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Dear Vein Access Specialists: Insisting You Use My Port Does Not Mean I Doubt Your Abilities

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Dear anesthesiologists, nurse-anesthetists, ER nurses and lab techs at the local hospitals and clinics,

Please don’t take my permanently-implanted IV access Port-a-Cath as a challenge to your professional ability to access peripheral veins. I have no doubt that you can, and do, access veins for lab tests and IVs all day long; in fact, I recognize that doing so is your job and you have been well trained to do that job.


I can understand why you might hesitate to use my Port: it is a sterile procedure with the accompanying risks of infection, it is more expensive because it requires a heparin lock when the access is removed and it’s a specific skill set that can be intimidating when you don’t see them very often. And for those of you in the position of the one who has to put me under anesthesia, I know how important it is for you to be able to push large amounts of fluids through the IV if something should go wrong in the operating room.

Believe me, I get it. But please look at it from my point of view: I did not go through the surgical implantation of a permanent medical device in my body just because I don’t like needles. For over 10 years prior to making that decision, I watched my veins deteriorate. Each time I needed blood work done (often two or three times in a month), or had a trip to the ER for an asthma attack, or spent several days in the hospital, I endured multiple attempts at needle sticks. In fact, a 10-day stay in the hospital required a central line placement because my veins kept collapsing under the pressure of constant medication infusions and constant hydration.

By 2012 I was being referred to the local infusion center to get my blood draws done because the local laboratories were no longer willing to try to access my veins. After two years at the infusion center, even those expert IV nurses were trying three or four different veins each time I came in for those necessary blood tests. Finally, after a protracted struggle and a complete blow-out of the last attempt, the nurse who had tried six (six!) different veins called my doctor and told him they would no longer try to access my veins and recommended he prescribe a permanent Port for me and I agreed wholeheartedly, making the request to him myself, bruises prominently displayed on my arms.

Two weeks later, I had a Port-a-Cath. In case you were wondering, the OR nurses had to try three different veins to gain access for my surgical IV. That provided the final confirmation that I had made the right decision to ask for my Port. Since getting my Port, I keep a standing appointment for a Port flush at the infusion center for the rare months that I don’t have a scheduled blood draw in order to keep this precious Port accessible for emergencies or surgeries.

So that’s the story of why I have a Port and I hope it explains why I fight so hard for its use when you try to tell me that you can access my veins without using it. Please know that it is not a slight to your abilities that I insist upon you using my Port for vein access, it’s because I want to make this a win-win situation for both of us. Thanks.

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Thinkstock photo via jm1366.

Originally published: September 12, 2017
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