Posted by: zhak39 | January 22, 2009

Super Pathogens, Not MRSA

It erupted in just days.  Sunday it felt like an ingrown hair on my wrist.  By Tuesday it was a raised welt as round as a superball, red, tender hot.  I thought it was a ganglion, what used to be referred to as a Bible cyst and that it would go away.  I even toyed with the home remedy for that harmless condition, slam it really hard with a heavy book to break the walls and release the fluid.  Helen prompted me to go to the doctor and since it was exactly on the site where I used to have a raised mole, I decided it would not hurt to have it checked.

So I am not too keen on doctors.  I’m not squeamish, it’s not a pain thing.  It’s an industry thing.  Healing is a wonderful, nurturing, compassionate endeavor.  Now it’s  insurance companies, big pharma, and lousy customer service.  A year ago a general practitioner had me unwrap an ace bandage from my arm. He sent me to another facility to have it x-rayed (driving with the good hand).  When I drove back with the x-ray told me to go home until he could find someone to look at it.  He did not once touch me.  He offered me a prescription for vicodin which I couldn’t take because I was driving.  The wrist was ground to powder on both the arm and the hand  side.  Last summer a doctor berated me for taking too long  to bring my son in with abdominal pain then told me to take him home,  she’d call me later.  When I tried to get in touch with her by phone from a friend’s house I was put on hold for over twenty minutes.  My son ended up in the hospital for a week.

But I am attempting to include self-care in my daily (or at least monthly) activities and when a person has a golf ball sized burning fiery patch on their arm it is appropriate to go to a doctor at least for an opinion.

Me:  “Good morning.  I have a cyst on my wrist and would like to see a doctor.”

Scheduler:  “OK.  Who is your regular doctor.”

Me:   “Dr. Harris.”

Scheduler:  “He can see you a week from today.”

Me:  “Oh.  It is very red and is putting off heat.  Is there someone else who can see me sooner?”

Scheduler: “Dr. Swain.  He can see you next Tuesday.”

Me:   “This has grown to the size of a golf ball in less than three days.  Is there anyone else?”

Scheduler:  “Dr. Sun has an opening tomorrow afternoon.”

Me:  “Today.  Who can see me today?”

Scheduler:        “Oh, you wanted to come in today?  We have a physician’s assistant.  Would that do?”

The physician’s assistant did quite well, actually.  He looked at it, asked a few questions.  He whipped out a  scalpel, cut it open.  At that point I was expecting something predatory and alien to come lunging out.  If it had, it would have taken his assistant unaware.  She had to turn away when he started to squeeze gobs of goo out.  Once it was cleaned he gave me a band aid and two prescriptions (antibiotics and sulfa) and said that we would know in a few days if it was staph or strep.

“You can get a staph or strep infection on your skin?”

“It’s more and more common, in fact.”

“What could have happened if I left it for a week?”

“Most likely?  There would be deep red streaks up and down your arm.  Your whole arm would be swollen and inflamed.  The site of the infection is right next to your intern’s vein.  Within a week if the infection inhabited your blood it would become systemic.  You would have a very  high fever and possibly pneumonia.”

“Gotcha.  Thank you.”

I was given a number to call to hear a recording of the test results the next week.  Hopefully, this is not the way they let people know that they have cancer.  Press one for uterine.  Press two for prostate.

The message was not posted but the following day the  assistant with blood and pus issues called me personally.  She said that the lab tests came back as “something resistant staph” but they couldn’t tell exactly what kind yet.  It would take three more days of testing than they would know which of the medications I was taking was effective.  Of course, by the time the second set of results were due, I would be done with the medication.  I repeated what she said for clarification and told her how much it meant to me to talk to a real person and not a recording.  She is a sweet young woman.

This morning I received a recorded message.

“This is Deanna.  Your tests came back positive.  Please continue taking your medication.  If you have questions, call the doctor.”

(Can we pause for a moment?  I think I need to reflect.)

(OK, I’m back.)

Yes, of course, I left a message for the p.a. and he called me back.  Uh-huh, the first question was, ‘positive for what?’

I did have to probe a bit and found out that this was not MRSA although he could not tell me exactly what type of staph it is.  I asked if the medication would eliminate the pathogen systemically.  If there is further testing to see if my sinuses are harboring a colony of pathogens.  I described the effected area currently and asked how it should look.  I asked if there were precautions I should take with my family.  I questioned him about the possibility of underlying immunity issues and how could that be pursued.

He is a very nice man.  He didn’t tell me much of anything but he did it in a nice way.  We’ll see how it goes.


  1. My wife is a family practice PA.

    She confers with your PA and goes on to say that there are germs and viruses everywhere. So you can choose to focus on this and live in fear of recurrence or worse, or you can stare at your scar and thank God it wasn’t worse and move on with your life.

    And I thought that I had a bad bedside manner. She makes me sound like the second husband in a Lifetime Television movie.

    (e.g. First husband: “I’m going to KILL YOU!” Second husband: “How does that Size 26 dress make your BUTT look? Why honey, you’d look good in ANYTHING!” “What? You wanted to stay in and talk? Sure, I’ll give up my floor-level seats to the Bulls game! No problem!”)

  2. If it weren’t for the PAs our family practice would have no patients. We would all be dead by now.

    I understand that there are viruses everywhere and unlike John Travolta in “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” our bodies do a miraculous job of keeping them from expressing themselves. I am curious about a couple of things. Could this be related to the sinus surgery that I had some months ago and is there an underlying immunity issue that allowed this to erupt? Apparently satisfying my curiosity is not billable time; and best, it is cute but not to be indulged.

    Good to hear from you, by the way.

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