Trifusion Catheter: Twilight Anesthesia Weirdness, “Ow,” and Some Practical Considerations

Instead of a port, my oncologist decided to install a trifusion catheter in my chest. In addition to being a long-term catheter which can be used to draw blood and administer IV fluids and chemotherapy meds, it can also be used to harvest stem cells for my transplant procedure. It’s got three lumens (external tubing lines) of a couple inches in length which extend from the single catheter tube–which is a three-in-one configuration–tunneled under my skin.

The installation procedure yesterday was a minor in-patient surgery that took about 20 minutes in the operating room. (The prep and post took significantly longer, of course.) They gave me local anesthesia as well as twilight for it.

I’ve been twilighted once before, but it essentially knocked me out that time, and I don’t remember anything about that particular procedure. I do remember waking up and asking the time and being perplexed as to why Matthew found this so amusing. Apparently, I’d come around several times before, asked the time, and fallen back asleep–without remembering any of the previous wake-ups. I did, however, have complete awareness of having been rendered unconscious.

For the trifusion catheter installation, I remember the nurse telling me they were starting the anesthesia, staring at the IV tree, hearing the doctor saying he was injecting the local, feeling the needle prick and the burn of the lidocaine, staring at the IV tree, and then the doctor saying they were all done. Thing is, I don’t remember falling asleep at all. I even thought to myself, as they moved me to the recovery room, “Dang, I was awake the whole time. I was hoping the twilight was going to knock me out like last time so I could get some sleep…”

It only occurred to me on the drive home that I couldn’t recall huge chunks of the procedure–like when the doctor inserted the catheter, when they applied the dressing over it, and when they removed the sterile sheeting. But I could swear I never lost consciousness at any time.

Twilight anesthesia is weird.

Unsurprisingly, the catheter site aches. It’s on the right side of my chest, which makes it a somewhat ginger proposition to use my right arm. Getting dressed, ow. Reaching to close the car door, ow. Shoulder seat belt, ow. They say the pain is supposed to go away in a day or two.

On an awkward/amusing note, before the surgery, I asked the doctor whether I could still wear a bra with the catheter, and he assured me that the line didn’t go into the breast, so it wasn’t a problem. I don’t think he grasped the concept of “bra strap,” as while the installation site is under my collarbone, nowhere near my breast, the dressing and site of entry are exactly where a normal bra strap needs to go. I had to switch to a one-arm/off-the-shoulder bra configuration this morning. (Matthew has since informed me that most men, including himself, find the operation of a bra a mystery, and chances are the doctor indeed did not understand the complex and baffling mechanics of your basic bra strap. o.O )

I’m also finding my wardrobe options to be a bit vexing, as I’ve never shopped for shirts, sweaters, or dresses with the consideration of: “How cute will this be with three lines of tubing sticking out of my chest?”

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11 Responses to Trifusion Catheter: Twilight Anesthesia Weirdness, “Ow,” and Some Practical Considerations

  1. Sonia James says:

    You’re one tough lady!

  2. Jeri Klein says:

    Twilight > general (especially if you have motion sickness) Also, men are amusing (ie bras) And you’re awesome 🙂

  3. I made the mistake of wearing a V-neck sweater to the appointment where they marked me up for radiation. Who knew the red, blue and purple arrows, circles and spirals would extend nearly to my neck? It was breast cancer, y’all, not collarbone! Got some strange looks while doing errands and wearing bad modern art.”They” don’t tell you everything you need to know.

  4. Audrey Wells says:

    The one day at a time advice is a good idea, I think, for now. It will be good to look back on these days as a dream. Kudos for recording and sharing so much detail, Eugie. Thank you.

  5. Janice Clark says:

    I’m sure the doctor is quite knowledgeable on medical matters, but probably clueless regarding female wardrobes. Better than the other way around, although it does present one more challenge that you weren’t expecting. Congratulations on making it through yet another step.

  6. Kathleen Liu says:

    Hmm. I definitely have patients who wear a bra with a dialysis catheter which probably comes out in about the same location as your trifusion. Maybe when it is less sore and they/you put on a less bulky dressing? And thinking lots of positive thoughts for you and your husband – a lot to endure.

  7. Anita Allen says:

    Oh dear! Well, they have the tube bra now. Not good for the larger ‘family/economy size’ models, but perfect for the stream lined sports models.I believe you can cover the ports with a large patch band aid to prevent hanging and tangling in stuff. God forbid but a corset could be worn… as for summer fashion, the band aid would free you for sheer shirts, and a sharpie marker can make it a fashion statement (fake name badge ‘hello, my name is, ‘kicking cancers ass’ or just a cute bunny drawing )

  8. Amy Uzarski says:

    Anesthesia is weird! Thank you for sharing this, I think about you often and wonder how you are doing. The comments above say what I want to say, you are indeed one tough lady and congratulations on making it through this step. You rock Eugie Foster!

  9. Tina Grace says:

    I saw a recommendation for a bandage to cover the port. Just be careful if you have ANY sensitivity to adhesives. 5 minutes using press and seal over mine at doctors recommendation so I could get a shower and had 3 months of problems.

    Thank you for sharing your journey – life is quirky!

  10. The bra aspect would be hilarious if it wasn’t so frustrating

  11. Welcome to the cyborg family. 😉

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