The Journey…

Kevin’s first experience with a PICC line was in 1992 at Duke Medical Center when he was 10 years old fighting a staph aureus endocarditis, and while we don’t know where it came from, we do know the bacteria attached themselves as a vegetation to his human tissue conduit in his heart, and almost killed him. He was playing and having a great time one minute, and he was very, very sick just a few minutes later. All of his organs began to shut down within 48 hours of his first symptom, and his blood vessels were so damaged he was “bleeding out” through his vessels. His blood pressure dipped to 60 over 40. He remained conscious the whole time, but was so sick I don’t know if he really knew how sick he was. We didn’t tell Kevin, but his cardiologist at Duke told us he was losing his battle with this infection.

Because Dr. Herlong refused to give up on Kevin, he said he was going to run a dopamine and epinephrine drip to keep his heart going, and perhaps buy some time. This wonderful team of physicians had been taking his blood chemistry every 15 minutes, and it looked worse each time. More toxic, weaker; it was very bad. And I understood what was happening; Kevin’s doctors let me stay with Kevin the whole time; I think I just didn’t really accept it.

After the nurse began the new drip, Kevin finally stopped getting worse, about 4 am. Then, he began to stabilize. The next day, the endocarditis experts told us Kevin would have to have open heart surgery to replace the conduit, since it had attached to the conduit. We had no choice; the infection would take over if not removed. Under the most meticulous and devoted care imaginable, Kevin’s successful surgery by Dr. Jaggers and subsequent recovery was nothing short of an absolute miracle. We know the meaning of a second chance.

I’ve designed and patented two more sleeves since the original one that opens flat on the bed. Kevin used that design during the summer and I was able to help him adjust the sliding hook and loop closure. I made some for the kids at the Ronald McDonald House, and they loved them.

Then in February 2007 Kevin somehow contracted another endocarditis, this time, thankfully, nowhere near as severe. His only symptoms were a persistent headache and chronic fatigue that never left. It was only the blood culture that showed us he was seriously ill. Kevin was treated at Duke for a week, and then went back to school with his PICC line. At that time he commented to me that the sliding closure was hard for him to manage by himself at school. So I designed the single motion closure, which has the same three tab closure on the inseam for easy access, but is made for the independent patient. Kevin said other kids didn’t stare as much when he wore the Cover Sleeve, and it allowed him to relax a little and worry less about getting the line caught on book bags, doorknobs and bed covers at night.

When I grew tired of wrapping Kevin’s arm in saran wrap for each shower, I designed and patented the Shower Sleeve. At first, I cannibalized a piece of random athletic equipment for the neoprene and got some shower curtain liner at the fabric store. Of course, that sleeve has no opening on the inseam. I made it loose fitting in the middle, not only for flexibility, but also to reduce the likelihood of condensation from sweat. The sleeve closes at each end with the single motion closure, and the patient wraps the neoprene strips, which are sewn to the sleeve, snugly around the edge of the sleeve at the top and bottom to seal out the water. The waterproof fabric takes care of the rest. Kevin used one exactly like the ones we offer now for 8 weeks, and it was a real time saver.

I trust that these sleeves will make your patient or family member’s illness a little less difficult and much safer. Never give up.
Carolyn Hampton McCollum.