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A beginners guide to infusions

So, you’re getting an infusion. Chances are that’s because you’re pretty gosh darn sick – you may have cancer, or Spondylitis (that’s what I have) or something else chronic. That probably sucks. But going to the infusion center doesn’t have to completely suck.

Here are some pointers I’ve learned over the past 9 months of infusions of Remicaid. I’m going to focus on the practical things you can do to make your experience and the experiences of those around as nice as possible.

Good nurses should rule the world
Whatever you do, you must be polite to your caretakers. The nurses in the infusion clinic are among the best, most elite caregivers on the planet. They must combine the precision engineering of phlebotomy, the care taking of oncology and the harsh reality of hospice and they crank through dozens or even hundreds of patients a week. They are a blessing and you should treat them as such, even in the rare cases when they are not as good as you’d like. Which leads me to…

Beware the substitute nurses for blood draws
Look at your nurses name tag. It should say something like “infusion” on it. If it says something like “general nursing” feel free to ask if they are infusion nurses or phlebotomists. Infusion nurses run a lot of IVs. That means they are good at that. Yes, newer nurses need practice but you don’t have to be the one they practice on it you don’t want to. They only rally bad IV I’ve gotten here at the Polyclinic was from a general nurse who missed my vein, panicked and called for help.

Pump management
My treatments take about 3 hours. I usually have to pee at least once during this time. To do this, you can ask for help, or just do what I do. First tidy up your IV line and hold it (loosely for gods sake!) in your left hand. Unplug the machine from the wall with your right and drape the cord on the giant thumbscrews on the pump so it doesn’t drag on the floor or tangle with your IV line. You might need to drape it twice if the cord isn’t velcroed up. Your IV pump has a battery so don’t worry!


You can ask for as many pillows as you want. I take two. Also ice water, as much as you want! Woooooo hoo! But the best thing (other than kick ass nurses) are the heated cotton blankets. They are great, and when they cool off, you can get another one.

Be respectful
The people around are sick, they are tired, they may be near the end of their rope. Some of them are almost certainly far sicker than you. The last thing they want to hear is you talking too damn loud on your cel phone. They don’t want you to unplug the headphones from your TV so your friend can listen to Judge Judy too (FFS!). We are all in this together, in spite of the curtains. Be nice, be thoughtful.

You’re here to heal. Hopefully – fingers and toes crossed – you’re not going to have to get really good at getting infusions because you’ll be better soon.



One thought on “A beginners guide to infusions

  1. Meg says:

    Nicely done. After 2 infusions: all I heard (3 sticks each hand) from the nurses was “you need a port”!
    I got a port. I didn’t think I had bad veins, but the evidence was overwhelming.
    Don’t argue with the infusion nurses! I don’t love it, but they do. And I love them.

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