I have a tube in my arm. It’s installed just inside my right tricep. It contains a tube that goes through a vein and ends up near my heart. It’s all I can think about since it has dangling appendages to hook up an IV as well as careful stitching to hold it in place. Not only does it make me faint to think about or look at it, all my brain can do is conjure up the myriad ways that the dangling things can snag on something and RIP THE WHOLE THING OUT OF MY ARM OH MY GOD…
It’s called a PICC line (“pick” line). Why the hell did I subject myself to this? you are probably wondering. Well.
It started on a bright Mother’s Day Sunday. There was this lump on my waist, about 2cm above where my clothing usually sits. Naturally! I’ve had little lumps before and they’ve been slightly painful, annoying, and generally just disappeared with no other symptoms. But this one was destined for greatness, because the first time I actually felt it, it was a smallish thing and it was actually about a week before Mother’s Day. I simply taped gauze over it, took an Aleve and went about my life.
By the time Sunday came around, it was apparent that my growth, now six days old, had no intention of leaving, and grew even bigger and more painful. I went to the walk in clinic on Mothers Day, after having five solid days of ever increasing pain. She prescribed heavy duty antibiotics (something I rarely take) and a pain regimen of 500mg acetaminophen and 5mg hydrocodone. She drew a small circle around the lump (which had me squirming and crying in pain; if the wind blew on it, I was reduced to tears) and told me to come back immediately if the lump exceeded the boundaries.
By Tuesday, it was down a little bit but not much. I figured I was on the mend, but noticed that the “pain regimen” wasn’t really putting a dent in the pain. Then it started interfering with work in that I was getting chills for no discernible reason, and by Friday, the muscles in my core on the right side started to ache. Over the weekend, I lost most of the function of my right side in doing things like getting up from sitting, sitting back down from standing, reaching for things, etc.
Looking at it on Monday, I saw it had definitely grown quite outside the boundaries of where the doc had drawn seven days ago. I decided to make an appointment with my primary physician that afternoon. He took one look at it and informed me to march myself into the ER.
I was in the hospital for four days. The first two days were a haze of pain and Dilaudid. Honestly, I don’t have words for the intensity of that pain, and I birthed a 10 pound baby naturally. No drugs. I don’t recommend that, by the way. Take the drugs. Anyway, I was so determined to heal myself that I literally put myself into a trance. I have always been somewhat grateful for my general good health (in spite of obesity, that is) that this whole ordeal has strengthened it. A lot.
I have a battle scar on my side now, a reminder of the 6 cm deep and 5 cm wide hole they had to drill to get all the poison out of my system. I learned later that had I continued ignoring my symptoms that there was a real chance of the bacteria getting into my bloodstream and causing serious heart trouble. I’ll take the battle scar. It’s a good story to tell, and it’s not like I’m going into swimsuit modeling anytime soon. I am much more at peace with myself, oddly: with who I am, with what I look like and with the things I have. I guess a good health scare will do that to you.