Note: If reading about medical procedures makes you queasy—you’d better skip this one.
Here’s a quick wrap up of the portacath day. We arrived at Kaiser Sunset in Hollywood this morning at about 6am. By 7am, we were through the admitting process, and by about 7:30 I was laying on a bed, IV inserted. A few moments later the surgeon came out and met with us, and by about 8:15, Dana kissed me and they rolled me into the operating room. For the next 45 minutes two guys prep’d the room and me in a variety of ways—finally covering me with a large blue plastic sheet, including most of my face. By about 9am the surgeon came in and the procedure began. I had to turn my head all the way to the left for the entire time—a bit uncomfortable after a while.
I had a mixture of emotions to find out I would be awake during the surgery. Still not sure how I feel about that. Things started with the doctor taking an ultrasound of my neck to find his special vein. A few moments later he warned me I would feel the numbing shots—which I did. And then I could tell he was making his first incision—a small one above my collar bone on my neck. This was where he would fish in the catheter line into the vein and then under my skin to the port. That took a while and he had some trouble—told me my skin was really thick! :)
I wish the surgeon would have talked more about what he was doing and how far along in the process we were. After a while of silence, and lots of “pressure”—tugging, pulling, pushing—I finally started striking up a conversation with him to get my mind off of what was going on. He answered questions and probably wished he had put me to sleep.
Then he told me he was about to make the second incision—one in my chest (about 2 inches) where he would insert the port. No pain—but definitely an awareness of that incision being made. Then a lot more pressure, pulling, pushing, and a few moments later I could feel him tucking the port inside a little pocket he had created. About 45 minutes into the whole thing he said, “Ok, we’re done with the port and it’s working correctly, so now I just need to stitch you up.” About that time I looked over the blue sheet and saw an x-ray of my chest—with a triangular shaped port and a long catheter tube snaked up to my neck and down into my chest—definitely a weird thing to see. Fifteen minutes later, he placed the last bandage on me and I was taken to recovery.
I was supposed to be in a twilight state, but that wasn’t the case. Whatever they gave me made me a little tired and my eyes a bit blurry—but other than that I was wide awake. For the next two hours I sat in recovery asking nurses to either bring my wife in or “break me out.” No luck. I did get some orange juice and some pain medication.
By noon, Dana was finally allowed to meet me at the discharge area and I was given a great wheel-chair ride to the car. For the rest of the day, I’ve been sore in my neck and chest. Honestly, it’s bearable, but it feels like someone crammed some coffee straws inside of me along with the round end of a stethoscope. The doctor told me it would be sore for a few days. The port sticks up under the skin like a lump and I can feel the catheter tracing up into my neck—so that’s a bit creepy, but I’ll get used to it.
We met some really nice people today—nurses, etc.—and gave some of them a copy of DONE. I am very thankful for the great care that Kaiser provides and the great spirit of everyone who helped me today.
In all, the surgical process was annoying and a bit nerve racking, but not unbearable. And the thought of not having another IV is a blessing. Several weeks from now I’m sure I will be really glad I went through this. And if you’ve made it this far through this post—God bless you, I’m not sure why you would want to! :)
If you’re wondering whether or not to get a port, I would do it again, if only to save the damage that chemo would do to my veins. That alone makes it worth the hassle.
One final note—I was really glad that they listed me as a MALE on my medical chart—finally! :)
PS – I threw a few pics of the day into the picture page in the header. The new ones are at the bottom…
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