Thursday, December 10, 2015

To port or not to port?

That was really never a question for me.

I've been getting PICC lines for the last 20 years or so and with nearly (over?) 50 under my belt, the answer to getting a port or not was an easy one - If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Well, that was the easy answer.

Recently, I've had issues with my PICC lines that started making me open to the idea of actually entertaining a port. It started with PICC line placements taking longer and longer because of so much scar tissue and switching to the other arm when the first one was "shut off". Then there was the time (last year on Thanksgiving) that the PICC line got stuck in my arm the day of discharge and the worry that came along with thinking it may have snapped and was now making it's may through my body. The straw that broke the camel's back, and my tag line, was this last hospital stay in April when they had to leave the line short and weren't able to do any blood draws from it. That became particularly sucky when I had to spend two weeks in the ICU and 35 days total in the Hole with multiple stabs and blood draws.

In short, it's broken.

After I was released, the decision was made - next time I get a tune-up, I'm going with a port.

Well, that time is now.

A port was placed last week and the procedure was actually faster and less painful than getting a PICC placed. There was (and still is) a recovery period with some pain, but it was the same, albeit a longer period with a port, with the PICC.

I was always asked why I didn't get a port (see my answer above), but I thought it would be fair to all of you guys to really think about the answer and try to articulate it in a blog. Here is my attempt.

1. I never liked the idea of leaving the hospital with a medical object in my body. In fact, I'm still not wild about that idea, but it is what it is. What I loved about the PICC line was the fact that when I went home after a hospital stay, I felt like I left the hospital at the hospital. Let me remind you (maybe contrary to what you might think), I don't think about my cystic fibrosis that often. I'm too busy with life. I'm too busy thinking about others' cystic fibrosis. Frankly, I don't see a reason to think about my disease. Doesn't move the ball forward. By leaving with a port in my chest, I'm afraid that I may think about CF more than I want to when I look into the mirror...although I guess you could
argue that the 6 inch scar on my belly would do that.

2. A port always seemed to be the "next (unwanted) step" in the CF life. If you haven't noticed, I like to be different. I don't find my identity in having a disease and therefore try to avoid doing "disease things". I don't know how to put that more eloquently. If I was supposed to live a certain way, feel a certain way or die a certain way because of cystic fibrosis, I would fight like hell not to. I've always been good at compartimentalizing my CF and separating myself from all of the sickness and dying around me, while still being fully immersed in the community. Getting a port just felt like I was taking a step towards being more disease and less Ronnie.

3. I've always been worried about any limitations, real or perceived, with a port. The first two objections I had can be easily overcome as they are mostly mental. I've always prided myself on my mental approach to (CF) life (thanks Mom!!) and there is no doubt that I'll be able to look past (or justify) the medical object in my body and the next step in the CF life, but it's hard to look past limitations that could be physical ones. I've heard the stories. Friends of mine who had to stop certain workouts because of the port. A gentleman in the community who had to change careers due to a port. I don't like being limited. Part of my comeback story has been the ability to push myself in the gym and live life like a nut. If I feel at all inhibited in doing so, I'm afraid of the mental impact caused by the physical limitation. With that said, we've all seen some amazing athletes with CF and a port.

So there you have it. I tried to be as honest and thoughtful with this post in identifying the road mental block to getting a port. Now that the port is in my chest, there is no turning back. I'm all in. I will own this silly little button in my chest and use it as a reminder to push myself even harder to avoid taking the "next step" in this CF life.

Plus, my wife thinks it's sexy. And that my friends, doesn't suck :)