Friday, March 30, 2012

PICC Me a Winner! and Make Love, Not Warfarin!

The good news is, I'm going home this afternoon! The not-as-good-but-could-be-a-lot-worse news is, I had to get a PICC line.

PICC stands for Peripherally Inserted Ca-Ca (or Central Catheter, but whatever). This morning, Sharon and Viviana, PICCers extraordinaire, waltzed into my room with their handy-dandy ultrasound. They sonogrammed my right upper arm and picked a vein, painted me with blue antiseptic (making me look a bit like a Pict), and poked me to place a PICC.

Afterwards, I was disappointed to learn that I got a down-market PICC. Did I get a triple lumen (the lumen is the hollow part of any tube) or even a double lumen? No! I got just one lumen! And did I get a "Power-PICC"? No. I don't know what a Power-PICC is, but I deserve one! On the bright side, mine is 42 cm long.

So, you may be asking, why PICC me? Because I'm getting at least 6 weeks of home IV antibiotics. I have a whole garden of bugs growing out of that booger. We won't know what the main problem was until the bone sample has soaked in the special blend of herbs and spices for a week or two. The leading candidate, at this point, is good-old radiation necrosis with a heap of bacteria on top. Disgusting never sounded so good. There is still a small chance that they will find a cancer at the center of this thing, but I will ignore that possibility for now.

A little digression on warfarin (a.k.a. Coumadin, a.k.a. rat poison--that's not a joke)

I was interested to find out from a friend in the neurology mafia that giant mutant boogers (a.k.a. skull-base osteomyelitis) may cause the same kind of stroke I had. For this, and other reasons, my excellent primary care doc (henceforth to be known as Dr. Mr. Whipple, because he resembles Mr. Whipple) does not want to put me on warfarin. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.

Warfarin is one of the oldest drugs in the pharmacy. It is, in fact, rat poison. If you lace rat chow with warfarin, the rats will bleed to death. However, at lower concentrations, it is an incredibly useful drug and has save hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives. But it is also a giant pain in the hiney. It interacts with all sorts of foods and drugs. You need blood tests every week to month to make sure the dose doesn't need adjusting. There is always the lurking danger of a catastrophic bleed. Nevertheless, if you have had a pulmonary embolus, deep vein thrombosis, or certain kinds of stroke, there is no substitute. There are some substitutes just coming on line for people with strokes from atrial fibrillation, but I am not even sure they are as great as their publicity.

So, if Dr. Mr. Whipple, in consultation with some of the best stroke folks in the business, had said, Tumoriffic Tom, you need warfarin, I would have taken it. But he didn't. I'll just be on aspirin. (Unless there is another stroke, but we'll cross that bridge. . .)


  1. Major Tom,
    Hooray for the skillful skullduggery of skullbased surgery crew. A pox on the wandering stroke-startin' bactrial boogers...may they dissolve into nothing.
    Glad you were not exposed Worf-arian...that Trekster was a mean mofo with a funny forehead.

    Rob A. from STA in DC

  2. Never in my life have I been so happy to hear of bacteria growing in a dear friend's skull! Congratulations on your mutant booger, may the steeping reveal only the most easily-beaten of nasties.

  3. Hurrah! hurrah!
    In a couple of hours, we are meeting with C and T III, to celebrate the good news. We plan to eat our hearts out. We plan to make many a toast to your future health, happiness and humor tonight in the heart of DuPont Circle of all places (I don't know whether they have been to the Obelisk)

  4. Superb! Now I want to know what Sharon and Viviana, actually look like. I envision two female Buzz Lightyears. They are talking action figures, I am sure of that. What are their physical attributes?

  5. It is so uncouth to brag about the length of your PICC line, Tom. ;-)

  6. this is great news!! so happy to hear this.