My Battle with Breast Cancer

How To Work A Mastectomy Drain

Yesterday, I shared some photos of my drain, as well as some other things.  I just happened to mention that I would tell a little more about the drain today. 

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This is one of the photos I posted yesterday.   I completely forgot to thank McD for taking all of the photos for yesterday's post.  I took a few, but he took the majority of them.  Thank you, McD!

My drain was a Jackson-Pratt Drain.  As you can see in the photo above, it is a small tube connected to a rubber bulb shaped like a hand grenade.  In yesterday's post you could see how the drain was kept in place with some stitching.

Brittney from Our Greener Acres asked a great question.


She wanted to know what fluids are draining.  I had to go do some reading in all of my pamphlets and brochures to find that answer.  I knew there was blood, but I didn't know what to call the other stuff.  Stuff is the only thing I can think to call it.  Not trying to gross anyone out, but there was stringy gunk coming out of that thing sometimes.  Eww, I know.

The fluid draining is blood, lymph, and other fluids.  The drain helps reduce the risk of infection and it's suppose to keep you more comfortable.  Do you see that yellowish fluid in the tube?  That is lymph.

Gunk kind of builds up in the drain, so you have to strip the drain.  Stripping the drain is basically holding the tube at the exit site with one hand, pinch (or peench, funny story) the tube between your index finger and thumb, squeeze tightly, and pull down the length of the tube.  Everything in the drain will go into the bulb.  Easy peasy!

After pouring the fluid into the measuring cup you have to create suction in the bulb.  It is really easy, but let me show you something I learned.

There are a couple of ways you can create the suction in the bulb.

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The first way is to fold the bulb in half, and then put the plug in it.  It is really simple to do.

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This is what it should look like.

The next way is a great way too.

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Pop the plug out, push the bottom of the bulb up, and stick the plug back in there.

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Now, let me tell you what I learned from experience.  This way doesn't lay in the pocket against your abdomen area as well as the first way.  For that reason, we only used the first method.

It was easy for me to do this myself, but McD usually stepped up to take care of it for me. 

Believe it or not, I was not looking forward to the drain after surgery.  I really dreaded it, but it was nothing.  Sure, it was annoying.  It hurt a little when I would accidentally grab it when adjusting my shirt, but not bad at all.

Showering or bathing with it was simple.  If you'll notice in a few of the photos, there is a tab that is quite handy.  I took a string and threaded it through that tab, then tied the string around my neck.  You are supposed to keep the drain below the incision, but for the short amount of time it takes to shower is no big deal.  We just folded the bulb, plugged it and went on down the road kicking rocks.  Ok, no kicking rocks, but you know what I mean.

 

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10 Comments

  • Reply Melanie June 3, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I’m really glad you’re sharing all this ‘practical’ information. There’s so much to be worried about and when real people (as opposed to medical professionals) show how things are happening and how you’re coping with it all, it can’t help but benefit someone else. Anything that can be done to help alleviate even the tiniest bit of stress is so valuable. You’re so great and positive and strong and full of grace. I truly appreciate that and you!

  • Reply Virginia June 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Flash backs!
    It looks like the drain I had for my thyroidectomy. I will never forget when it was removed—the most unnatural feeling ever! I grabbed the nurse’s wrist to stop her, a move more out of shock than anything else. I wasn’t able to speak then as I had temporary vocal chord paralysis, but she knew why I reacted the way I did. She laughed and told me it was normal.
    I’ve always wondered how *normal* that is supposed to be because it was anything but!
    I know there are plenty of people out there appreciating you sharing this; I know I would have 6 years ago!

  • Reply Karmyn R June 3, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I think it must be quite uncomfortable. After my thyroid surgery, they had a drain in my neck for a few days. I thought that was the worst part of the entire procedure. I can’t imagine having to take one home.
    and after reading Virginia’s comment – YES! The removal was not fun…however, the doctor did tell me I handled it well (better than the football players he had in there).

  • Reply debby June 4, 2011 at 7:05 am

    I was not conscious when mine was removed. They took it out while they were putting the medport in. I’ve heard that it’s not fun to be removed. I really was not so distracted that I didn’t realize what an ingenious device the drain was, though.

  • Reply Brittney June 4, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Gotcha; thanks for answering!! I tell you what, you have a keeper of a husband (I suspect you already knew that and all of us knew it, too)! The way he has just stepped up and been there for you; it’s really sweet.
    When our pastor’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer the first time, she went to the west coast for treatment and met some amazing women who have become lifelong friends to her. One of the women, who has passed on to be with the Lord, had a horrible story. When she was diagnosed with the cancer, her husband of 10+ years left her. She had to travel and start her treatments all by herself. Our pastor’s wife and another lady that was there, took her in and became her support system even though they were going through rigorous treatment. This lady eventually became saved and what started out as a horrible situation, became a beautiful story.
    Sorry for making this a big comment but I felt like I needed to share this. The love that you and McD have for each other is truly touching. Gee whiz…am I being emotional today, or what?!?! Have a great day!

  • Reply Teri June 4, 2011 at 8:22 am

    My mom had 3 drains after her surgery. I took care of them for her and it was at that point that I gained even more respect for nurses. Like you said, it wasn’t hard to do but it was kind of gross. My daughter the nurse obviously did not get the nursing gene from me 😉
    Your posts are so informative Julie. You’re helping to ease the fears of a lot of women.

  • Reply Megan @ Red Dirt and Crazy June 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    As much as I hate that you are having to go through this…or anyone for that matter…thank you so much for sharing! It definitely takes some of the scariness away however it doesn’t make me hate cancer any less. 🙂
    Hugs to you my okie friend!!

  • Reply Terri (Junebug) June 5, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Julie,
    Thanks for being brave! The joy of the Lord is your strength.
    “Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
    What if Your healing comes through tears
    What if a thousand sleepless nights
    Are what it takes to know You’re near
    What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise.” from Blessings by Laura Story.
    Laura Story wrote this song from her life experience with her husband. You too have a story to tell. Thanks for telling it. 🙂

  • Reply Carolyn June 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Hi Julie,
    I have been keeping up on your journey. I was the primary caretaker for my mother after her mastectomy last September and I had been worried about how I’d do with the drains. Your pictures would’ve helped. Though I don’t have much to say, I continue to check on you and keep you in my prayers.
    As you know:
    Cancer is so limited
    It cannot criple love
    It cannot shatter hope
    It cannot corrale faith
    It cannot eat away peace
    It cannot kill friendship
    It cannot shut out memories
    It cannot silence courage
    It cannot invade the soul
    It cannot reduce eternal life
    It cannot quench the spirit
    It cannot lessen the power of resurrection
    Peace to you.
    Carolyn

  • Reply Melanie June 23, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    How are you doing with your drains? Hope they’re about ready to come out and that they’re not being too much of a pain for you. Melanie

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