Looking back over the blog, I see that my last post was on October 24. Where, you may wonder, have I been since then? Well, on October 27, an infection changed my life.
What’s Bacteria Got to Do With It?
I have an ancestor who died from an infection she got after picking at a pimple on her face. It was the early 1800s, about 200 years ago. My ancestor was a young Mormon girl, too young even to be a sister wife. She messed with a pimple, some teenage acne, for God’s sake, and Nature killed her for it. Fast-forward to 2017 and to me. I had some calloused, hard skin on my big toe, so I picked it away. I know better, of course, but it was so rough, and I just wanted it gone. Then one day my toe swelled up. It was the size of two toes, red,and hot. I went to Urgent Care and that was the start of a three month journey away from this blog.
I had MRSA, streptococci, (yes, like strep throat but in my toe) and enterococci bacteria all playing around in my foot. Even more fun, the infection had gone into the bone. I saw a wound care specialist, my GP, a podiatrist, and an infectious disease specialist. I got an MRI. I got a port placed in my arm so I could give myself IV antibiotics daily after the first six they tried didn’t work. A nurse came to my house once a week to take blood, and clean the port. I got to go to the wound clinic once per week for a doctor to clean the wound, and scrape away the dead skin and pack it with an antibiotic strip of cloth. For awhile I had two holes in my toe–one on top and one on the bottom. You could take that strip and push it into one and out of the other; in fact I was supposed to, to remove dead skin.
The doctor at the wound clinic told me I would probably lose my toe, that if the bone infection came back or was too far advanced and had killed part of the bone it would have to be removed. I was told to elevate the leg to maximize circulation and not to walk on it. No dog walking, no running around the bookstore finding books for customers, no cooking, shopping or going to the post office. No pressure on the wound. I couldn’t wear regular shoes.
I was lucky. In the first week of the New Year, they told me I was cured. I still have all 10 toes. I got to Ring the Bell. (A wound clinic graduation ritual which means you are free to go. Hopefully you won’t come back.) As my foot was slowly healing I got to know someone–the daughter of a friend–who had had a worse infection even than mine. She wound up in the hospital. They had to shave her head. She’s out now and doing better, but not out of the woods yet.
My ordeal is in the past, I am alive and well today. I am grateful. I am going forward with the blog, finishing up a post about a book on Panama. I will walk the dog. I might even make dinner, if my husband does the shopping. I am trying to be careful, and cautious, and not overdo. Trying to be careful, and mindful, as I should have been in the first place. Be careful, people. Infections can happen; bacteria are out there and they are deadly. You can get them in hospitals (as I’m pretty sure I did in January 2016). So, remember:
- Wash your hands. Careful hand washing remains your best defense against germs. Scrub hands briskly for at least 15 seconds, then dry them with a disposable towel and use another towel to turn off the faucet. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer containing at least 62 percent alcohol for times when you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Keep wounds covered. Keep cuts and abrasions clean and covered with sterile, dry bandages until they heal. The pus from infected sores may contain MRSA, and keeping wounds covered will help prevent the bacteria from spreading.
- Keep personal items personal. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, sheets, razors, clothing and athletic equipment. MRSA spreads on contaminated objects as well as through direct contact.
- Shower after athletic games or practices. Shower immediately after each game or practice. Use soap and water. Don’t share towels.
- Sanitize linens. If you have a cut or sore, wash towels and bed linens in a washing machine set to the hottest water setting (with added bleach, if possible) and dry them in a hot dryer. Wash gym and athletic clothes after each wearing.
And I’ll see you on the blog side! I hope, soon.