To receive the fortnightly dose of chemo I had the option of a picc line inserted in my arm that would require weekly dressing and would also have tubes permanently protruding on my arm inhibiting things I could do. Instead I opted for a portacath that is inserted in the shoulder area and sits just below the skin.
I had this inserted on Wednesday in a 20 minute operation under local anaesthetic that took 2 hours!!
A junior surgeon was ‘learning’ under the supervision of a specialist vascular surgeon. I think I was the first guinea-pig for the young surgeon. He started by putting the wrong anaesthetic in so that when he started cutting, I could feel every stroke of the scalpel. So I said “ouch” and the nurse got told off for giving the surgeons the wrong numbing agent. Two or three times as they cut deeper they drove into areas that were not anaesthetised.
And then they couldn’t find the right vein. At one stage the junior surgeon pointed out what he thought was the correct one only to be told by his senior, “That is an artery!”
During the operation the senior fielded a telephone call for which he used the speaker phone. I felt like asking him if he was still keeping his eye on the apprentice who was still poking around inside my shoulder.
Eventually, with the aid of ultra-sound and a portable x-ray especially brought into the theatre to aid the doctors, they learned that they had managed to secure the line into the correct vein. More pushing and tugging went on to get the junction into place and then the senior left the theatre and allowed the apprentice to sew me up on his own.
During the whole procedure I still managed to have a cordial chat with them both and proffered a couple of humerous stories as well, just to keep their spirits up. I even apologised to them that my veins were too small to stand out. There were times that discretion prevailed and I said nothing so that they could concentrate on the job in hand.
The photo of my chest shows the incision and the aftermath two days after the procedure.
Aftermath of portacath insertion