Posts Tagged ‘Jackson-Pratt or Hemovac Drain’

The drainage sack had a proper name. It’s called a Jackson Pratt (J-P) or Hemovac Drain. If I had a better humor about it, I would’ve given it a nickname like Harold or Yoda and consulted with it throughout the day as it reminded me of the boil on Richard Grant’s shoulder that became an alter ego talking head in the movie How to Get Ahead in Advertising. Like Richard, I was quite horrified by the appendage. I didn’t like the mess and the bother. I didn’t like the concerns that went with it such as being wary of dislodging the tube or getting the dressing wet, and the warnings about infection. I didn’t like having an external man-made body part. What I did appreciate was that the little plastic sack was a teacher.

For instance, it taught me to be resourceful. The J-P or Hemovac kit came with a large safety pin to fasten the sack to the inside of clothing so that it wouldn’t bob about willy-nilly and pull the tube out. I found the pin challenging to fasten with my left hand, and so I turned my shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and bathrobe inside out in order to tuck the sack in the pockets. Besides preventing the bounce factor, it also buffered me from the cool rubbery plastic pressing against my skin which helped me to forget about the intruder for awhile. Until the area of the incision began to hurt and then to leak, which prodded my next resourceful act – I called for help.

My dear friend Olive is a midwife and nurse and not bothered in the least by the gooey viscera of the body human. I trust Olive. And so I called her when I started leaking. As I reread the Jackson-Pratt care instructions that were sent home with me from the hospital, I see now that it clearly states that “The drain may become blocked and begin to leak around the drain site. This is not serious. Replace the wet gauze with a dry one as needed.” I didn’t see that then which leads me to believe that I was probably in a panic state at the time. Panic is emotional quicksand for me. The more I squirm on my own, the deeper I sink; so it’s best to reach for help from someone on solid ground. Olive responded to my call, came over and calmly replaced the dressing and reassured me that the tube was in place, that indeed the hole in me was plugged up. The gentle touch, the gentle words in Olive’s lovely, lilting brogue were like a lullaby and I was put at ease.

Another lesson or really a gift from the drainage sack was that it kept me from fretting about the future. The critical awareness of the tube and the practice of measuring and charting the fluids kept my mind occupied, and, thus, diverted from worrying about the lab results and prognosis. Perhaps this is why hair shirts? Physical discomfort is very effective for keeping the mind trained in the moment. Who can think about grocery lists or where to vacation in August or a five year career plan when one’s nerve endings are throbbing? Anyway, the sack aided me that way. I devoted three pages in my little brown journal to complaining about that drain, and barely gave a nod to receiving the lab report:

June 23, 2009 – The sun is out after days on end of rain. I still have a tube inserted under my arm to drain lymph fluid. After eight days of tube it feels as though gravity is pulling on it and the tug hurts. I guess I learn courage, endurance, compassion for myself and others. I guess I learn how to receive sympathy and concern and all sorts of help.

The shift in my attitude, the contrast, reminds me of the many times in my life when I pridefully toughed out a situation alone. Depression, eating disorders, other illnesses… wisdom teeth extraction. I had all four wisdom teeth pulled and didn’t tell anybody. I was single and living in the city so I took a cab to and fro, stumbled into the Korean grocer afterward to stock up on ice cream, climbed the four flights to my studio apartment, and locked the door until the swelling went down. Crazy. I had some sort of whacked out notion that asking for help was annoying to others. My worst ever sunburn happened because I didn’t ask a beach buddy to rub Coppertone on my back. Well, never again will I let some cockamamie idea that my needs are inconvenient to others prevent me from asking for help. Cancer cured me of that. This diagnosis and all the tests and treatments require that I share my feelings, ask for help, and let people in. It is too much to bear alone.

Last night I went to a Shamanic journey and Reiki share at Julie Connor’s. Julie met me at the door with a hug and questions about the lymph node dissection and how the surgery panned out. I told her that they found a small amount of cancer in one lymph node.

She said, “Linda, take it from someone who had cancer, didn’t have cancer, had cancer again – you have the right to take your slides for a second opinion.”

My response was utter weariness at the idea of schlepping to another doctor. Eight days since surgery, a drain that’s still sucking 70 ml of lymph fluid out of my body daily, and I feel like I don’t have it in me to dispute or distrust.

Well, I don’t need to do anything today. I don’t even have to make a decision today. Just for today, all I need to do is rest and receive and heal and recoup my strength.

The Shamanic Journey and the Reiki share were amazing. In the journey, I was met by a gigantic white swan that let me curl up to sleep on her back while she flew through the galaxy. Then, the Reiki tables came out and Tony, a wonderful new friend, like the swan, called me to his table to rest and be lavished with attention and healing energy. Julie, the Reiki Master, stood by me during other peoples’ sessions and put her hand on my lower back and mid back at different chakra points. The energy from her amplified the energy coursing through me, and I believe she intended to boost the healing energy I was receiving while I was sending.

I’m so impressed and grateful for the loving way people are treating me these days. It seems like my “attraction energy” is at an all time high. I don’t understand it, but I love it.

In Awe,



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