November 2, 2009 When John and Tanner came home from the hospital Saturday, they had a lot of stuff with them. We had been in the hospital 9 days and had accumulated a lot of things that John kept unloading from the car and bringing into the house. After 3 or 4 trips, he brought in two big cardboard boxes and set them on the kitchen table.
“What the heck is that?” I said, expecting it to be a gift of some kind for Tanner. He opened them up to show me all medical supplies necessary to administer the IV antibiotics to Tanner for the next four days. Yikes! John laughed and said, “I say we just take her back to the hospital and say we made a mistake… we want to stay.”
Ironically, that was an option. We could either stay four more days or learn how to administer the antibiotics. Seemed like a no-brainer to me until I saw those boxes. Fortunately, John had taken a video of the pharmacists’ explanation of how to use the supplies and I had asked the nurse to show me how to flush her line while we were at the hospital. There were also written instructions. How hard could it be?
It isn’t actually all that hard, just kind of unnerving considering the reason she is getting the IV antibiotics in the first place is because she had some staph bacteria in her line. So, slightly nervous, John and I glove up, read the directions through several times and go at it. It went really well, I thought, until I came back ½ hour later and no antibiotic had drained from the ball. That’s when I realized I hadn’t unclamped the line to the antibiotic… oops!
Since then, I’ve become a pro, even by flashlight at 2 am. I’m pretty fast and quite confident now, which is good, because I have to do it four times a day. I’ll have flushed her line 32 times, hooked up the antibiotic and administered heparin 16 times by the end. I sterilize the cap on her line, flush with saline, bleed the air from the antibiotic line, hook them together and unclamp everything to begin the drip. Then, I reset my alarm for an hour later, wake up, unhook her, flush and administer heparin to keep her line from clotting.
It’s an amazing contraption that allows us to deliver IV antibiotics at home pretty simply. No pole, no infusion machine… just a little balloon filled with liquid antibiotic that, once screwed into her line and unclamped, drips out of the balloon and down the line into her port much like a water balloon would drip out if you put a pinhole in it. So clever. She even has a little fanny pack she can put it so she can carry it with her if she wants to get up and play.
So, it’s been going very smoothly… until this morning when the needle came half out of Tanner’s port. John woke me up and I could hear Tanner crying and yelling. Nothing to do but pull it out the rest of the way and go to the clinic to have it accessed again. Tanner and I took Jake, which was fun because she got to show him the ropes and he got to meet the ever-famous Nurse Cari.
One of the nice things about this whole thing is that I get to do something for John. The whole thing makes him a bit squeamish. It’s not just the fact that you have to draw back blood to make sure the port is working, I think it’s also the thought that he might hurt her if he makes a mistake. At any rate, it makes him uncomfortable and I just told him not to worry about it; I didn’t want him to have to do it. So the miracle is that he has let me do this for him; he doesn’t often stop helping me enough to let me help him. I’m glad.
So, two more days of IV antibiotics, then a long day of lots of chemo on Friday that begins five days of IV chemo administered at home. We’re ready.