Sunday, September 22, 2013

Adventures in misdiagnoses - otherwise known as the state of health care in Bermuda.

My dog and I have something in common, apart from the fact that we are getting crotchety in our old age.

Both of us have had shitty luck with health care on this island.

In Oscar's case, he was repeatedly diagnosed with swollen anal glands, instead of a popped knee joint.  

You can imagine how the two might be confused.

And in my case, I've been blithely waking around thinking I had "an allergic reaction," when in fact I've got a lovely staph infection..

 Oh, and guess what? It's MRSA! (methicillin resistant, to you and me..)

It started as a series of red bumps on my lower legs, I noticed the day after I got a massage at a local place.

I went to the doctor  because they itched. There were also a lot of them.

Week one - "It's an allergic reaction!  Try some Benadryl and some prednisone for the swelling."

Week two - Doctor makes a face.  "Hmm.. looks like an abscess.  Try this lotion, and here's some antibiotics.  Let's make an urgent referral to a dermatologist."

(Urgent means over a month from the date of the appointment.  Urgent meant October 14th!)

Fast forward to week three when Jeff dragged me to the emergency room.  I was in pain.  The top part of my leg had swollen up from the abscess that had formed.

It looked like the world's ugliest pimple about to erupt.

This is what it looked like after the doctor did surgery on it to open it up and drain it.

Brace yourself.

I hesitated to show this but thought maybe it might help some poor soul out there.

Very gruesome picture to follow of a wound packed with gauze following a cleaning.

I've warned you...


Last warning. I'm serious.



This is what it looked like immediately after he took a scalpel, incised my leg, and massaged it for 15 minutes to get the blood and pus out.

When I say "massage," I'm using the term loosely. He took both hands and used his fingers to push down hard and outward. I lay on the table, gripping the sides and biting my lip to keep from screaming.

That didn't work. I screamed.

As tears flowed from the corners of my eyes, I could feel hot, wet liquid pour down the side of my thigh.

I was stupid enough to look up and saw a two inch hole in my leg, open and bleeding.  It looked like a red mouth.

He continued to massage and use sterilized q-tips to dig into the hole and pull things out.

He felt the need to show me. I don't know why.

This is what it looked like after the surgery.

The leg itself is swollen and red. The bit sticking out of the top of my thigh is about 6 inches of iodine-soaked gauze that he stuffed back into the open hole that was once my quad.

This all occurred almost three weeks to the date I first went to my doctor.

It was in the Bermuda ER, that the doctor first mentioned the word, "MRSA."

 As in, "you have an abscess on your leg. Let's test it for MRSA, just to be sure.  This is the third case of this I have seen this week!"

The positive test came back two days later.

At that point, Jeff said I was going to the US.

I didn't argue.

An emergency room visit to the ER in Mt. Sinai (awesome doctors. So awesome.) A visit to an infectious disease specialist, just to reassure myself ... and armed with a new antibiotic... I think I am on the mend. No new lesions. Wound is healing. And docs seem confident it should be ok.

Bottom line... don't get sick in Bermuda.

I was lucky enough to be able to get off the island and get some health care with doctors who know how to be diagnose and reassure and provide the hands on useful information you need with an infection like this. 

But, that does little to make me feel better about the future.  I keep thinking about Jordan and what if, God forbid, something really serious happens to him?  What if we have to fly him off the island on a minute's notice for urgent health care? 

Jeff and I talked about this when we first moved here.  Jordan's health care is that important.  I guess it just seemed so theoretical at that point, especially since he is generally so healthy.  We still get his major cardiac check ups in NYC.  He sees a regular pediatrician here in Bermuda, but all his labs and heart work is done back home.  I guess we think we are home often enough that were something to happen, his regular transplant team would catch it.  I think.

However, going through three weeks of uncertainty here...because doctors didn't test for infectious strains at the outset worries me.  A lot.

 It also worried me when I found out a colleague was going through the same exact thing after visiting the same spa and doctors here were giving here the same run around.

Someone suggested I look at this as a "test run" in the event that we do have to get off the island for Jordan. 

Now we know exactly what we have to do since I've been the guinea pig.

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