Plugged In

February 12, 2009

Every several weeks I spend a half a day or so in the hospital and it has come to the point where this doesn’t feel like a significant thing. It is a good exercise in a different state of consciousness.

Today is my day for 750cc of Remicade. Right now I’m tethered by my right forearm to a chittering IV pump in a room with a window facing a concrete wall. There are two other people in here, likewise harnessed. One looks fine, the other is cruelly thin and seems to be receiving blood from her IV bag. It’s a hard thing to look at. The lights are very bright and very fluorescent.

Here’s the sidling sideways of my thoughts, though. Being here puts me in a rapt state of inattention, a focused inability to concentrate that is unsatisfying if not outright unpleasant. The ticking distractions: the suffering of my roommates, the blood pressure cuffs, the windings of tubings and glaring reflections of things–these keep me from putting my mind into anything. Like always I have brought things that would align with me in my standard state: The Landmark Herodotus (a new, annotated version of The Histories), a collection of Keats’ poems and letters. Fortunately I also have a misplaced Louise Erdich novel; something I might actually be able to read right now. But any moment the Benadryl dose will pummel me. I can feel the curtains drawing already.

I have found that IVs are a direct return on investment. Along the inside of my left arm is what I consider to be a precious gem of a vessel, a quarter-inch square of glowing cobalt. It’s a foolproof vein, a target for even a poorly-aimed needle. Needles pushed in there find purchase quickly, painlessly. I show this thing off to nurses and phlebotomists. They’re rarely as impressed as I want them to be. I guess, in the business, it’s not the look of the vein but the shape and the feel. IVs I get here work fine but leave me hobbled, unable to use my right arm. Also these inner-elbow IVs fold up and block and cause beeping and alarms and problems. It’s like that spot is too good to be true.

So other times, like today, I opt for a top-of-the-arm jab, and this hurts surprisingly much on insertion and for several minutes afterwards. My blood vessels have a tendency to spasm. This sends radiating nerve pain up my arm. But in the long run I can do things like typing. Like now.

I know now that people read these posts searching for understanding of what it’s like to have Crohn’s and how it all works. Let me be of some solace here: it’s all very much OK. Sometimes overwhelmingly, alarmingly, suddenly, strikingly OK, but always OK. And always an adventure.

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