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Life With Chronic Anemia

Updated on October 12, 2015

Basic Information About Accessing and Deaccessing a Port

Anemia has changed my life

I have always struggled with anemia. At one point in time, I believed that all you had to do if you had anemia was take an iron pill and it would go away. Over the last couple of years, I have learned that there is so much more to living with anemia.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with severe anemia. I was referred to a hematologist. A hematologist is a doctor who specializes in treating blood disorders. I began seeing him on a regular basis. At first, I was prescribed the iron pills. However, due to my gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), the iron pills just sat in my stomach for days and made me sick. The doctor began to explore other options. He asked me if I would object to having a blood transfusion. I decided to go ahead with it. I was admitted into the hospital. A special green bracelet was placed on my wrist with my blood type on it. Two technicians came in my room and checked and double checked my bracelet against the bags of blood. Over the next eight hours, two units of blood were pumped into my veins. I was feeling chilled and so I got a heated blanket to cover me. I was assured that it is a common reaction. After the transfusion, I was released to go home but had to return to my doctor within a week for a recheck.

I began seeing the doctor every few months and they did blood work at every visit. I began to have ugly baseball sized bruises on my arms. Frustrated phlebotomists (lab technicians) told me that my veins were scarred from all the testing or that my veins just disappeared. It was recommended to me that I have a venous port placed under the skin so I did not have to be poked all the time for lab draws or to have an intravenous line placed. I decided to think about it.

The doctor suggested intravenous iron treatments to help boost the iron content in my blood. I began getting the treatments of Venofer through the chemotherapy center. My blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature was monitored before each visit and my blood pressure and heart rate were checked after the iron was administered. If my blood pressure was low, I had to stay and was given extra fluids and encouraged to rest.

After seven rounds of intravenous iron, I decided to have the venous port placed. I told my doctor and he consulted with interventional radiology at a local hospital . A surgery date was scheduled for my port to be placed. I had to fast the night before for surgery then the day of surgery, an intravenous line was placed in my wrist so that medications could be administered to me. I was wheeled to interventional radiology then a sedative was given through the intravenous line to make me drowsy. The technicians used x-rays to find the vein then the port was placed into my vein and I was given a special card to identify the type of port that was placed under my skin. I was instructed that the stitches were self dissolving and told how to clean the port area till the incision healed. I was also told that I would now have to have monthly testing to make sure that my port stayed functional. They would run a special medicine through it each month called heparin which would prevent blood from clotting in the port and causing it to be dysfunctional.

I have since had two more blood transfusions. Lab draws and port flushes are a monthly routine at my hematologist's office. I sometimes think back to when I was so naive that I believed that all you needed to do for anemia was to take a few iron pills. I get tired very easily. The iron treatments give me bursts of energy but after those bursts, the fatigue sets in. I also suffer from tachycardia (fast heart rate) because anemia causes the heart to have to work harder at pumping the blood through the body.

Living with anemia is not easy, especially if you have severe anemia. You will get used to being poked, having your vital signs taken, being weighed and seeing the doctor often. There will be multiple treatment options mentioned to you. The recent iron infusions that I had administered required a dose of Benadryl (an antihistamine) and Decadron (a steroid) to be given before the iron because this iron is so strong that it can cause an anaphylactic (throat swells closed resulting in near death experience or death) reaction. You will learn that there are many risks associated with the treatments that you are receiving. However, the benefits for someone with severe anemia often outweigh the risks so you go ahead with the treatments. Life is definitely not easy living with severe anemia but life is what you make it, so you trudge forward with your chin up because you are a survivor.

My Most Recent Hospital Stay: the Life Of Someone With Chronic Anemia

Benefits of having a port

I have found that having a port has been a lifesaver for me. Before my port was implanted, I would be poked anywhere from ten to twelve times when a phlebotomist was trying to draw blood for lab tests. Now that I have a port, fewer people are allowed to draw my blood. Only individuals who have been trained on using a port are allowed to access your port. The nurse will come in the room and will most often be the person who accesses your port. She will put a mask and gloves on and draw up saline which will be used in the port before medicine is administered through it or blood labs are drawn from it.

I have a Bard Power Port which will also allow medicine for a magnetic resonance imaging machine to be administered through it. Not all ports are safe to use with the special dye that is used through an MRI machine.

Iron Infusion Time

Signs and Symptoms of Anemia

There are many symptoms associated with anemia. The most common symptom is unexplained fatigue or a feeling of always being tired. Everyone has days when they feel exhausted. However, with anemia, a person will feel that way all day every day. It takes most of their effort to get up and start the day. People with anemia will often nap during the day. They may crave licorice or ice, meat and cheeses. These are all high in iron and the body is trying to compensate for being low in iron by causing a craving for these objects.

Contrary to popular belief, anemia can be life threatening and should be taken seriously. Anemia can lead to problems with the heart or other circulatory issues. Iron pills are often the first line of treatment for someone with anemia, but they are not the only treatment. It is important for the patient to realize that other options are available.

Symptoms Associated With Anemia

Causes of Anemia

Anemia can be caused by not eating many iron rich foods. However, it may also have an underlying cause. Women who regularly have heavy menstrual bleeding are more likely to suffer from anemia. Likewise, people who often have ulcers or other gastrointestinal bleeding are more susceptible to anemia. Your doctor may do a stool sample test to determine if you have active bleeding going on in your body. He will have you place a smear of stool on a special card with a reed like piece of wood and then he will use a chemical that interacts with blood to check for active bleeding. Even though this test seems gross, it is an important tool for the doctor when he is trying to find the underlying cause of your anemia.

Why the Stool Occult Test Is Important

Disclaimer:Videos and Brochure For Educational Purposes Only

I do not own the rights to the videos or the brochure included in this hub. However, I found the information useful and I think you will too. I found the brochure on Bing images and the videos on youtube and am enclosing them to educate others on anemia.


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