Over the past few weeks, I’ve discovered a strange, creepy gap in the U.S. health care system: A gap in support systems for people who suddenly get called to provide chronic care for others out of the blue.
Most of us have at least had some kind of dimly remembered grade school health class on emergency care. We know that you should put pressure on a bleeding wound, keep someone who seems to be in shock (for a reason other than heat stroke) warm, and compress the chest of someone who seems to be in cardiac arrest to the rhythm of the Bee Gees’.
But how do we give an EpiPen injection to someone suffering from a severe allergic reaction to peanuts? How do we look after the aging, disoriented father of a friend who needs a break? And how do we safely put scary powerful antibiotics in the PICC line of a stubborn 14-year-old girl who needs scary powerful antibiotics for six weeks?
A PICC line — a peripherally inserted central catheter — is a tube inserted near a patient’s elbow and threaded into a large vein that leads to the patient’s heart.
A PICC line is great for pumping the scary antibiotics through the bloodstream of a girl (many, many details changed her to protect privacy) who has a bad infection, but also potentially great at pumping horrible killer germs or air bubbles through the girl’s body.
In the case I’m thinking of, the girl’s father puts in the antibiotics most of the time, but sometimes he needs someone to fill in when he’s at work. What if he asked you to fill in?
It’s hard to find clear, detailed, well-organized information about topics like PICC lines on the Web or in printed medical guides for lay people.