diagram_showing_a_picc_line_cruk_071-svgDuring these tune-ups, they would typically place something called a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter, or a PICC line. This is a long catheter placed intravenously that allows for infusions for a prolonged period of time. It would be placed in her arm and the catheter, which was about two feet long, would extend to just over her heart.

Toward the end of one tune-up, Becca had to leave for a business trip the morning after her last infusion. She was done with her regimen of antibiotics and ready to get the PICC line out. If she kept it, she would have to flush it daily with saline and heparin (anti-clotting medication). She decided that this was too much of a hassle and that we could pull it out ourselves.

I am not sure where she got this idea but she proposed it to me with a great deal of confidence. “You just have to put pressure on the insertion point and pull it out at a slow consistent rate,” she told me. It took some convincing but I finally agreed to help her with it. She sat on the toilet and I positioned myself in front of her. First I removed the dressing and clipped the stitches holding the end in place. Becca was such a seasoned patient and do-it-yourselfer that she sat there with all of the confidence in the world. I put pressure on the site then started to slowly pull. Then things went bad.hawaii

When a little of her warm blood dripped onto her leg, she started to get light headed. She tipped forward toward me with her eyes still open, beginning a slow moaning exhale. I had one hand holding gauze at the insertion, and the other hand pulling the PICC out (at a slow steady pace) so I was forced to catch her between my neck and shoulder. I still had to keep pulling but now in this new position, I loosened my grip on the gauze and more blood started flowing out. Had The Walking Dead begun to air, I would have been more cautious about exposing my neck to her, but her moans were unnerving regardless. I finally got the rest of the line out and increased pressure on the site. I waited and watched while she slowly stopped moaning and started blinking a little more. As she was looking at me I could see her slowly reappear behind her eyes. She was confused, wondering what had happened. There was blood in her lap and all over the toilet. Her PICC line was on the floor as I knelt in front of her in our bathroom waiting for her to be alert enough to tell her, “NEVER AGAIN! I WILL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!!! EVER.”

“That was weird.” she told me.

“WEIRD?! That was weird!?! Do you know what happened? I will never, ever, ever do that again. That was awful!”

“I’ve turned into a weenie.” She told me.

“You’ve missed my point entirely. If the apocalypse comes and you have a PICC line, we will roam the earth looking for saline, heparin, and alcohol pads because I am never pulling one of these again.” I was stuck in a precarious situation with nobody else around performing a pseudo-medical procedure that SHE had talked me into…and she was reflecting on how she used to be tougher!?!

From that point forward, I stuck to my no PICC line removal stance and have never compromised. Some days when I would think of it, often when she got a new PICC placed, I would proactively remind her of my uncompromising position and that she would never convince me to remove it. She would roll her eyes at me unfazed by my bold stance. I would later learn that she had experienced a panic attack. This info would do me no good but at least I had an explanation.

An excerpt from Lessons from a CF Cornerman: 38 Lessons I Learned During my Wife’s Illness and Lung Transplant