What's the big deal about veins? As you probably already know, the veins circulate blood around the body. When a person is chronically ill they may need to be given fluids and medications through their veins. Okay, well, we seem to have lots of them. What's the problem? We do have a lot of them, but sometimes they are too small or scarred from chronic use. Access to veins in babies and small children can be particularly difficult. They tend to have small veins which are often not strong enough to support continued use. Their veins easily weaken and scar due to overuse. If a child is chronically ill, then access to healthy veins can become a real problem.
|Baby with IV in head.|
It wasn't long though before Christopher lost the access to the veins in his head, so they used the other veins in his body to deliver the fluids and medications that he needed. Overuse is the enemy of veins, so one by one his veins became useless. Not surprisingly, he earned the label of being a "hard stick." That meant it was difficult to find a good vein and stick the IV in it.
The longer he was sick and required IVs, the more veins he lost. He went from being a "hard stick" to an "IMPOSSIBLE stick." It got to the point that if Christopher needed an IV or blood draw the nurses would call for the most skilled and luckiest phlebotomist (a person who specializes in getting blood samples and putting in IVs). It would often take several attempts to get a good vein, and sometimes several different people would "stick" him before finding a good one.
Unfortunately, these "good veins" sometimes wouldn't last very long. It wasn't uncommon for him to need a new IV site after only a day or so. It even got to the point where his veins were only lasting for a few hours, and we would be back in the treatment room hunting for more good veins.
|Baby with an IV in the arm.|
There is one "vein hunt" that I will never forget. Christopher's IV had "blown." That meant the vein was no longer able to support the IV. The vein could no longer be used, so the IV needed to be put in a new location. They called the phlebotomy department and asked for the technician who was best with "hard sticks," but this poor woman had no idea what she was in for. Neither did I, as it turned out. She examined every inch of him. She even used a light to help better illuminate his veins, but after about five tries she threw in the towel. She said that she just wasn't comfortable sticking him anymore. She had reached her limit. Now what?
Next plan...call for the best and luckiest nurse from pediatric intensive care unit. After all, they were used to dealing with chronically ill children. "Hard sticks" were common place in their world. Did I mention he had gone from being a "hard stick" to an "IMPOSSIBLE stick?" This nurse soon found out why. She started with the usual hunt using her stretchy band and flashlight. She made a couple of attempts with no luck. Even though she tried to appear confident, I could see the confidence literally draining from her face and into her shoulders causing them to droop in defeat. Now what? He still needed the IV.
I was trying my best to be strong and steady for Christopher, but I could feel the anxiety welling up in my body. It felt like it was about to explode out the top of my head. I felt myself getting pretty shaky. I'm sure they could hear it in my voice. Now what do we do?
Next plan...neck veins. Neck veins??? Out loud now, I was expressing my horror at the idea. That just didn't seem right. Christopher didn't seem to think it was a good idea either. He was squirming and screaming as three of us held him down while the intensive care nurse made an attempt on both sides of his neck with NO luck. I couldn't believe it. We had just stuck needles in both sides of my baby's neck. It was an absolute nightmare!
If I wasn't agitated before, I was getting near the point of melt down now. We had stuck him countless times and still no luck. NOW WHAT? At this point Christopher was past crying. He was screaming, and you could hear the anger and fear in his screams. I was getting louder and more desperate sounding too...NOW WHAT? The answer wasn't something I wanted to hear. I don't think I heard most of what she said. I just heard the word "surgeon." Even though I didn't want to, I begged them to give it just one more try before we called in the surgeons. As bad as this was, I just didn't want Christopher to have to have another surgery. Reluctantly, the intensive care nurse agreed to give it just one more try. This time...SUCCESS!
|Baby with IV in foot.|
|Christopher had a PICC line like this.|
As I write this, I am so saddened by these memories. The only thing that gives me comfort is that these are my memories not his. He was just a baby and has no recall of that horrible night. As he got older he still had to have lots of blood draws and IVs, but God gave him some special blessings to help him through. Even though he contiued to be a "hard stick," Christopher was graced with a high pain tolerance and incredibly strong constitution. It has made the "hard sticks" a little easier.
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can pray like this: