Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When your doctor says "Hmmm . . . interesting."

They say that the definition of a bore is someone who, when you ask them how they are, tells you. Prepare to be bored.

It all started several weeks ago. I was assembling new beds for the boys, and I must have spent a lot of time with all my weight pressing into my left knee. The next day, it was swollen and puffy. But I know what this is -- it's bursitis, also known as "Roofer's knee" or "Clergyman's knee" or especially "Housemaid's knee." If it's like the goose-egg I got on my elbow when I fell flat on the ice in January, it'll just go away with a bit of rest and elevation.
Housemaid's knee, housemaid's knee
It's plain to see it's house maid's knee.
No rest and elevation around this place. The knee goes down, but the fluid seems to descend down my shin, causing bruising on my foot, spots on my shins, and puffiness around my ankle. Again, I give it time. But I complain about my condition to my friend Gina, and she emails back with a jeremiad on the risks of unchecked puffiness, which could be the dreaded cellulitis. I check cellulitis on the internet. Here's my advice: Don't check cellulitis on the internet. Or at least stop before you get to the bit about flesh-eating bacteria. This terrifies me into going to the doctor the next day.
Cellulitis, cellulitis
What if my plight is cellulitis?
Next day -- the last day I put up a post on this blog -- I wake with an excrutiating pain in my ear and the sound of fluid in my ear canal. Has the feared cellulitis spread? Because it's the last day of school and I have to be back to pick up two of the boys by lunchtime, I go to the Urgent Care Center as soon as it opens. "I have a pain in my ankle and in my ear, and I want to know if they're connected" I cry. The doctor looks at me strangely, but orders an x-ray of my ankle and ultrasound of my leg. No break, no clots. Should get better on its own. But here are two types of antibiotics for the ear infection -- otitis externa, aka "Swimmer's ear."
Swimmer's ear, swimmer's ear
What we have here is swimmer's ear.
Next day, the leg gets better. The ear gets worse. Constant pain, living from Tylenol to Tylenol, side of the face hugely swollen and tender, loss of hearing. And then these spots start breaking out on my face, near my ear. I also start running temperatures of 102. I suffer for the weekend, but take myself off to my regular doctor on Monday. By now, the spots have spread across my face, scalp, and upper body, and I suspect an allergy to one of the medications . . . but which? (It's like a mystery story.)
Hives, hives, hives, hives
Antiobiotics save lives, but did they give me hives?
And that's when Dr. C says "Hmmm. Interesting." I tell him I don't want to be interesting. He says sorry and mutters things about hospital stays pumping me with anti-viral drips. Instead, he sends me to an infectious diseases specialist, Dr F. Who also says "Interesting." Because what I have is . . . chickenpox.
Chickenpox, chickenpox
Both the docs think chickenpox.
So Dr. F gives me some antivirals for the chickenpox and takes a swab of my ear, which isn't getting better, despite my reaching the end of the antiobiotics. I go home, unable to tell whether it's the pox or the ear that's responsible for a range of debilitating symptoms, mainly a desire to do nothing lay flat on my bed and stare at the ceiling for days. (No difference there from normal life, but I usually call that "research." I should add that all this happens while I'm generally in charge of the boys, now on summer break, since the mem-sahib is at an offsite for much of the week. The boys are safe, having had their chickenpox jabs. I let them watch the extended, uncut Lord of the Rings trilogy and stomp off to bed till it's over.)

But the pox halts and then recedes (messily) over several days, the swelling of the face goes down, the fevers desist. The ear is still bloody painful and my hearing remains muffled. And then Dr. F calls. The results of the swab came back -- I have a MRSA infection (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which means the antiobiotics haven't been doing all they should.
Could it get any worser? It's a MRSA
So on to the more powerful antibiotics. Early days, but I think they're working. What's next, bubonic plague? Throg's neck? Spock's brain?

This post isn't supposed to be funny. It's a blatant bid for sympathy in a cruel and unfeeling world. But while I need a hug, don't get too close -- I may be catching.


  1. I had chicken pox in the 2nd grade, like most American kids (which is why you probably didn't get it, not being an American Kid and all), so I can safely give you a hug. Here: ((()))
    On the other hand, is MRSA contagious?

    (musically, I'd go with Marvin Gaye: Oh, MRSA MRSA me, things ain't how they sposed to be...)

    Whine all you like- I had bronchitis and pneumonia last fall/winter, and there was no subject dearer to me than my own suffering.

  2. Oh NO. *safe gentle across the internet hugs*

    And yes Kathleen, MRSA is VERY contagious. And resistant to many antibiotics. And very dangerous. Which is why I'm staying on this side of my computer when expressing sympathy.

    I hope you feel better very soon Alan.

  3. Thank you. But Kathi, you're missing the point. You're a girl. But I'm a man -- when I get sick, it's a much bigger deal.

  4. Oh, and I did have chickenpox as a kid. We think (the medical profession and me, that is) that the ear infection was sufficiently stressful to cause the re-release of the virus. (Herpes zoster -- no, not THAT herpes.) Only it came back as the adult version of the childhood ailment, not as shingles, which is very painful.