By Heather Michon |

One summer evening in 2003, Chuck developed a high fever, sweats, and a major spike in blood pressure.

For the 55-year old retired Army colonel, accustomed to an active lifestyle and overall good health, the episode was enough to send him to his doctor. Multiple specialists and tests later, he learned he was suffering from a tick-borne bacterial infection.

Experiencing IV Therapy

Chuck was put on a 10-day course of antibiotics, and his doctors assumed that would be the end of it.

But the tick bite turned out to be more consequential than originally expected, so not long after, he was back in the hospital with even more dramatic symptoms. A spinal tap revealed the bacterial infection had led to meningitis and encephalitis, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. Chuck was admitted to the hospital for a five-day course of intravenous antibiotics.

“This was my first experience with an IV treatment that lasted for several days,” he remembers. “The IV injection locations were changed a few times from one arm to another, and to different veins, but there was no inflammation, no uncomfortable stinging and tenderness, and the treatment went smoothly.”

But it wasn’t his last brush with infusion therapy.

The Journey Towards Open Heart Surgery

Testing during his illness uncovered at least two potentially serious health conditions: a partially restricted renal artery in his kidney and a bicuspid aortic valve.

Chuck agreed to have a stent placed in his renal artery to maintain his kidney function, but he was more resistant to the idea of heart surgery.

Chuck began to experience an obvious decline in his heart function. He realized the journey started five years before, but the ‘wait and see’ was done and it was time to have the open heart surgery. He was admitted in March 2014.

The surgery was uneventful, but his recovery was less so. Fluid began to build up in his pericardium, the membrane surrounding the heart.

“To describe it in layman’s terms, my heart was angry at me,” he says.

A Deep Aching Sensation

For days, his medical team worked to stabilize his blood pressure, regulate his heart rate, and draw off the excess fluid.

“Obviously, the many IV medications they poured into me required a lot of different IVs in my aching arms.” After so many rounds of infusions and blood draws, “my veins were shot.”

He needed to be fitted with a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC), a catheter inserted in the upper arm that can remain in place for a longer period than a standard IV.

At first, the PICC worked well, but after about 10 days, he was feeling “a deep, aching sensation throughout my upper arm and a burning, stinging sensation along the length of the inserted line.

His medical team examined the PICC and said it looked fine.

“Not wanting to be a difficult patient,” Chuck said, “I nonetheless told them that one way or another, that PICC line was coming out.” A surgeon was called in to remove it.

A Happy Heart

Soon after the PICC was removed, Chuck’s condition was stabilized, and shortly after, he was released. His ten-day anticipated hospital stay had tripled for a total of 31 days. WIthin about a month, his heart was back to a normal rhythm.

Five years later, Chuck, now 69, is in good health. “I have much to be thankful for,” he says.

With all the needles and infusions he endured since his tick bite, his time in cardiac ICU was the only time he had problems with an IV. “I guess even a tough old bird like me has his limits,” he shares.

It’s crucial for all patients and caregiver(s) to effectively communicate with their medical team when it comes to their concerns. This includes speaking up if they feel uncomfortable about any part of treatment – whether it’s related to a PICC line, a peripheral IV, or a different area of their care entirely.

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