Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Mardi Gras Surprise!

Today featured some unexpected medical excitement.

Shortly before noon, Judy and I arrived at Henrico Doctors Hospital so I could have a "portagram" - essentially a dye enhanced x-ray of my port-a-cath to see why it didn't work on Friday.

The nurse first accessed the port with a Huber pin. Like the nurse at Johnston Willis on Friday, she could not get a blood return. They took me into the special procedures room, and another nurse prepared to inject the dye. First, though, she took a preliminary x-ray without the dye. Then she put down the dye syringe and asked one of the other nurses in the room to get the doctor.

"I'm not going to inject the dye, yet," she said. "I want Dr. Pieters to look at something first."

" You've obviously already seen something," says I. "What's going on?"

What was going on was this: the port-a-cath tube had broken in half, and the portion that was supposed to go to and stop at the entrance to my heart had slipped into my heart.

The nurses prepped me for a catheter while Dr. Pieters explained how he was going to use a catheter to go in through my groin to "lasso" the broken piece of the tube that had come to rest in my heart. He told me that there was a risk but not a likelihood that the procedure could mess up my heart rhythm. Then he went to call my oncologist to get his buy-in on the procedure, while the nurses scrubbed and shaved my groin and inserted an IV in my arm.

They asked whether I wanted to be sedated or not, averring that it would not be a long or a painful procedure. I said I didn't feel strongly about it one way or the other - I was equally fearful of the sedative and of the "discomfort." The nurse said she would not administer it right away, but keep it handy just in case.

The doctor started by administering a local anasthetic in my groin. I felt the needle pricks from that, then pressure and a more dramatic needle prick when he inserted the catheter. I could see the x-ray screen the doctor used to monitor the progress of the catheter up the vein to my heart. I couldn't really pick out the catheter on the screen, but from the movement of the x-ray machine up and down my torso, I had a pretty good idea of how things were going along, and they went rather quickly.

I think he managed to "lasso" the tube fragment on his first try, and the catheter came out with it even quicker than it went in. He showed me the loop top of the catheter when he was done, but not the tube fragment.

A nurse held pressure on the insertion wound for five minutes and then they rolled me out into a waiting area where I rejoined Judy.

I had to stay in bed with my leg straight for four hours, so they took me up to a room on the fourth floor (in the orthopaedic wing). Judy got me a sandwich (I'd been fasting since breakfast) and stayed with me until she had to go pick our daughter up from a music rehearsal. Ed came to wait the last hour with me and bring me home.

We got to the house just before seven, in time for the tail end of the Shrove Tuesday pancakes with the family.

Laissez les bon temps roulez.


Blogger Kita28 said...

Dear Jim,

Yikes, yikes, and double yikes! You are never boring.

We hope that Ash Wednesday is much, much calmer.

All our love,

Kita and Brad

8:34 AM  
Blogger vkenny said...

Hi Jimmy, Well the fun never ends with you huh? What is so weird about this is that Ed had the same procedure for a different reason, he had a minor blockage that they dealt with by doing the angiogram and for Ed the worst part was the hair growing back (very itchy) maybe a little to much info there, anyway I'm glad that's over and now you can take it easy for a while and have some fun.
Stay well and keep fighting the good fight!

9:04 AM  
Blogger Karen Davis said...

Never a dull moment, is there? Glad that escapade ended well. Greg and I were SO glad to hear the good results of your scan. Cathy Callow says hi. She's still helping with out with Gracie so I can get office time. She says that's her contribution to your recovery. :)

4:19 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Wow...surprise is right! I'm so glad everything's okay!

Hope your bon temps were tres bon!

5:06 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...


I've heard of those things happening to port-a-cath's before. Most of these are relatively harmless, but it sounds like you had a great cardiac cath team (HDH boasts the best in the city). My list of "Jim's Doctors To Kiss" is now I'm up to about 10. It's not so bad really...they taste just like tofu. :D


8:46 PM  

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