I received a port fairly early after starting regular courses of IV therapy. I had 2 picc lines before it became clear I didn’t have easily accessible veins. My docs decided it was best to get setup with a port as soon as possible to make my home IV therapy easier.
I was 19 years old and a lifesaver and swim instructor. I was worried about how it would look and if it would affect my abilities to be able to swim. It turned out to be easy. I asked for the port to be placed lower on my chest, in the breast tissue. It made it virtually invisible. I got my it ‘installed’ when I did not need IV therapy. It had plenty of time to heal. They did however access it in the hospital in recovery to make sure it worked. They checked for blood return and flushed it with 100 units heparin.
The hardest part of having a port is the monthly maintenance. However, even this is not too big of a deal. For the first 2 years I went into the doctors each month to get it flushed with saline and heparin. I wanted more independence, and in the US we can be taught to flush the port ourselves . My partner of that time learned and helped me every month at home. I maintained diligent care, and my first port lasted 10 years. I was 29 when I got my port replaced – about 6 months before my transplant.
My first port was difficult to remove. I was kept under twilight sedation and remember much of the procedure. The scar tissue had gone around the vessel and it was hard to clear all the scar tissue away. It also had developed a bit of a fibrin sheath within the vessel, and my new port is more like a One-way-valve, and doesn’t have a blood return. It does however infuse perfectly. My doctors in the US have allowed me to keep it even after transplant because of my diligent care and the fact I have been fortunate to have no issues with infection.
I still have my port and I am 35. I have recently learned to flush it on my own. It gives me a great sense of independence to be able to fully take care of myself. I get my supplies from a home service medical company at home. My newest port is on the same side of my chest, the left side, and just under my scar. It pops out a little more, as they placed it a bit higher than the previous, but that is alright. I am glad it is easily accessible. My first port was difficult to flush as it was deep in my skin and needed a large needle.
The biggest benefit of having a port is when you require treatment it is easy to access to start an IV’s. Many people are also able to use their port for blood draws. You usually need to go to an infusion clinic to get the blood drawn from it, but it is easy to pull it from your port inpatient.
Some of the bumps along the way with a port would be difficult dressing changes. However no more differcult than a normal peripheral IV or Picc line dressing. It is also prone to clots if not properly cared for – and even can happen if it is properly cared for. I had to do a few sessions of anticoagulant therapy to bust clots in the past. But have not had to do that in years.
Overall having it is a blessing. It makes my anxiety much less when I have to be inpatient. It gives me a sense of control and it helps me to have independence. Also for when I was able to do IV therapy at home, it made it easy to do myself as I had the availability of both hands – not having an IV in my arm. It doesn’t affect exercise or your mobility at all.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Portacaths are generally removed at time of transplant as they pose an infection risk. It is not in Australia’s protocol for them to remain post transplant surgery. Any information in this article should be discussed with your medical team if you have questions.]