Friday, September 10, 2010


My son arrived home from helping another elderly family member in another State. Upon arrival, my son's knee was bright red- all swollen, I noticed at the baggage claim area, he was limping. This is someone who rides bike 10 miles a day, easy- in excellent health

 Back at home after unloading luggage & serving a late dinner, we took a closer look at that knee. We agreed it was probably infected, and since it was a late flight & after 10 pm, we'd have a Doctor look at it in the morning. By the next day, the whole front of the knee was worse, with the redness spreading further,  very warm to the touch.
The Doctor said he should be admitted to the hospital- but notices he has no health insurance, so she offers an interim solution. She would give him 2 shots of antibiotics, that would be equal to 24 hours of IV antibiotic, plus get started on oral antibiotic. We would give this a try-- but as she drew a pen line around the border of the bright redness-- if this spreads, he has a fever, or any worsening of the condition, he goes to the hospital. We discuss having admit orders on file, so he does not have to go through the ER to be admitted. He's already been seen. She puts that in place.
By that evening, a fever spiked, the streaking had spread, and the knee was so swollen, he could barely walk just the few steps to the bathroom.  He tried to say the spiked temperature was just a fluke, a result of having just taken a shower, but no, 10 minutes later, the temp was still approaching 102.

There were 3 items now that qualified his to need to go to the hospital, fever, increased swelling & pain, and spreading/streaking beyond the border of the line.
We have to go through the chain of command-- call the number & get the answering service exchange operator. She calls the Nurse, with a 20 minute call back buffer, the nurse returns the call & determines it is worthy of passing on to the Doctor.  She advises of another 20 minute leeway for the Doctor to call back. Thankfully, he calls in about 5 minutes. The admit info is confirmed & they tell him to come directly to a specific floor in the hospital. We bypass the ER & even the admissions desk.  He chides me for saying yes to wheelchair assist, "I can walk" & "Don't speak for me" are snarled at me.
The admissions lady instantly has a wheelchair ready to roll faster than I could say "you can barely walk & this is a huge hospital"-- it could potentially be a long walk. They plunk him into a wheelchair & off we go. It was a long walk, by the way.
A Doctor examined him & he is put on IV antibiotics.

By the time the first lab results came back the next day, the consensus was he had a Staph infection.
But likely it was the mutated superbug version known as MRSA. It was confirmed.
The good news is that it had not spread to the bloodstream.
We were seriously in need of some good news. He no longer has a fever now as well, another bit of good news.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterial infection that is highly resistant to most antibiotics. 

So that is what we are in the thick of.
The house now reeks of bleach. We joked about how now all meals are like a picnic for him, because he is eating off of disposable dishes. We glove up for lots of things & are going through Bleach, Lysol, antibacterial soap & sanitary wipes like we are neurotic & obsessive compulsive.  The MRSA superbug Staph infection remains highly contagious, as the center of the knee wound oozes live bacteria.

Oh! Did I mention he has no health care insurance? The last thing you need in a health care crisis, is to be worrying about money, but for the uninsured it is a concern right away.
He often wondered aloud how much all of this was going to cost.

Is it possible 2 days in the hospital, no surgery, might cost as much (or more than) as an entire years' college tuition?

Apparently so. Damn it!

I won't even go off on that tirade.... just to say it is another element of stress. Huge stress. Yes, he will apply for financial assistance... he already has tons of forms to fill out.

So we take it one day at a time.
I almost feel like we should be drinking shooters of Lysol & Bleach.
The worst of the swelling & inflammation seems to be beginning to start to fade, but it is still an open wound they WANT to drain out.
Happy to say he bought flight insurance, as he is medically grounded from travel @ this time. One less worry.
He was supposed to fly to Ohio tomorrow. No way!
He is to finish a total of 14 days on antibiotic, and the wound needs to be not draining, not discolored, not painful before he is no longer medically grounded.

So! They say THE BEST WAY to avoid the spread of disease is to wash your hands with antibacterial soap. Wash in between your fingers & wash long enough to sing Happy Birthday.

From the Mayo Clinic website:

How to wash your hands

It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:
  • Wet your hands with running water.
  • Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
  • Lather well.
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Remember to scrub all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • Rinse well.
  • Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.
  • If possible, use your towel to turn off the faucet.
Keep in mind that antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product's antimicrobial agents — making it harder to kill these germs in the future.
* We were told to use antibacterial soap when dealing with MRSA. Also that hand washing is preferred to Alcohol based hand sanitizer gels- best used when soap & water is not available. 

How to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers — which don't require water — are an excellent alternative to soap and water. If you choose to use a commercially prepared hand sanitizer, make sure the product contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Then follow these simple steps:
  • Apply enough of the product to the palm of your hand to wet your hands completely.
  • Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces, for up to 25 seconds or until they're dry.
If your hands are visibly dirty, however, wash with soap and water. Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are another option, although they're not as effective as alcohol-based sanitizers.


D W JazzLover said...

Am I the only person that read the original health care bill? This would have been covered under the original...I have been in health care 40 I truly know what you are going through..

Thanks for posting this..MRSA is more common than the general population know...

Medical Insurance Rates said...

Scary stuff. Many years ago, while I was a student at Mimi University (Oxford), I somehow got encephalitis and meningitis. I was in a coma with seizures for a few days but made a full recovery. a parent, these stories really hit home.

Hope he has a full recovery too.

nonnie9999 said...

wow! that's scary as hell. glad the kid is getting better.

i read some time ago that you should wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice. as soon as i turn the water on, my brain automatically starts singing happy bday.

Fran said...

Jazzlover~ I understand some places have an epidemic of MRSA. Don;t know if it just really is that contagious, or people are not careful??

Medical~ Scary indeed.

Nonnie~ Sing away! usually we do a rushed job of handwashing... but they really do say it is the best protection.
Remember that obnoxious Bathroom reminder recording thig they put @ work?
Instead of just saying Please! Remember to wash your hands, Now they should make a deluxe model that says until I an done singing!

Billie Greenwood said...

I am so sorry that this has befallen you and your son. The only silver lining I can think of is that at least he is receiving the medical attention he needs and is improving. The health care dilemma is a crisis in this country. No one should be teetering on the edge when they are in need of treatable medical attention. It is just wrong.

Fran said...

Hi Border~ He dealt with the medical part & I think we all shared the worry. In this situation you focus on the getting needed care & deal with the rest-- but to date one day in the hospital being on IV antibiotics (no surgery or invasive procedure) $3850 per day.
Granted it is a shiny new hospital-- they even have a baby grand piano in the lobby.... but who do we think is paying for that baby grand???
No wonder 65% of bankruptcies in the US are medical bankruptcies. Other developed nations have no such thing.
It ain't pretty & really is wrong.