Since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2005, the veins in my arms have been stuck well over a hundred times. My monthly Tysabri infusion alone has equaled 108 vein piercing injections once every 28 days dating back to February of 2007. Each time has been without incident. My nurses remark how I have big veins which are easy to thread. One nurse even called me a, “nursing students’ dream.” That was up until infusion 108.
I had a big vein popping out near my wrist that was running up my arm from my thumb.
“Matty, that one is calling to me”, said my infusion nurse.
“Go for it.” I replied.
I complied and turned my head to the right as I always do to avoid watching the needle pierce my flesh. I always figure that if I can’t see it go in then it shouldn’t hurt as much. Only today it stung like a wasp and felt like it was taking longer than usual.
“Matty, I’m sorry. Your skin is tough here today. I can push through, but I’m having trouble threading the needle.”
“The kids are away, so Jocelyn and I went to happy hour last night. I had a couple of margaritas.” I replied.
“Well, it does feel like you’re dehydrated. Alcohol is a diuretic.”
“I drank coffee too before I came here today.” I added.
“Caffeine is a diuretic as well. Not only that, the season is changing. With temps up in the hundreds again, we’re all probably more dehydrated than usual. Let’s try another location.”
The needle burned on the way out. I was a bit surprised because I had never needed to be stuck twice before for any reason. He tried again to thread the IV needle, only this time in the bend of my arm. Again, he failed.
“Matty, I don’t know what it is today. Your veins are really constricted. Usually they are as wide as a fire hose, but today they are like a garden hose. I’m sorry about this.” The nurse apologized as he pulled the needle from arm.
“No worries.” I replied, “It happens to the best of us. I’ve also been riding my bike about 10 miles a day trying to get into shape. That is probably adding to my dehydration. I also usually put lotion on before I come in, but forgot today.”
The third time was a charm as he threaded the needle into a vein in my left arm without incident. While the multiple needle sticks was not the fault of my nurse, it was definitely something I want to avoid happening again. Here are the three tips I am going to try to do before every infusion:
- The night before an infusion, I am going to avoid alcohol and the morning of the infusion I will limit my caffeine intake.
- I will regularly use lotion to ensure my skin is supple and hydrated.
- I will make sure to drink plenty of water. The amount of water you need on a daily basis depends on your weight and activity level. (Click Here for a helpful link that can help you determine how much water you need per day.)
If I follow these three tips, I should lessen my risk of needing multiple attempts to thread my monthly IV. While there is no guarantee that this will work, chance favors the well-prepared, or in this case, the well hydrated.