Thursday, October 02, 2008

My Infusion Pump

I have described before how after I receive my five hours of chemo which consists of a number of toxic bags of chemicals being dripped into my body, I go home with a small pump in a fanny pack to deliver one last bag over two days. It is a pain to carry the thing around. It is kind of heavy and it is attached to my shoulder port with long thin clear plastic tubing. One has to be extraordinarily careful.

1. You cannot touch hot things with the tubing or it will melt and cause a disaster.

2. The dog's claws cannot accidentally hook it when he is trying to sit up for his doggie biscuit or it will cause a disaster.

3. You cannot shut the tubing in a drawer when you are putting make-up on or brushing your teeth.

4. You cannot drop the pump risking breakage or heaven forbid, yanking the line out of my skin.

5. You have to avoid snagging the line on just about everything from chairs to recliner couches.

6. You cannot shut the tubing in a car door.

Now I am not complaining (well, yes I am) because back in the day, I would probably be in the hospital for three days for every chemo. Believe me, I would rather be attached to my black fanny pack.

I look forward every two weeks to my time to be unhooked and set free. We have an arrangement where we go to Everett's Pacific Providence Hospital for the detachment. This is closer to our house than having to drive all the way into Seattle. It only takes about 5 minutes to unhook me but it is a serious unhooking because they detach the tubing from my port. This involves pulling out of my skin a fairly significant sharp thingy. I am squeamish so I always turn my head the other way. It doesn't hurt when they plug me in or unplug me but I cannot look.

The minute my pump says "infusion complete," I want it gone! Usually, the nurse is waiting for us at the hospital and within 10 minutes, I have my freedom. Evidently, the home health pumps are quite a specialty and only certain people can unhook me. In other words, if my nurse does not show up or if they are late, there is not one other person in all of Everett's Providence Hospital who is able to do the job. After eight times now and besides yesterday, we only had one time when the nurse failed to show up. The previous time we had to wait about an hour; yesterday after calling the 1-800 number, our wait was about 45 minutes.

Yes. Yesterday, I had to wait for my freedom and I became quite impatient. But wait---there's more. The floor where we go is not very busy. It seems most of the rooms are empty and it is quiet. Yesterday, it seemed a little too quiet. I noticed this secret service looking guy in a black suit with a phone in his ear. I also saw a guard. Then as my pump alarm was beeping away because my INFUSION WAS COMPLETE, I overheard the word funeral home spoken by someone in the general direction of the secret service guy.

"Dave, somebody died. I think that guy is from a funeral home. I mean, I hope they are not waiting for me because I am not exactly ready for their services." My eyes were twice their normal size. I am squeamish.

"Yep--probably a mortician!"

"Ok, they make me wait to get unhooked and now somebody dies right here where we are waiting?! Now, I am traumatized," I replied with a wavering voice. At that point another secret service guy came through the double doors with a gurney. "Oh my gosh! They are going to take a body out right in front of me, aren't they?"

A few minutes later, the secret service guys and the guard with the gurney were heading our way. I covered my eyes as they passed a foot in front of us. "Geez, Janet, it was just a giant opaque zip lock bag. You couldn't see anything," teased Dave.

"Couldn't see anything? Well, I don't want to see a giant zip loc bag being wheeled out by morticians. I simply want my pump unhooked so we can leave." We sat there for a few more minutes and I listened to the nurses discuss how to list what had just happened on the computer. One of them said you have to use the words "patient expired" plus the exact time or the patient will continue to live forever in the computer.

Finally, we saw our nurse come through the double doors. Whoa! I hoped she would not put me in the room they had just cleaned out.

She didn't! And within five minutes, I was free. I walked out of that hospital faster than I ever had and realized I have not really had a chance to run since my diagnosis.