Time out for a PICC

A post from the hospital:

Last week, I was admitted to the hospital to get a central line placed for a course of home IV antibiotics. I was in for two days…not bad, really. The only reason I had to be admitted was because in order to get it put in as an outpatient, I would have had to wait two weeks. Not good when you need antibiotics. The experience was SO different from the one I had last winter because I actually didn’t feel sick this time My PFT’s were significantly down though, and it seemed like a good thing to do. In fact, it was kind of comical. Below are some of my observations, which I had been diligently jotting down:

First, if you really want to confuse nurses, go into the hospital relatively healthy. Bless their hearts, the poor things don’t know what to do with you! I was bopping around the nurses station, asking if I could go find a coke machine my first afternoon, and the look of pure incredulity I received was priceless. I couldn’t help it…I had asked for a coke at 2:00, and by 4:30, I was getting really thirsty! They told me that “my doctor didn’t write an order that would allow me to ambulate” (I so love that word). I told them, “Well, I’m a doctor. Can I write the order? Clearly, I am capable of walking…even without an order.” They weren’t amused, but they did go raid the staff refrigerator and get a coke for me.

When the fifth year medical student from Stanford came in, I was in a feisty mood, so I didn’t tell him that I was a doctor at first. He was taking the usual exhaustive history that you take when you are on the wards for the first couple of years. A typical dialogue is below. I have changed the name of the med student because he was very nice and I liked him…green as he was…to “Doogy Howser” because I swear he was the spitting image. It goes like this:

Doogy, ascertaining the chief complain (cc): “So, tell me why you’re here?”
Me: “I have CF.”
Doogy, digging deeper: “Well, tell me how your last couple of days have gone?”
Me: “Pretty well. I went running this morning.”
Doogy, confused: So…why do you need antibiotics?”
Me: “My doctor said so.” And on it went for awhile. Then I felt bad, and started to be nicer, answering all of his questions with a smile. He got back at me though, I found out the next morning when the nurse came in with my meds.
First, she tried to give me a shot of sub-cutaneous heparin. I said, a bit bewildered, “I don’t need that.” I’m not sure anyone has turned her down before. She looked sad.
It turns out that if you are in the hospital, they assume you are bed-ridden (imagine that) and need to be guarded against blood clots. She apparently hadn’t seen me do my yoga routine earlier.
Then came the stool softener and the Prilosec. If you even get close to a hospital, you get a stool softener and a Prilosec. Try it. Drive by, and see what happens.

When the PICC nurse couldn’t get the line in the next morning, I had to go to interventional radiology. This was quite a treat, because they have very cool imaging in radiology that you get to watch…in real time. So, after I got over the humiliation of riding in a wheelchair (the RULE…there are a lot of RULES), when I could have taken the stairs at a run, and beat the transport person taking the elevator, I hopped up on the table and asked if I could watch the line snake its way from my elbow to my heart. That was definitely the highlight of the visit for me.

The weird thing was, after the line was placed successfully, I had to wait to show them that I knew how to give myself the antibiotic. Now this RULE was really annoying, but humorous nonetheless. I’ve probably given myself IV infusions 600-700 times (rough estimate) but I had to prove my prowess.

Finally, at about 5:30, I was informed that my meds had been delivered from the central pharmacy, but I had to wait while they changed the labels…don’t even ask…another RULE. Then the call came, the drugs were ready. Do you think I got to go get them and leave? Nope…had to wait for transport again. This time, I drew the line. I walked to the pharmacy, next to transport. We had a nice chat.

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