A kidney infection. It wasn’t a big deal, but after five years with an indwelling suprapubic catheter, it was fierce. I needed IV antibiotics.
We were Los Angelenos then, only home in Michigan for a family reunion. In my family, that basically translates into “will Daddy or Miriam die first? Let’s party on it!”
So I would have just gone to my doctor, but he was in L.A. He called to tell me the sample he had was a tough bug, and my roommate told him where I was. So he called and yelled at my big sister, who told him EXACTLY where to get off (meek! This House-like infectious diseases doctor was meek!)
And the ER said they’d have to admit me for treatment.
But…a plan. Mom lives in Florida, but she’s still licensed as a Registered Nurse in Michigan. Can’t Mom start the IV and run the dose twice daily?
Infectious Diseases thought about it
We’re here for a REUNION. Daddy has cancer and Miriam’s terminal. PLEEEEEEZE?
I got the first dose in the ID nurses break room (no idea.) My cruddy little chemo-scarred veins wouldn’t hold a line. It held for the 60 minute infusion, then no more.
We came back to my sister’s house just before the home health nurse came to deliver the doses of antibiotic and IV supplies. She and my mom sort of “nudge, nudge, wink, wink’ed” each other. No training needed, obviously.
And the next dose came due.
No problem. In the kitchen with the good fluorescent light. Scrubbed with isopropyl.
Mommy found a vein, confidently strung the tube in, flushed it…and it broke. No good.
Other arm. Got the vein—which was infiltrated. Nope.
This was the last time I ever showed any outward sign of pain while being IV stabbed.
She moved down the arm, two more failed sticks, and saw a likely vein in my hand. She stuck the needle in…and I watched the vein blow. It bled.
Bled in strange shapes. Droplets.
I looked up from my hand to my mother. Her tears were dripping onto my hand, she was crying absolutely silently.
“I am so sorry, baby. I am so sorry I have to hurt you.”
I will never forget how her eyes looked that day.
It was the first time I had any conception at all of what it would be like bearing a child meant to die before your eyes, year by year, stick by stick.
Drop by drop.
With my mother’s tears dripping onto my hand, she finally found a vein that held. Ran the antibiotic. Heparin-locked it.
We found sites for those four days, and I got all my medicine. After I came home, I had a central line put in, so we could work around those crappy veins.
I will never show pain at an IV stick, ever. I stay absolutely deadpan on the rare occasion I need a peripheral line for some reason. Ten sticks. 15 sticks. Last month, 26 sticks, no line held.
My mother’s tears and my blood will never mix again. Not if it kills me. Never again.