Getting PICC-y About Infections

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One of the two hospitals in town opened this whole giant addition in December and, last Wednesday, I finally got to see what it looked like inside. I got to see admitting. I got to see radiology. I got to see a room in the surgical suite…

Oh, joy.

Oh. And I got to see a handicapped-accessible ladies room. More about that later.

I still have an infection in my leg I haven’t been able to shake. It’s from skin flora that got — well, under my skin — and I’m left with a red, warm, hard spot on my calf right next to the incision from surgery to repair my ruptured Achilles tendon. I’ve probably swallowed every super-strength antibiotic available in pill form, to no avail. It’s now time to go back on IV antibiotics for a while. The infusion will be through a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line, which was inserted into a vein in my upper arm and threaded through until the thin catheter ended in a large vein near my heart.

It went well, by the way. Except that I was told not to eat — but not told that only applied to the four hours before the procedure. That, along with my tendency to go hypoglycemic when I’m stressed and that I’m still working on adjusting my basal rates, contributed to low blood glucose. At least it provided me with a fasting basal test.

My problems with blood glucose weren’t helped by the fact that the hospital peeps kept giving me juice, which would raise my glucose for a little while before it went plunging back down. There was no milk available to add some protein and fat to the mix (plus, of course, the lactose, which is the sugar in milk). I frequently drink 2% milk to help keep my glucose steady after an initial jolt of pure sugar.

I did have glucose tablets with me, but they had the same effect as the juice. After the PICC line was placed, I was given some peanut butter and crackers to nibble on while the nurse and I went through my discharge instructions.

The last time I had a PICC line placed, I was in the hospital. A nurse who worked for a company that specialized in PICC line placement came to my room to do her thing while I relaxed in my bed. A portable x-ray machine was brought in to ensure proper placement.

This time, I was in an operating room — a cold operating room — with (I think) four other people, an x-ray machine, an ultrasound, and stuff like that there. The people were kind of fun, actually. I was asked what kind of music I wanted them to play, a heated blanket was tucked around me, and the procedure began. At one point, I felt something wet and warm on my arm.

“Is that a warm cloth or blood?” I asked, rather sleepily (warm blanket, music…)

“Blood,” one person answered.

“No, no!” said another. “Warm cloth! Warm cloth!”

At least I didn’t have to clean myself up. Also, it was their gown and not my clothes. But I neglected to use the “free blood” to check my glucose. Rats! Had to stick my finger again! (Wouldn’t you know the sensor on my continuous glucose monitor — CGM — picked the night before to reach the end of its useful life? Seems that always happens when I could most use it! Mechanical objects hate me.)

For about the first day, my arm kind of hurt. And one of the cats, who had been ignoring me for the last couple of weeks, decided to pick that evening to be my friend by curling up in the crook of my (sore) arm for a nap.

My antibiotics come in a newfangled set-up I’ve never used. Instead of a bag and a pole, I have a bottle with a balloon inside. It’s called an elastomeric pump and somehow infuses the liquid over a period of one hour. I kind of like it: I just put the bottle into a pocket and go about my business instead of being tied to one spot.

It should come in especially handy when I take my grandson to New York City for a couple of days the first week of March. I’ve run IV in a car. I’ve hung the bag from a curtain rod. I’ve even thumbtacked a bag to a bulletin board over my desk in an office and run IV while I sat in the middle of a newsroom and worked. Maybe this time I will be running IV while watching a Broadway show.

OK. I said I would tell you about the handicapped-accessible ladies room in the new hospital that opened just two months ago.

It isn’t really all that accessible. The aide who was wheeling me out couldn’t get the wheelchair through the door that easily, so I got up and hobbled in. The handicapped stall was at the far end of the row (they always do that), so I took the first stall, which did not have bars to hang onto. In the meantime, the aide got the wheelchair in, but it was difficult for her to get me out because there were a couple of turns to get from the hallway into the business part of the bathroom. And vice-versa.

I’m sure it meets ADA (that would be the Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, but it sure doesn’t meet the standards of anybody who is mobility impaired. Or, for that matter, anybody who is helping said mobility-impaired person. I think the people who make up those laws use rulers and computer models. Perhaps they should try them out in real life before imposing them on the rest of us.

Hoo, boy! Please let me know when that happens! It sure would be fun to watch.

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