then he walked me through using the hose clamp that I luckily did have with me to block the line as close to my body as possible just in case there was a leak somewhere in the line or at the nozzle. He said I should have the line and nozzle checked as soon as I was able. And then, he said when I got home I’d have to remove the air before injecting any saline or medication. Remove the air? How do I remove the air? And that is the unnerving part.
He said to empty a saline syringe, clean everything as normal, and then use the syringe to pull the air out of the tube until blood filled the tube and into the syringe a bit. Then flush the tube with at least two new saline syringes. *blech*
I’m not usually squeamish about blood, and while I don’t particularly enjoy getting blood drawn from my arm, I’ve had it done some many times in my life that I can look away and deal with it. And when you have a PICC or CVC, normally the blood is simply taken from that to alleviate having to poke another hole in you, but at that point I hadn’t had to give blood for anything.
Pulling blood, not just letting it flow like a blood draw.
From my chest, not my arm.
Doing it myself, not letting someone else do it.
And I had to LOOK! Not just turn my head to the side and pretend it wasn’t happening.
If you haven’t had blood pulled from a part of your body, it feels a lot like you probably think it feels. Like your life force and soul are being sucked out of your chest!! But I had to do it. By the time we got home 2 days later, it was pretty late, so running to the doc’s office wasn’t an option until morning, and my apprehension didn’t seem ER worthy, and I didn’t want to chance the whole air-getting-into-my-blood-and-dying thing. So I did as the nice man on the phone instructed. And it was horrible. But I got through it without passing out (yes dizziness did happen) and only had to lie down for about 10 minutes after.
I did make an appointment with the doctor the next day, and he inspected my line. Turns out it simply dried out due to the dry air in the car (snowstorm, winter, car heater all day) and lack of my normal regular refills at medicine time.
And after that, I did have to have blood drawn a handful of times which did utilize the CVC. It still felt like my life force and soul were being sucked out of my chest, but at least I didn’t have to look and do it myself.