Friday, March 24, 2006


As I noted a while back, intelligence is not the same as wisdom. Often I do stupid things, usually from being too smart by half. Here's another example.

I called the visiting nurse on a Thursday, about having her change the needle in my chest. Since I had no IV dose lined up for that Thursday, I mentioned on the phone to her that I would take out the needle myself, and she could install one after the anticipated arrival of the new drugs supply on a Friday. My thinking was to give the port site a breather.


I tried removing the needle, but after all the tape and gauze, I got down to a scab, could not in any case see the needle, and could not get it out. I decided to tape it all more or less back in place, and let the nurse deal with it on Friday. After that, I decided that, since I was no longer using this needle and the tubing attached to it, I would use the scissors to cut the annoying tubing that hung down and tickled my ribs.


Then I sat at the computer for a minute or two, while my unterbrain contemplated what I'd just done. I had ... opened ... a tube to my ... blood supply! The first time I'd done that, by leaving both the clips on the tube open, and leaned over, blood had come dripping out. I hurriedly looked at the severed tubing. Sure enough, I'd severed the tube above both clips.

Fortunately, no blood was leaking out of the tube. I called my devoted wife to my aid. I got the idea that we should bend the tube back on itself and tape tightly around the bend, thus forming a seal. Her nimble fingers did the work. I now suppose that we could have tried to slide one of the clips from the severed tubing back onto the bit of tube I had left. But what we did worked.

My diligent wife called the visiting nurse, who said patients are not allowed to remove these needles by themselves. I have done so with the simple IV needles that have been in my arm. But I should have known that this was different.

Now we switch from the part of the story where I criticize myself to the part where someone else gets picked on. The visiting nurse did not react to my statement on the phone that I would remove the needle for several reasons: English is not her first language, she may be partly deaf, she does not concern herself with what patients (maybe just male patients) say, and she interrupts everything patients (maybe just male patients) say.

My industrious wife had a meeting that night. After the baby-sitter got the kids in bed, my three-year-old daughter called out that her butt hurt from going poopie, and she wanted cream on it. She evidently had not asked the baby-sitter to help her wipe, and the baby-sitter had not thought of it. I had the girl lie down in the hall, and loosened her diaper. I tried to wipe her, but she clenched up. I put cream on her bottom, and she demanded more. The doorbell rang. "I'm coming!" I shouted down the stairs. The phone rang. "Dad, answer the door!" my daughter said. I put more cream on her bottom, got her jammies zipped back up, and directed her towards her bed. I descended the stairs as the doorbell rang again.

I let two nurses in. They marveled that the new needle included in my kit was totally new to them, and that they had never worked with one like it before. The one they pulled out of me, which had been installed by the surgeon, was also unfamiliar to them. They wanted to draw my blood for tests requested by Dr. Quack, but apparently the tube interface of the new needle would make that difficult.

Several times I began saying relevant things to the nurses, and each time, nurse #1 interrupted me. Nurse #2 asked me a question, and nurse #1 interrupted my answer before the fifth word. The crowning moment was when nurse #1 asked me a question and similarly interrupted my answer because she wanted to talk to nurse #2 about something else.

Nurse #1 would ask me a question (e.g. "Why do the infusion all by yourself?"), and then interrupt four words into the answer ("My wife can help---") to ask the same question again. She did this twice in a row. That makes for three identical questions and answers.

They put the new needle in, and it hurt a bit, since it has to go through skin to get at the port underneath the skin. Then there was lots of talking, some of it in English, about how to draw my blood for the tests. They drew some into a syringe and then apparently that was no good, so they wasted that into to gauze at the bottom of a plastic bag. Small quantities of your own blood always seem like a lot, and this did too.

There was a knock on the study door. "I want to tell Mom something!" said my daughter. "Go back to bed!" I bellowed. She objected. This went in a cycle a couple of times. She cried. "I want to tell Mom something!" she repeated. "Mommy is not here! She's at her meeting! Get back in bed!" More crying, but then silence. She got back in bed.

Then the nurses were drawing out more blood and waving this great big bloody needle around, sucking blood into it, and then pumping the blood into tubes with rubbery caps. There was lots of leakage, and spots of blood -- my blood -- dripped everywhere on this flat piece of styrofoam they were using as a staging area. The blood was not just red -- it seemed purple to me.

These are good nurses, even the interrupting one. They obviously know what they are doing. But the interruptions are annoying.

At long last the ordeal was over and I got to go to bed.

A few weeks later, after I got the free electric wheelchair (thanks MDA!), I rode it for about two miles and then plugged it in to charge again. The charger indicated that the battery was full. I had been impressed by how well the battery held a charge, but this surprised me. Nonetheless, I went with it. It was only after a shorter trip the next week that I noticed myself hooking the charger to the lead from the chair rather than the one from the battery. I hooked it to the battery and it indicated charging. It had read full the first time because I'd hooked it, not to the battery, but to the chair!

Genius. I put a little tape on the leads to indicate which should be hooked to which for charging.

Left grip is 28 pounds (25, 24, 28), right grip is 68 pounds (68, 63, 67), inhale volume is 3500 mL.

Here's the inhale volume chart.

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