Small veins and sickle cell are never a good mix. As luck would have it, I have both!
From an early age, I associated my health with injections. I would beg not to be taken to the hospital to treat a crisis, as I knew I would be treated with fluids and medication intravenously. I would wince every time a nurse drew blood for my monthly blood tests and I would sob when I had to get another vaccination. However, I quickly learned that the sting of a needle was a necessary evil and it would help me in the long run. For a while now I have been able to “suck it up” and brave the pinch.
As I got older, I started to realize that the pain from a needle was no longer the issue. Nurses and doctors struggled more and more to find a good vein they could easily access. What should normally be done in one try could take up to five attempts.
To sit and bear the stings of all the failed attempts is definitely frustrating. I’m not as fazed by the pain since my healthcare plan changed to monthly red cell exchange transfusions, but I’ve become increasingly worried about the health of my veins. The needles the aphesis nurses use during this procedure are much thicker and longer than the needles used during a simple blood test, and they tend to leave a scar, which makes me feel self-conscious.
When I share my experiences with others who have sickle cell, the topic of getting a port-a-cath or a femoral line always arises … and my heart drops!
A port-a-cath is a small medical device that provides direct access to a central vein. This device sits under your skin, often in your chest area, and connects to a central line. It can last for years. A femoral line is a flexible tube that is placed into a large vein in your upper thigh and lasts up to 24 to 48 hours.
I genuinely fear these things. Every time I see the names my heart skips a beat.
The thought of me needing one randomly crossed my mind at work a few months ago and I sat behind my desk, fighting back tears and sad feelings. The longer I thought about it the more worried I became.
Whenever one of these is suggested as an option for me I shut down the topic completely. I’ve never entertained the idea.
I still don’t want to entertain the idea, but I can’t be ignorant.
Some may think I’m being dramatic and ungrateful. Don’t get me wrong — I am thankful for modern medicine and the methods that exist to make sure I’m as healthy as possible. I do take comfort in the fact that there are other ways to administer my life-saving treatment if the veins in my arms are no longer usable. But honestly speaking, I hope this is never my only option.
I know of many people who have opted to use a port-a-cath or femoral line during the early stages of their treatment and they have never looked back!
Maybe I am being dramatic, but I’m just sharing how I currently feel.
If you have a port-a-cath or femoral line, please share your thoughts on it in the comments below.
Note: Sickle Cell Anemia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Anemia News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell anemia.