I have never been an easy stick when getting an IV. It most often takes about 3 sticks to get one to work, and that’s usually after 5 minutes of one of the needles being moved back and forth trying to figure out where the vein went. I think my record is 6 sticks before finding a vein, but I know that’s probably low compared to some of you.
Even the most confident IV … inputters (?) are surprised by how difficult my veins can be to find. I once ended one nurse’s streak of nearly 100 sticks on the first try. I always try to tell the person before hand that my veins are tricky and they like to play hide-and-seek, looking alright beforehand, but disappearing as soon as the needle goes in. They usually somewhat brush me off at first, but by the end they agree with me.
During my recent hospital stay, which started as a blockage, by the real reason I went in was due to severe dehydration. I’m sure you all know how much more difficult it becomes to get an IV when you’re dehydrated. The nurses could tell immediately that my veins were not going to make it easy, so I had 2 charge nurses each give it a try and both miss the vein. Then they called the IV team. And it was the same old story: Came in confident, but then not 1, but 2 blown veins later, we finally got a blood return on his third try, but fifth overall.
But what’s interesting about this, is what he asked me next.
He said, “What brought you in?”
“Dehydration,” I told him.
He replied, “Is that all?”
“I had an intestinal blockage.”
“I have an ileostomy.”
And he said, “There it is!”
He went on to tell me something that I am surprised nobody has ever told me before. He said that people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have notoriously difficult veins to insert an IV into. (Please don’t quote me on some of the more technical aspects here, but this is what he told me.) He said it could be due to a number of things such as some of the medications taken for IBD, getting ongoing IV meds and veins being used frequently for blood draws and other IVs, among other things. He showed me how his veins are mostly straight, but when you look at mine, they are kind of curvy and they have extra little bumps in them, what he called valves. From what I understand, when valves are not working properly, they cause blood to pool is small sections of your veins. Basically, the point of all of this is showing that having IBD can make getting an IV inserted more difficult, since the veins aren’t as straight or smooth as they usually are.
He recommended that I let anyone trying to insert an IV know ahead of time that I have Crohn’s disease, because he said it would change his approach. He said he would likely have spent a little more time picking out a vein and would also start with a smaller needle. The needle he ended up using to get my IV in he said he rarely uses on anybody because it’s so small, but he often has to use it with IBD patients
I found all of this very interesting and wondered why nobody had ever told me this before. But now I’ll be sure to always give someone trying to insert an IV a heads up of what they’re dealing with. We’ll see if they take it more seriously than my warning of tricky veins!