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The PICC Line Lady

Given that it's a Friday and I'm in an especially good mood considering that I've had no side effects from chemo and, more importantly, that AMC has started its FearFest (which means I've got scary movies to watch 'round the clock), I'm going to tell you a story about a lady...the PICC Line Lady.

The day before my surgery, I was informed that I'd need a PICC line inserted into my arm. Essentially, the PICC line is not as big of a production as a portacath, but is a souped up version of an IV line that is inserted under the skin and is resistant to infection. The PICC line was placed in my right arm, where it snaked into a vein and made its way into my superior vena cava (a major vein leading to the ol' ticker). The process was pretty quick and totally painless, and within a week, the PICC line was taken out and I was sent off on my merry way. 

But there was something far, far more lasting to come out of this experience: my encounter with the PICC Line Lady.

Let's get this out of the way: PICC Line Lady was highly competent, very thorough, and extremely nice. But, oh my LORD, she loved to talk. And talk, and talk, and talk. About subjects she had already broached, about things that were already said, about issues that were already covered. If you think that last line of mine was redundant, you're getting the picture. PICC Line Lady has a PhD in redundancy. In college, she majored in saying the same stuff over and over again with a minor in useless information.

You want a taste of what the PICC Line Lady is cooking? Feast on this, a very true to life rendition of what she told me as she began the process of placing the PICC line:

"This is the PICC line, which I'll insert in your arm and will be resistant to infection. I mention that I'll be inserting it in your arm because sometimes people want to know where I'm going to insert it before I actually insert it, and now I'm going to need you to extend out your arm because that's where I'm going to insert the PICC line. I also mention that the PICC line is resistant to infection because sometimes people wonder, and when they wonder, they'll ask me, 'I wonder why I need a PICC line and not just an IV?' and I tell them, 'Because it can stay in your body longer -- for up to a year -- and it's more resistant to infection.'  I wanted to add, now that I mentioned it, that this PICC line can stay in your body longer -- for up to a year. And it's resistant to infection."

It took every ounce of my energy to grin and bear it. This went on for about 40 minutes because, as the PICC Line Lady noted, "The process of inserting the PICC line should take about 40 minutes. I mention this because sometimes people want to know how long the process will take -- probably because they are nervous that the process will take a long time -- and I just tell them that it'll only take 40 minutes and they are relieved. The entire process will take just 40 minutes or so."

After the 40 minutes crawled by and the deed was done, PICC Line Lady informed me that I'd need an x-ray to make sure that the line was close enough to my heart but not too close to my heart (you can imagine how long it took her to explain what the x-ray was for). I was happy, though, when the dude came to my hospital room and wheeled me away. I hoped and suspected that that was the last of my time with the PICC Line Lady, partially because, as she had explained about 15 times, she needed to get to a hospital in Whittier within the hour and so she couldn't spend much longer with me because she had to head out to Whittier to get to a hospital there. Sigh. Got it. WHITTIER.

I got down to the x-ray room and enjoyed the peaceful quiet as the x-rays were conducted. "You can sit up -- someone will take you back to your room soon," the tech of few words noted when the x-rays were finished. I sat in my wheelchair, stretching and soaking up the tranquility. When I opened my eyes from a particularly cleansing deep breath, I saw her. Oh. God. No.


"Hey....I have to get to Whittier but I came down to see how the x-rays looked and to make sure the line was close to your heart but not too close to your heart. The radiologist is on his way home -- he lives an hour away -- and he won't be able to see the x-rays and give official approval until he gets home which will probably be about 30 minutes from now since he left the hospital 30 minutes ago and lives an hour away. He needs to officially approve the x-rays, but I think they look really good. I think the line looks close to your heart but not too close to your heart, but we won't have final approval until the radiologist gets home, which will be in about 30 minutes because he lives an hour away and recently left the hospital for home."


I smiled and said very little, hoping that she'd shut up. Moments later, she did. But I could tell she was thinking. Oh no. She had finally realized that the PICC line discussion had been completely exhausted, and her gears were turning as she tried to think of something else to chit chat about...

"I saw that you had a colonscopy the other day, and I saw that they gave you Versed."

I nodded, praying for the dude who wheels me back to my hospital room to magically appear. He did not appear, and PICC Line Lady continued:

"You know, they call Versed the 'forgetting drug,' and that's because you say and do things while you're on Versed that you don't really remember until someone reminds you. And then you realize that you forgot what you said and did -- until, of course, someone reminded you about it. I was on Versed once and I had a conversation with a friend that I didn't even remember until the friend told me about it, which then made me remember the conversation and realized that I had forgotten it! That's why they call Versed the 'forgetting drug.' Maybe when you were on Versed you said or did something that you don't remember now but you would remember if someone reminded you of it -- maybe you forgot something when you were on Versed, too."

I managed one last smile and forced laugh, responding, "Yeah, maybe." And then the dude came into the room and wheeled me away. And that was the last I saw -- and, more importantly, heard from the PICC Line Lady.

And we all lived happily ever after.

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