The devil you know vs. the devil you don’t

Patrick and I had the most frustrating of mornings yesterday. Got up as usual and started out happy enough, but then it was time to connect his 8 a.m. antibiotic. I went to withdraw the ethanol lock out of his line and it wouldn’t come. Tried to flush. Wouldn’t budge.

So I grabbed a dose of Cathflo (the super declotting agent for central lines that I am learning I am VERY lucky to be allowed to administer by myself at home.) Worked it into the line, which took me almost half an hour. I left it in for half an hour.. drew back and the line drew back beautifully.

Tried to flush, and nothing. Let go, and the syringe filled with blood.

Not good. I tried several more times and just got the same result. The antibiotic was due. The TPN was running. The two can’t go through the same tube at the same time. And I was stuck.

So I called the hospital and asked for the GI on call, but they wouldn’t give them to me because it was almost 9 a.m. and the GI clinic opened at 9. So I called Patrick’s nurse, and she was stumped. She called the department at the hospital that specialized in central line repairs, and they were stumped.

Finally, Dr. Jackson’s nurse got word I was calling and called me back. And she was stumped.

It really seemed like the blood was flowing backwards in the line.. out instead of in. Which either meant a slipped placement.. or a line broken under the skin.

Both line killers.

So – while they did their research, I did the only thing I could think. I said a prayer. I put one more dose of TPA in the line. I forwarded our home number to my cell phone. Then, I packed Patrick up and we went to mommy-and-me exercise class. Makes sense, right? We needed some normal, and some distraction. And it was his last guaranteed chance to go to class before school.

Halfway through exercise class, as I was sweating and huffing and puffing… in the middle of the popcorn song where we jump all around the room pretending to be popcorn… my phone rang.

It was Dr. Jackson’s nurse telling me that they’d arranged an admission to the Rapid Treatment Unit. The plan was to evaluate the problem, do an x-ray if possible, have the IV team look at things. And then, she said, it didn’t look good.

I hung up and stayed till the end of exercise class. Why not?

Then we came home, I showered, and I packed a suitcase to see us through a one day hospital stay and a likely surgery.

We rushed up the hospital, lugged our way into the RTU, got vitals, met our nurse…

And then tested the line.

And the 2nd dose of TPA had fixed the problem. Best bet? That the clot was working like a stopper that allowed blood to flow in, but not to flush. Kind of the opposite of usual line function. And that it was blood trapped in the line that was flowing back after attempts to flush… Not the line bleeding as it appeared.

We called it a nurse visit. The doctor came to “not” consult with me, so we wouldn’t be billed for the service. He’s seen us struggle to keep this malfunctioning line going for the past 15 months.

I asked him if he’d give up and replace it yet. Knowing the risks of lost access for Patrick.

He shrugged and told me, “It’s the devil you know versus the devil you don’t.”

How often that is true with Short Gut. How often do we weigh the choice between the familiar but uncomfortable present situation and the risk of an uncertain outcome?

The choice about transplant is certainly that kind of a thing.

It takes a lot of faith and prayer and hope and stepping into the darkness to move along this journey.

And a lot of mornings derailed by emergency hospital admissions that leave dirty dishes and dirty laundry and a mountain of other unfinished tasks while we wrestle with uglier demons.

Brian and I have been doing a lot of pondering and praying to know what is the best choice about this troublesome line.

If you’re praying for us, that would be a good thing to pray for. For us to know whether to keep fighting with this line or take the risk of swapping it out in the hopes of fewer infections and clots and frustrating mornings.

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