Before I get into the “fun” of the last week, I wanted to wax on a little about life and marriage. See, as a patient, a hospital is not an exciting place and you have a lot of time on your hands to sit there doing nothing.
So I was sitting there thinking that life and marriage is a lot like a growth stock that you buy for the long term. You know that there are going to be dips and valleys but overall you’re thinking that it will grow and gain value over time. The short term spikes (like a week in mexico having sex three times a day) are awesome, but even in the valleys where you deal with crappy things or short term crisis that throws you for a loop, when you get through together it can still contribute to growth of a stock or a couple or family knowing you stuck it through and grinded through together. About a year ago we had a pretty good sized valley where intimacy was the last thing on our mind. We were coming off the stress of moving, we put both our dogs to sleep within a week of each other and Holly’s dad was dealing with prostrate cancer. Life was not good. We came out of that valley as sound as we’ve ever been though, and had a great 2012 where things for the most part were blissful, as good as they’ve been in our marriage in my opinion.
Then the storm of the last two weeks hit. As noted in earlier posts, Holly lost her job and we were left figuring out our options. Things will likely be fine on that end as she’s already had a number of opportunities come to light, but the stress and negative thoughts associated with that still take their toll. We went to our spring break activities with a little bit of a heavy heart, and you could tell we weren’t hitting on all cylinders individuals, as a couple or as a family.
When we returned home late in the week, and before I did Crossfit Open 13.4 workout (a clean and jerk and toes-to-bar workout), I had noticed that a spot beneath the palm of my hand near my finger was pretty sore. I soldiered through the workout though and afterwards my hand was really sore. It started to swell up and I thought I had sprained a tendon or something. The next couple days (through Easter weekend) I did the RICE approach, keeping it elevated when I could, icing it and taking anti-inflammatories. I was also very tired, going to bed at 8 pm on Saturday night, sleeping later than normal and was generally pretty grumpy. The pain and swelling were relatively stable, but after the weekend I wanted to wait a day to see if things got better.
To complicate matters, I was in the process of changing our family over to my health insurance since Holly’s ended with her employment. So my insurance was in the processing limbo meaning I wasn’t going to be found in the system until after it went through all the administrative stuff. As one who likes order, this was chaos and very stressful to me. On Monday night, my hand became incredibly painful, and from about 7 pm swelled from localized swelling over the smaller two fingers to swelling my entire hand. I took a couple of Vicodin I had leftover from my vasectomy and gritted my teeth through a sleepless night, knowing I would be headed to urgent care in the morning.
After a couple of hours taking care of some business at work, I headed to urgent care. I still thought it was just fluid trapped in my hand that for whatever reason wasn’t draining. When I got into the doctor, she said that it was cellulitis, a subsurface bacterial infection caused by nasties such as strep or staph. She said that left unchecked, it can get deeper into the body cause septic shock which could result in losing fingers, organs or even dying. At that point, the dam of stress of the last couple weeks came undone and I started crying. I was holding it all together for Holly and our family but my own mortality and just scariness of the situation came to a head. After a few moments, I composed myself and she talked about what was going to happen. I had, in her opinion, come in early enough to treat it and she would be giving me injections the next three days at urgent care. So she proceeds to inject me, with so much antibiotics that it took two syringes and two butt cheeks to handle it all. She gave me a prescription for 30 Vicodin for the pain and told me to come back the next day. Walking like an old man, I decided to forgo work for the day and head home.
After dosing up with Vicodin and spending the afternoon and evening sleeping, I headed back the next day this time Holly took me. A different doc took one look at my hand and arm and told me to go directly to the ER. He said if it were him, he’d have orthopedics look at me and probably do an MRI or ultrasound of my hand to see if it was anything worse than just cellulitis. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Apparently things had gotten worse, the infection was spreading up my arm and the lymph nodes were swollen. This had gone from bad to worse and I was pretty scared. Holly was calm and her demeanor comforting so I held on to that instead of freaking out too much.
In the ER they started collecting blood samples to culture it to find out what nasty was growing in me. Different bugs like different food, so depending how the cultures grew, they would know what I had and how to treat it. Unfortunately, that takes 48-72 hours and until then the doctors are flying blind. They put in my IV lines and started me on IV antibiotics and some narcotic to dull the pain since the pills had worn off, then shuttled me up to my room where I’d be for a couple days at a minimum. Time to play the waiting game they thought. piece of cake they thought, just let the antibiotics work they thought.
After one dose, then two, of the intravenous drugs, things had actually gotten worse in my hand. I was not impressed with my original doctor to say the least, and saw her once per day. By the evening I wanted to talk to a doctor. My nurse at that point wasn’t exactly a firecracker, so I wasn’t surprised when I heard that the doctor responsible for me at that point blew her (and me) off. After the shift change I had an awesome nurse who had been around awhile and actually listened to my concerns and went to bat for me. Shortly thereafter the doctor on call stopped by and checked me out. After checking me out, he decided to humor me and would check with the orthopedic hand specialists to see if I was worthy enough to receive a visit. This is the evening/night of my check-in day by this point. An orthopedic resident then stopped in, took a bunch of notes, checked my hand and took pictures. He acknowledged that he didn’t think there was too much to worry about, but he would pass that on to his boss (the actual orthopedic hand doctor).
At 3 a.m. the hand doctor came in, had a look at my hand, saying the description his resident gave him along with the photos left him with some unease. After just a couple minutes with me he said I’d need surgery and that I likely had a collar button abscess, which an ultrasound a short while later confirmed. Basically this bugger is a pocket of gunk that has walls that prevent the medicine from getting in and destroying it. At about 7 am they wheel me down to surgery, knock me out and I wake up with a big splint and bandage on my hand. Apparently, this thing was bigger than expected and they chased it to from the bottom to the top of the hand. Below is a picture of my hand one day post surgery (there’s an incision at the top of my hand as well).
They started me on the big hitter antibiotics by that point and I rode out the next two boring days in the hospital waiting for the culture results to come back. In total, I spent three nights and four days there until I got discharged. Holly spent most of one day with me, and parts of the rest. The kids came up a couple evenings after school. Birdsnest had a tough time with me being there and really missed me, crying herself to sleep one night. The dog too I guess kept searching around the house for me and was very barky and whiny while I was gone.
The results came back as MRSA, basically a Super Staph that’s resistant to multiple types of antibiotics. I’m on some oral medicine now and am still pretty exhausted as my body is still fighting this bug. Holly has been keeping the house held down along with a full disinfecting and cleaning of linens and the like. It’s spread through open wound coming in contact with the bacteria, so lots of hand washing and hand sanitizer will go a long way from spreading it, and Holly is just being safe and doing what she can to minimize the chance for spreading or reinfection. She still sort of has the heeby-jeebies towards me though as carrier to this nasty bug, so I expect it will be a bit before she sees me as the sexy man that I usually am.
We’re still feeling out our new roles here; her as home caretaker and me as patient. I got yelled at for trying to help do housework and basically was told “I got this. You relax and get well.” Sort of hard as the Captain to play that role, even temporarily. So I’ll be on the mend for a bit and likely not weight lifting for awhile (I think I will sneak in some back squats though once my body kicks the infection, just nothing with the hand).
It’s good to be home again and it went to show that we’re a lot more calm and happier as a family when we’re all together. Holly said one day when I was still at the hospital, the kids were being little assholes: fighting, whining, tattling, and the like. She was in the car and just lost it, and started crying. She told them she HAD IT with the bad behavior and if they realized I could have died this week. I guess the kids were angels after that. Makes me appreciate the wife and life I’ve got when you go through something like this.
Thanks for all the thoughts and well wishes, and forgive any spelling or grammar mistakes here as I’m typing with one hand+a finger.