Port Infection: Everything Goes Incredibly Wrong (Part 4)

WARNING: Medical pictures ahead. I tried to post the ones I wouldn’t want submitted to a medical textbook, and the ones with too much bodily fluids. You don’t deserve that. None of us deserve that.

When I woke up from having my Groshong Catheter placed I was in a wild amount of pain. I don’t remember even being able to open my eyes before they discharged me from the hospital. So I definitely didn’t see what was under the bandage until I got home later that day.

Here’s what my Groshong Catheter looked like

 

 

Granted this was after a few days of clean up and rest from adhesive, so there was quite a bit more bruising, blood and iodine beforehand.

Ok, now focus Are we all seeing that little plastic bit with the black wirey stuff? Those are stitches. And they’re stitched to my tits. In the middle of my cleavage. No matter what direction I moved, I had a hard piece of jagged plastic cutting into the skin of either breast.

This was not what we had discussed pre-op.

Here’s what my surgeon had told me pre-op: When you awake, you’ll have a tube in your chest.

Here’s what my surgeon should have told me pre-op: when you awake, you’ll have a tube in your chest. This tube will be stabilized by a piece of plastic that’ll lay on your skin, and be stitched to your breast. And as your boobs move, as boobs are want to do at that size, the stitches will rip just a little bit, and it will be hell.

For the first few days after the surgery I convinced myself this had to be a temporary thing. The surgeon knew I was looking for a long-term access solution. He didn’t expect me to have exposed stitches long-term. 

But I couldn’t ask him because he left the ER that day and went on vacation and I couldn’t get anyone in his office to call me back.

Finally, after a week of agony and seven calls to his office, I got his PA on the phone. I immediately hit her with 20 questions: what is this thing on my chest? Why is it there? Is it permanent? Is it supposed to hurt every time I move? When can they remove the plastic part so that I can actually wear a bra and sleep without a pillow stabilizing each of my boobs?

Her answers were devastating:

The plastic piece and external stitches were supposed to be permanent. The plastic piece was to stabilize the tube, otherwise—how else would it stay in place? This was like a slap in the face. I was so mad…at myself mostly. How WAS a tube supposed to stay in place just hanging out of my chest? Why hadn’t I thought about that before the surgery?

I pleaded with her on the phone for help. I couldn’t sleep, I was in so much pain, I couldn’t wear a bra, and the tube only allowed fluids to flow through it when I was at a terribly uncomfortable angle. 

I was allergic to the bandages to the adhesives they had given me to stabilize it, to the point where the skin around the incision was so sore my PCP just told me to leave it uncovered and I was terrified it would get infected without protection.

She was very understanding and agreed to meet me at the office the next day, even though they were usually closed on that day.

When my mother and I got there she did an exam and things got grim quickly. When she went to remove one of the stitches, she lifted the piece of plastic and told us that she would have to redo all the stitches—because they had started to rip through my skin.

“You must be allergic to them…” she said, pointing to how inflamed and broken my skin looked.

She said she would have to completely remove the plastic, find new hypo-allergenic stitches and restitch the whole thing in the office.

I was in agony, but I honestly couldn’t imagine it feeling worse than it did, so for the next three hours I sat in that exam room waiting for her to find stitches, then prepping for a procedure in an empty office with a nurse who was making this face the entire time she was stitching:

Honestly, just having the stitches I was allergic to out and having her reposition the plastic to another part of my breast was such a relief it was worth the trauma.

 

Even when I finally made it off the table and then turned bright red with hives and almost fainted.

Whatever, you know? I lived. Moving on.

I thought things might be okay for a couple of days.

And then in the middle of the night the tube got infected.

Riddle for you! How do you know your Groshong Catheter is infected?

Answer: When you wake up in the middle of the night with a wet shirt because the bandage of your shirt has been soaked through with …well, let’s just call it evidence of infection and leave it up to your nauseated imagination. 

And you want to know the funniest part? When I called the on-call surgeon that night to tell him what happened, he said there was nothing to worry about, not to overreact and to just clean up and go back to bed.

 

Stay tuned, because you know it only gets more messed up from here.

 

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