Sunday, August 15, 2010

The IV Pole Metaphor

Ah, that IV pole, always one shove ahead of us.

Just like people, IV poles come in a multitude of varieties - purely tall, adjustable, big wheels, tiny wheels, squeaky wheels, baskets attached, pumps hanging on, even the number of hooks at the top. It’s kind of like the medical version of hand-cuffs, we are literally plugged into the wall and attached to something, a two-for-one deal.

In the middle of the night it can be the enemy, a desperate act to unplug and get to the bathroom. During the day it can be the bother that you trip on during your walk. But no matter what time of the day, it can serve as a constant reminder of being sick with IBD.

I think the IV pole experience is a good metaphor for having IBD. At the beginning, you typically either try to run away from it unsuccessfully or try to cling to the pole, unsure of what else is happening. The poles are a little too big and wobbly at first, at the beginning we can only steer them with two hands and immense concentration. But soon enough, we find we’re pushing it along with one hand.

Then they are the pumps. Things can be streamlined, one pump, or crazy, four or more pumps, barely fitting on the pole and beeping and unable to be calmed. We need help sometimes, when we buzz the nurses in frustration and panic at the pump beeping, but very quickly we learn where the ‘silence’ button is - a massive saving grace in the middle of the night.

Just like any other skill, mastering the IV pole takes time and is an ongoing challenge. If we learn from the IV pole, to be the squeaky wheel and get our questions answers, to be heard as youth, to stand tall, to ask for help when we need it, and to try to walk side-by-side with everyone in our life - then we too can be supportive, adaptive, strong, and unbreakable.



  1. Hey Jennie;

    An IV pole has been all that you have explained for me and more. It's been the nusance in the night, it's been the "friend" I couldn't fit in the small bathroom with me, it's been the beeping pole outside the shower, it's been a wake-up call at night, and it's been a teacher! During my long stays I learned how to silence, and restart them. I've learned how to read my bags and pump it back in at the right speed(as long as I look at it before it goes off!). The nurses used to laugh when they would come in when it was beeping and I was checking the bag, and then restarting it! Oh the IV pole...I never thought of it as much until your post!


  2. Oh, those wonderful IV poles......a permanent fixture and awkward accessory during hospital stints. I've also become an expert at silencing the alarm, and restarting the pump at the appropriate drip speed. It makes for a stubborn companion when walking laps around the ward, always causing me to have to stop somewhere to plug myself back in. And, why can't they make those bathrooms a bit bigger when they know that half the patients are attached to an IV pole?
    The constant noise that the pump makes eventually becomes soothing enough to put me to sleep....then when I am released from the hospital, that first night at home I swear I can still hear the pump running in the background....