On several occasions, I’ve referenced Chase’s central line, his weekly labs and his dressing changes, but today, I’ll be a little more specific. This morning, we took pictures of Chase’s dressing change. The hope is that he could see what’s happening from a different perspective and that it would help him overcome his anxiety.
I need to preface these images by saying that it is necessary to hold Chase down with very little mercy for his own protection. Despite months of talking, processing, and role playing, he becomes protectively enraged, and rightfully so, when anybody even gets close to his line and he must be still for a successful change. When the dressing is off, one can’t even breath in the direction of the line without risking contamination…hence the nurse’s mask and our heads turned away from the uncovered site.
As I debated whether posting these pictures serves a helpful, edifying purpose, I decided to write this piece and use the pictures because this is part of our every week and even if you must look away (and I wouldn’t blame you if you did!), I hope it will encourage you how to pray for Chase (and his family) in more specific ways.
After being restrained on a flat surface by no less than two people (but preferably three…or four), Chase’s old bandage is stripped off. This is without question the most tedious and the longest part of the entire procedure. This is an area that we hope and pray tubes in his ears will improve. When he’s screaming at the top of his lungs, he is unable to hear our assuring, calming words in what I can only imagine is a complete nightmare for him.
Here is a great and close view of his central line – and his poor and chapped skin, raw from months of bandages and tape. These moments after the bandage is stripped when the line is completely exposed (while being cleaned and dried) are some of the most scary to me. He struggles the hardest at this time and I find myself thinking that it would take so very little for him to pull it out – risking infection and embolism.
After the line site is cleaned and dried and the nurse changes her gloves (this is how seriously sterile the care is – the same gloves that strip and clean the old can’t lay the new), the re-dressing begins with this bio-patch: a medicated, padded piece that releases antibiotics to keep the line clear and safe. Chase calls this his “donut” for obvious reasons. In this picture, he was beautifully silent and calm for a breath. More often than not, he screams “Band-aid! Band-aid!” as he knows that the last step of the change is the bandage and he desperately wants to be done.
And then the bandage and tape are on and it’s done! It’s hard to explain the flood of relief as we sit him up, sobbing and laughing at the same time. Another week without mishap…thank you, Lord. The entire process takes less than 15 minutes or a couple decades…depending on which body part you’re restraining.
In our house, because it’s Chase, we reinforce the dressing with an ace wrap. The wrap, his “taco” (because of how it wraps around him like a burrito), is never off except for dressing changes. We learned this the hard way after losing a line in the Fall.
And then it’s five minutes later and the fight is a distant memory. He loves everybody again and he’s busy watching a Disney show on his iPad while Phyllis, his home healthcare nurse draws his labs. And by the time she leaves, he says “Bye, Miss Phyllis! Thanks for changing my donut!”
In closing, holding him down and watching him fight against this simple facet of care each week is extremely intense to me, but I am always so encouraged that this, this is the level of fight he brings to the cancer battle. Almost makes you feel sorry for any tumor willing to take him on, doesn’t it?
Moment by moment.