Thursday, June 16, 2016

What is a port?

Before Ellie was diagnosed with ALL, I was very ignorant about leukemia, pediatric cancer, and all of the things that goes on in this world. Of the many things that I did not know about, one was a port. I had no idea what it was or how it was used. And while I have not had to personally access it, I do feel like I am becoming an expert on the matter. Let me share my vast knowledge with you. 

Spoiler Alert: My knowledge is not vast. This post is not technical. At all. But, it's heavy on pictures.

Before the port, Ellie's chest looked perfectly normal. Even now, with the port in place, it still looks pretty normal. This picture shows what the port area of her chest looks like when it is not accessed. The scar shows where the port was initially put in through surgery. Directly beneath the scar, there are a couple of small red bumps. There, under the skin, is where Ellie's port will remain for the next 2+ years. 

Here is what everything looked like immediately after surgery to place the port. I don't fully understand the technical nuances of it, but I know that the artery used for the port was accessed through her neck. This is why that one vein is more noticeable in the picture below. That discoloring has now gone away. 

Each time Ellie visits the clinic or day hospital (different procedures at both) her port is accessed. About an hour or two beforehand, I put a numbing cream over the area. It is then covered with plastic wrap to help it sink in. To be honest, I have no idea how much it actually numbs the area, but it cannot hurt.

Once it is numb, and the medicine is ready to be administered, the area is cleaned. Then, a small needle is poked through her skin, directly into the port. This is the not so fun part of everything. It's really the cleaning that Ellie hates more than anything else, because it lasts so long. The needle prick is short. She does cry this entire time, but once it is over she recovers extremely quick. Usually within a minute or two.

It is then covered with tape to keep secure and clean.

From that point on, it can be capped off, and Ellie can freely move around. Or, it can be hooked up to an IV to receive blood, chemo, or anything else Ellie might need. 

Once Ellie is done for the day, then all of the gauze and tape is removed, and the needle pops out very quickly. A small band aid is all she needs. 

So, that's it. There's nothing continually hanging from her body. Nothing really noticeable at all, except for a very small, subtle bump. Ellie is still very sensitive about the entire area, so I have yet to really feel the port beneath her skin. 

When Ellie is completely done with treatment (August 2018?), she will have another surgery to remove the port. From then on, the only reminder of the Leukemia will be the small scars on her neck and chest.

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