Tag Archives: MRSA

PICC life

nofuncityGreetings from NO FUN City

It has been four weeks since I got the PICC (peripherally inserted catheter). That’s how long I have now been on IV vancomycin. I have been cranky and frustrated.

Why?

Following my most recent surgery two months ago, I developed a spot of redness. The cause was a mystery. No fever, swelling, discharge, or open wound. An ultrasound didn’t tell us much.

Suspecting an infection, my doctor and I agreed that antibiotics were the way to go. Two different oral types didn’t help, so we moved to the big gun, vancomycin, which is a broad spectrum antibiotic often used to treat staph. I was willing to try anything to avoid another surgery and potential implant removal. Been there, don’t want to do that again!

PICC xrayHow?

The vanco would be delivered intravenously, so I visited the hospital’s intervention radiology department and had a PICC inserted into my upper arm. I was told I would not need to be hospitalized for this treatment and sent on my way. Later that day I had a delivery of supplies and meds (holy moly, it was a lot of stuff). In the late evening a nurse came to hook me up to my new best friend. I chose to have an electronic pump deliver the meds on a programmed schedule, rather than administering the doses myself. This meant I would be lugging it all around with me 24/7.

My fridge was full of meds and my dining room table became the supply station and the place where every couple of days I sat with nurses that visited me to draw blood and change dressings. Over the course of four weeks I had 79 infusions and 13 visits by 7 different nurses. For showers, I had to plastic wrap my arm and bathe using only the other one.

PICClife

Initially this was a two week gig, but when the progress wasn’t satisfactory, we extended the treatment for another week, and then one more. Throughout I kept my doc updated via emails and photos. There were a few office visits in there too. My insurance covered all this at 100%.

Now what?

Although initially we saw improvement in the redness, a new spot developed in another area, and some days it was angry red and others not. Right now the spots are faint, but still there. After four weeks of treatment, we did a status check and weighed the options:

  1. Continue treatment
  2. Stop treatment and keep a close eye on it
  3. Go in there to get a tissue sample and send for cultures

At this point, I am not confident that what we are doing now is really helping, so we are going with #2. It is possible this isn’t an infection. We discussed this at the very beginning, but then it seemed like the best explanation. Since I had no open wound, we weren’t able to get swabs for cultures and I was not a fan of going in there as mentioned above. If this was an infection, the vanco would’ve nixed it by now. What exactly is going on, we don’t know for sure. It may be happening due to the physical stress on the tissue or some other thing we haven’t thought of. My body is weird … the various complications from the last three years are proof.

But for now, I am free of the pump and bag! To celebrate, I had lunch with friends and went bathing suit shopping for an upcoming trip to Punta Mita, Mexico. I can’t wait to lay on the beach and think about my next margarita instead of my next infusion. Fingers crossed that this will resolve over the coming days/weeks. It’s the last hurdle before I cross the finish line.

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PICC

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

PICC lineI wish that PICC stood for something fun like Party In a Cool Club or Pretty In the Color Chartreuse (I like green; I’m also not very creative). Unfortunately in this instance, it means Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter. That is what I am now sporting.

How did I get here?

One month ago I had my latest surgery: an exchange of right tissue expander to implant. Two weeks later I noticed a red spot below the incision and was put back on an oral antibiotic: Bactrim. During my follow up appointment a week later we did an ultrasound and the only thing we got out of it was that the skin layer in the area that is red is thinner than in the areas that are not red. There isn’t a mass or anything like it and it doesn’t look like there’s fluid build up either, but that doesn’t rule out an infection. We added a second antibiotic to the mix: Rifampin. After another week, this thing seems to be getting worse, not better, which tells me the oral antibiotics are not helping.

2015_8_19I consulted with my PS via email (including daily photos; this one is from Wednesday evening), as I was on a business trip and wasn’t able to see him in person. Based on a similar experience of a woman in the Facebook Prophylactic Mastectomy group (I ❤ this group!), I asked my doctor about IV Vancomycin. This is the big gun in antibiotic-land. He agreed that this was an appropriate next step.

Yesterday I hightailed it to the hospital’s radiology department to get a PICC put in for the Vanco infusions. As mentioned above, this is a peripherally inserted central catheter that is used over a prolonged period of time to deliver extended antibiotic therapy. I have never had one of these before and was nervous about it. The process is pretty quick and mostly painless. The nurse did a great job explaining exactly what was going to happen. We also chatted about BRCA, family history, and concerns about testing and a positive result. I shared my thoughts and experience as well as contact info and our upcoming local FORCE support group meeting details. She was right, the worst part was the local numbing injection that burned for about 10 seconds. After that the PICC was inserted into my upper arm’s basilic vein and threaded all the way to my heart. That part was painless.

PICC xray

I am set up to receive home care versus being hospitalized and this is all covered 100% by my insurance provider, because I have already met my deductible and out-of-pocket max for the year. However, one of the requirements is that I am home-bound while I receive this form of therapy. Not really an issue, since I work from home and have a hubby that can run errands. There are two ways I could receive the infusions:

  1. IV bag and electronic pump: this option is managed by the nurse and automatically pumps the meds every 12 hours, but I am attached to the bag and pump.
  2. Elastomeric pump (aka ball or grenade): this option would leave me free of attachments except for an hour or so when the pump is needed to push the meds, but I do the work.

Since I am very new to this and am not 100% comfortable with being in charge of administering the meds, hooking things up, and flushing lines, I chose option 1. I took delivery of all the supplies and six days worth of meds later in the day and had my first visit with the home care nurse in the evening. She explained how everything works, hooked me up to the bag and pump, and sat with me for the whole infusion to make sure I didn’t have any adverse side effects. All went well. She also explained that I am able to switch to option 2, but not until I have gone through the six day supply of meds that were already delivered in the larger bags (no returns). A nurse will visit me every two days to change the bag and dressings.

So far not seeing much of a change in redness, but I’m not expecting to at this point. The vanco makes my scalp and palms a bit itchy, but that is a common side effect. I experienced same before each surgery. Before my second infusion this morning I took a Benadryl, which helped. Next nurse visit will be on Sunday.