subtitle: what to expect when you’re getting a powerline placed for lyme.

i don’t know why i associate georgetown, dc with will smith. apparently, enemy of the state had a bigger impact on me than i ever knew. i did enjoy that movie. huh. imdb gave it crappy stars.

ahem. on to some real talk.

i tried unsuccessfully to write this last night. i was like a puppy battling sleep, her head bowing, eyelids fluttering, chin dropping and then she remembers- she’s trying to stay awake. the night before my surgery, in a fervor of gluttony before the dreaded “can’t eat after twelve” warning, i came back to our hotel and found myself sleepless. i wasn’t worried. since we arrived in dc, i haven’t been scared. i just couldn’t sleep. in the morning, my boo and i dragged our sleepy butts out of the hotel and just down the block to george washington hospital, where i was going to have a powerline placed in just below my right clavicle. we followed instructions and went to registration. a very serious man asked me a few questions and gave me a pager not unlike the kind i get when i’m with my grandpa at the olive garden. i was to come back to finish my registration when the pager went off. The pager had not vibrated or blinked. suddenly, the small, serious man came racing around the pager whisper shouting “you did not answer your pager!” i imagined we were back in 1992 and he’d called me from a pay phone with a 911 page. i thought this was funny.

after registration, i was taken upstairs where i was prepped for surgery- not a big deal. they were highly organized. the staff was sweet and joked with me. i was a model patient, observant and mildly funny. i didn’t really have any real questions so i kept asking if we were going to drop my bags off with my partner. one of the nurses asked me what “my partner” looked like, or at least that’s what i thought she asked. i replied with, “hairy. he’s got a giant beard.” as she walked away i yelled out his name to her. she called back, “you never know. when someone says partner, it could be anyone.” moments later, in my observation room, they both appeared. she had gone to the waiting room calling out the name “harry.” my partner was one of two people waiting. they relayed the story when they came back to observation. i thought this was hilarious. i laughed the whole way to the surgical room.

on the operating table, there was pop music piped into the room. the first two songs i ignored and then came adele’s “someone like you,” and i started softly singing along. my anesthesiologist came into the room (not able to hear me singing) and said, “i love this song. i can’t believe i like pop music now, but i really love this song.” this was a good topic for us. the surgeon was jovial, explaining the procedure to me. the nurse was so sweetly complimentary. i drifted off into fentanyl & benzo sleepy land surrounded by my three new friends.

so the procedure goes something like this:

the patient (ie: me) is given twilight anesthesia and lidocaine is injected into the tissues surrounding the future sight of the powerline (this is a brand of picc lines that are placed in the chest. essentially, the powerline can handle greater pressure than an ordinary picc. i think that’s what i was told, anyway). interventional radiology uses an ultrasound to find the exact vein that the line will be placed in. two incisions are made. one is a little below the clavicle and this is where the line protrudes from the body. the other incision is to place the line. it’s just above the clavicle and is made in order to thread the line over the collar-bone, ending in the spot where this annoying purple tube juts out of the chest. the tip of line rests in the distal superior vena cava, which empties into the right atrium of the heart.

this information is how i’ve interpreted all that i’ve been told, but i might be wrong about a few things. should i make a disclaimer? i am not a medical professional, just a professional patient. bear in mind that i was given lovely and hefty drugs during this whole thing. then, in spite of the fact that i would have loved nothing more than to stay in my sleep-state, they injected something into my iv that reversed the anesthesia. i woke up, remembered to ask the surgeon for a report to give to my doctor (a report that i was unable to get due to hospital red tape). i recall being slightly worried that i had bad breath. this is the kind of person i am- two minutes out of surgery and fretting about dry mouth and halitosis. there are so many things wrong with me… then i was wheeled back to the observation room.

the nurses offered to bring my partner back. “if he’s sleeping, don’t wake him,” i said, at least twice. but then his beardy face appeared at the side of my gurney. “aren’t you tired?” i asked him. he sat in a chair. i really, really wanted to sleep, so i invited him to sleep in my hospital bed with me. i figured that if he slept too that i wouldn’t feel so bad about snoozing. no such luck.

the nurses brought me a water, which i tried to grab with my right hand. i knocked it over. “oh shit,” i said. “i dropped it.” they assured me that it was okay. i drank it with my left hand. another task arose and i tried to lift my right arm. i pulled it up, elbow to waist, and it dropped like a stone back to the bed. i touched it with my left arm. it was numb, like lidocaine numb. i called a nurse over to discuss my odd paralysis. they sent a doctor in to ask me to raise my arm. i could not. as hard as i tried, as much as i willed it (not unlike the years i spent as a school kid trying to harness the powers of telekinesis, which i did not have, trying to make a pencil slide across the desktop), it kept falling back to my side. “it may be that they nicked a nerve and it’s just irritated,” the new doctor told me. “it should go back to normal within the next 24 hours.” this explanation would have been completely acceptable had i not had a wisdom tooth pulled three years ago that caused permanent nerve damage to the front of my jaw. i still don’t have full feeling in a three-inch section of my face. but oh well, i had bigger things i wanted to do. i wanted to go buy some shit on m street in georgetown.

unable to lift my arm, woozy from drugs and in a fair amount of pain, i refused to get a cab and made my partner walk a little over a mile to the row of upscale shops down the street. i purchased a few vastly different and entirely adorable pieces of clothing, one of which was completely band of outsiders spring 2012 and cost $30. feeling triumphant and exhausted and pained, i consented to a cab ride home. cabbies love short fares, especially when they’re less than a mile with no turns but lots of traffic. so we tumbled out of the cab, stumbled up to our hotel room, and i fell asleep. when i woke up, i could move my arm again.

that, my friends, is the story of the powerline placement. sweet jesus, typing this was actually quite painful. i never thought i’d long for the coffee table that i have to hunch over to write (or stack my laptop on four yoga blocks, which is what happens more often than not).