By Heather Michon |

Nine times.

That’s Lisa Emrich’s record for the number of attempted needle sticks to place an IV.

In 2005, the freelance musician was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a chronic condition where the body’s immune system eats away at the protective sheaths surrounding the nerves. There are about 400,000 Americans with MS today, and each patient experiences it in their own unique way. For Lisa, her diagnosis brought fatigue, vision and balance problems, and loss of strength in her hands, arms, and legs.  

Drug therapies can help control symptoms and attempt to slow the progression of the condition. It was during her second infusion of Rituxan, a powerful antibody therapy, that Lisa ran into trouble.

IV Patient Spotlight Lisa“The nurse assigned to me was confident she could get the IV started….a bit too confident,” Lisa says. After two tries—the maximum a nurse was allowed at that facility —she tried a couple more times. Then another nurse came in and tried two more times. Finally, a nurse was called up from the neonatal unit, who placed it on her first try.

Throughout many difficult IV placements, Lisa tried to remain calm, but she remembers being furious. Her anger worsened when her vein was flushed with saline a bit too aggressively at the end of the treatment, leading to a painful case of phlebitis, or inflammation of the vein.  

Lisa decided not to return to this particular hospital infusion center. It’s one of the many experiences that put her on the path to become an advocate for other patients with MS, especially those who have also experienced difficult IV placements.

“Many of [my] symptoms affected my musical career, which is much different than it was 13 years ago,” she says. She’s proud to have brought the patient’s voice to conferences on MS, and serves as an advisor to the National MS Society and other organizations.

“I would recommend anybody who is undergoing a procedure to speak up if they are uncomfortable with what’s going on,” she shares.

“It’s okay to let staff know that you are a ‘hard stick,’ or that you are nervous. But also do your part to be prepped ahead of time: drink plenty of fluid on the days before you know you will receive treatment, keep your body warm, stay calm and breathe deeply, and keep a positive attitude.”


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