Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Tiny Little Army that is Out To Get You!

It all started with a small bite, or perhaps an ingrown hair. Last Thursday while sleeping I scratched it and noticed a sting. My fingernail may have even introduced the germ.

By Saturday morning a nasty red pustule had formed on my upper torso, under my arm. I applied heat, ice, and a little judicious pressure to get the gunk out, and fully expected it to go away.

Sunday morning I had a patch of cellulitis the size of a playing card – time for some medical intervention. For our insurance there are a few hoops I have to jump to get to a doctor. First I call TeleNurse, and wait for her to call back. This makes ‘home’ the first waiting room. ½ hour later it takes me all of three minutes to convince her to put the Golden Ticket of a referral to the Prompt Care Clinic into the master computer that controls all of my medical benefits. Then I drive to the Prompt Care, and wait again. An hour later a nice lady calls my name, and I make it to the last waiting room, a patient room. Twenty minutes later a nice woman Doctor shows up, has a look at the nasty boil and decides what needs to be done. An hour after that, I limp out of the clinic (Why am I limping, this has nothing to do with either of my legs!) with a bandage over the newly-drained hole in my side, and a ‘script for a powerful antibiotic.

Monday morning, after a dubious night’s sleep, I wake to find that the angry red cellulitis is now the size of a checkbook, swollen, rock-solid, and yet another icky pustule has formed. So, this being a Holiday, when we return to the queue of medicine it moves at a much slower pace. Telenurse: well over an hour, and two phone calls to remind the operator that we’re still waiting… Two hours in the waiting room at the Prompt Care with various dozens of other sick and suffering folks… 15 minutes for the Doctor to show up, and decide to do the procedure all over again in the new spot… And ½ hour to wait for a procedure room that has the equipment for the upcoming torture.

These sudden skin infections used only be seen in elderly, infirm, or hospitalized patients. The over-use of antibiotics in our society, both in human and animal food sources has encouraged several strains of super bugs that are able to enter the body through tiny breaches in our defenses, and grow very, very quickly even in healthy individuals, like me. The Doctors I spoke with routinely see 1 or 2 cases like mine every day now – whereas only 5 years ago this was a rare thing, and they may have done some blood testing to check me for immune impairment. The lady Doctor I saw Sunday told me this stuff was rampant in High School wrestling because of the skin contact, and they have started seeing it more in day care children.

Google ‘MRSA’ to read more about just one type that the medical communities are battling.

Update: My actual family Doctor has an open appointment for me on Wednesday to have this wick drain taken out and the whole shebang rechecked. Isn't that nice? Since his wife/partner retired from practice last year it has been very difficult to get an appointment that isn't 3 months out. Is it any wonder that avoiding doctors is a hobby of mine?

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