Implanted Ports and What You Should Know

Needles and me don’t get along.  It’s true.  We never have and I believe never will. Numerous people told me that I would get use to needles after being diagnosed with cancer but they were wrong.  I will NEVER get use to them.  I have tried breathing techniques, visual imagery, tapping, you name it…nothing works.  I have bad veins, I have always been a hard stick, and so my fear is legitimate and hey…most people have at least one fear and mine is needles.

On my very first visit to the Oncologist after being diagnosed with cancer I was told that I needed numerous tests and scans.  The nurse in the office proceeded to draw my blood and had to stick me several times and then peel me off the ceiling.  My Oncologist proceeded to call my surgeon and tell him that during my mastectomy he needed to place an implantable port so that when giving blood and getting chemotherapy I would not need to be stuck in the arm.  Whew….what a relief, no needle sticks.  Wrong!  After getting my port, I was told that scans such as CT scans, bone scans, and PET scans can’t be done through a port because of either the radioactive materials or the pressure and speed in which the materials get injected (don’t want the port to go flying through my skin and across the room).

So, I was put back into panic mode and my first PET scan was a nightmare.  Five tries and two different people to get an IV in my arm to inject the dye.  My husband had to literally hold down my legs while I was hysterical and then I left bruised from elbow to wrist on both arms.  Giving blood at another site other than my Oncologists office turned into the same drama.  Everyone tells me they are the best, they never miss, and then…BAM, they didn’t get it and they try over and over again.  Like I’m making this up that I’m a difficult stick.

Well, luckily I found a local center that would do PET scans through my port, since I had three more (yuck).  But after several failed attempts to get the IV in me for a bone scan they had to cancel the scan.

I found out in the midst of all this agony that my port was NOT a power port and that if it had been a power port EVERYTHING could have been done through it.  EVERYTHING!  All of the scans, it didn’t matter how fast they pumped in the contrast, how much blood they had to take out, if the material was radioactive, all the toxic chemotherapy they put in me, or if I needed a blood transfusion, it could all be done through a power port.

Needless to say, I was a little upset to find this out and wondered why I didn’t get a power port.  I asked my surgeon and his response was, “I put in whatever they had at the hospital.”  Not good enough Doc.  If you know there is something better for your patients then do something about it!  So I implore you, if you are getting ready to have a port put in for whatever reason, make sure it is a power port.

portinchest

My story continues with my latest surgery that I traveled to New Orleans for.  I needed to have a CT scan done and they were unable to put the contrast material through my port.  Again, panic starts.  The nurse reassured me that she wouldn’t stick me unless she was sure that she had a good vein and could get in the IV on the first try.  Well, we all know how that goes, heard that story about 100 times already.  She stuck me, dug around a little and then said…nope, didn’t get it.  She called the Anesthesiologist down and he proceeded to say that he could get it in on the first try in the other arm.  Nope, he didn’t get it either.  Third time was a charm, but again by that time my arms are sore and bruised and I’m extremely anxious.

A few hours later I’m discussing the scan results with my Microsurgeon and I ask him if, while I’m under anesthesia for my 6-7 hour surgery, he could replace my port with a power port.  He said sure and that was that.  Hooray!  I now have a power port and hopefully no more nightmare sticks.

I have a Bard Power Port which is triangular in shape and has three raised bumps on top so the nurses and Dr’s can feel the bumps (in my case they can see them) and know that I have a power port and where to access it.

touchPoints_sm

Yes, there are some downsides to having and keeping my port.  It sticks out of my skin since I am fairly thin and becomes something that I have to hide with clothing (no string bikinis for me).  I also have to have it flushed (accessed with a needle and administered saline and heparin) every 4 to 6 weeks so that it will not get clogged and will keep working.  But this is okay.  I have a numbing cream I put on the skin one hour before I get my port accessed and the girls at my Oncologists office spray the area with freezy, numbing spray so I don’t feel a thing.

I wish that someone had told me about power ports before I had my first surgery and the initial port was placed.  So now I am here to tell you…to tell your family and friends…tell strangers…tell anyone that may be facing surgery and treatment which requires a port to get a POWER PORT.

PowerPortInsertion

-Kristen
Choosing healthy living over dying :)

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One thought on “Implanted Ports and What You Should Know

  1. How traumatizing for you! One would expect the surgeon, knowing how difficult a stick you are, to place the power port to make your experience more comfortable. I’m so happy your micro surgeon listened to you. I hope this time passes quickly for you. A friend of mine is have surgery and then chemo for breast cancer. I will pass along your wise advice. Take care!

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