PICC and Mix and Tricky Ablutions

There’s no doubt that having a PICC line inserted for delivery of the ABVD made life easier for both blood tests and for administering the chemo.

The NHS website describes a PICC far better than I could:

PICC line is a long, thin, flexible tube known as a catheter. It is inserted into one of the large veins of the arm near the bend of the elbow. It is then threaded into the vein until the tip sits in a large vein just above the heart.

The line sat discretely under my arm and, to be honest, most of the time I forgot it was there.  The only practical issues to deal with were the fact that the line had to be cleaned and flushed every week to control infection and I had to be very careful showering to avoid getting the point of entry wet.

I had to shower with what my IV nurse described as an ‘elephant’s condom’ over my arm – a long clear plastic glove which encased my arm right up to the shoulder.  This led to an awful lot of soap and shower gel juggling incidents as it’s very difficult go grip anything with a wet, plastic mitten.  In fact I’m surprised I survived ABVD, not because I wasn’t expecting the chemo to work,  more that the diving, sudsy grabs for a bottle of “Happy Hippy” shower gel didn’t result in a concussed, drowning heap in the bathtub as I clattered off the shower screen and slipped down the tiles and towards the plughole.

The elephant’s condom was just one more thing to remember when we went anywhere to stay.  Unfortunately I wasn’t always successful.  The most memorable occasion came at a luxury hotel down in Winchester (‘treat yourself while you can’ was our motto).  Realising that my shower sleeve was still sitting in a bathroom in Berkshire I had to go to plan b.

I realised afterwards that I’d missed a comic trick when I went down to reception and asked them, ‘if they had any cling film?’.  I don’t know what else they had under the desk, but the beauty of that kind of hotel is that they cater for all needs and a roll of cling film was produced without question.  What a classically British exchange that was: No explanation was sought and none was proffered.

My only regret now is that I hadn’t done this (on the assumption of course that even a well stocked hotel reception couldn’t stretch to holding unlimited pharmaceutical items):

“I don’t suppose you have any condoms do you?”

“Erm, no sir.”

Pause for comedic effect.

“Ah….do you have any cling film?”

No change in expression:

“Yes sir, here you are.  Just return it in the morning.”

Eventually I managed to have a reasonable shower with my arm wrapped in cling film.  At least I was guaranteed to stay fresh.