When I began receiving infusion treatments for Ankylosing Spondylitis I had no idea how to prepare for my appointments. What do I bring? What do I wear? Do I need a ride?
Now, well over a year of regular infusions later, I often tell people that infusions are my favorite appointments because I actually feel like a patient. All I have to do is show up and be treated; I don’t have to steel myself for a consultation, review medical records ahead of time or expect to receive a new diagnosis or a change in medication. I just show up, get poked with a needle and catch up on emails or Facebook until I fall asleep. Minus the awkward IV pole, it’s the perfect SpA treatment (all you Spondyloarthritis folks got that joke, right?).
Here is my list for infusion days:
1. First things first, my go-to infusion partner is a stuffed sloth named Remi (short for Remicade). Remi’s been through the wash a few times, so their once-soft, fluffy fur is now course dreadlocks! Remi is comforting to hold when I get drowsy towards the end of my infusion.
2. Warm socks or slippers – I actually bring both. Infusion centers are often cold and the below-body-temperature medication chills me even more when it flows through my veins. I slide on the slippers when I go to the bathroom so my socks aren’t the only barrier between the floor and my feet. I also try to wear shoes that I can slide on easily at the end of the appointment to go home when I’m groggy and less agile.
3. Laptop or tablet – I like to have something to do during my appointments. I’m an introvert and often don’t feel up to talking with other patients, so I catch up on emails, read an online book, browse Facebook or watch videos.
4. Cell phone charger or portable battery – There are usually plugs in infusion centers, but not always. I often find myself texting with someone I haven’t talked to in a while and I like to have plenty of charge just in case I locked my keys in my apartment (again!) and need to contact a friend with a spare key!
5. Eye Mask – I often get drowsy and take a nap towards the end of the appointment. Anything to keep out the brightness of those fluorescent lights is welcome!
6. Earplugs, ear buds or noise cancelling headphones – All the beeping machines and various noises of an infusion clinic can get annoying, though I’ve grown accustomed to a lot of it over time. Earplugs can block out some sound but ear buds are helpful if you plan on listening to music or watching movies or even making a phone call.
7. Blanket – Most infusion centers will have those amazing heated blankets available but I get colder than most people I know, so sometimes I bring an additional blanket. I have also been known to ask for not one, but two, extra heated blankets instead of bringing my own.
8. Comfortable clothes – I dress like I’m going to a pajama party. I even sometimes wear actual pajama pants. Infusions are where I consider myself being pampered and I want to really feel like it! I usually wear short sleeved shirts or long sleeves that are loose enough to push loosely above the elbow. This makes it easier for IV access.
9. Arm Sleeves – I recently found a pair of arm sleeves I used when I was a runner and realized they would be perfect for infusion days. My arms always get cold, but an arm sleeve can be worn on whichever arm is not being used for the IV and the other can be folded and used for half the other arm, still allowing IV access. You can make your own out of old shirt or sweater arms.
10. Water bottle – My infusion center offers small juices and water during infusions but I feel selfish if I ask for more than a few per infusion. I bring my water bottle full of water so I can hydrate throughout the appointment. I have learned how important it is to hydrate before, during, and after infusions; the times I have not done so I have developed a migraine the following day.
11. A hat – If you’re someone like me with short hair or a bald head – or if you get cold easily – wearing a warm hat can help retain some body heat.
12. A friend – I am always delighted when someone I know wants to come sit with me during infusions. I don’t always want to talk but sometimes it’s nice to catch up in a relaxed environment. It’s also nice to just sit next to a good friend and be quiet together while we do our own thing.
13. A book – Maybe it’s a memoir, or a romance, or a textbook, or a coloring book! Books are always in style and the perfect tool to help you lose track of time and enter another world for a while.
14. Knitting/crocheting/needlework – I haven’t yet taken my knitting to an infusion but I hear from a lot of people who do. My little knitting bag is packed and ready to go just in case.
15. Assistive device – I know I will be drowsy after infusions so I always pack my folding cane in case I feel unsteady on my feet on the way out.
16. A ride home – Infusions make me drowsy so I always plan a ride home in advance.
What did I miss? I would love to hear what you bring to your infusions in the comments below, especially if you have a port.