Today I’d like to introduce the famous port-a-cath, a device that makes life of cancer patients easier, especially if, as me, have to undergo a long chemotherapy treatment.
What it is?
The port-a-what? – I also stayed wordless when the doctor said that I was going to have one installed- is just a catheter connected to a vein. The greatest difference between a standard catheter and this one -as long as the scariest one- is that instead of carrying it in the hand, forearm or elbow, this one is installed under the skin and goes directly to the superior vena cava.
What is it for?
The main aim of this little apparatus is to avoid having the veins in my arms destroyed after all the chemo cycles and blood draws I’ll undergo. Its reservoir, who’s placed on one side of the chest, can be pricked to inject something or to draw blood, and since it’s under the skin you feel barely nothing! Only in two-weeks’ time I’ve been given 8 shots for blood drawings between Switzerland and Spain…
How is it installed?
Very easily: in an ambulatory surgery supported by laparoscopy with local anesthetic. Before starting the surgeon told me that they use anatomic references to place the port-a-cath, so there shouldn’t be any problem if all my veins were in the right place. In the beginning I only felt a kind of burning due to the anesthetic, later I had a stranger feeling I’ll tell you about in a few lines. As the surgeon was inserting the device I had a kind of anxiety inside me that I tried to convey to him. Later he told me that when installing it, they should go deeper than the final position, and they can happen to touch the heart wall. Then, when I asked him about its length -I hadn’t googled anything before that to avoid too much thinking-, and he answered that it was around 20 cm long, my eyes and mouth wide open. So now I already know what you feel when your heart is literally touched:Así que ahora ya sé lo que siente cuando algo te toca literalmente el corazón: a palpitation!
Two weeks after the surgery the stitches are removed. From then on, the port-a-cath will be your unseparable friend during the treatment years and even some more. Every second month you should have it checked -like a vehicle inspection- to verify that it hasn’t coagulated, otherwise they should replace it :S