August 2009


Dear Commenters,

Thank you so much for your kind words and excellent, excellent advice. You have each been a positive influence on the energy surrounding me and reading your thoughts has been the uplifting part of my otherwise emotionally heavy week.

Fondly – OzMud
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 Sunday 30 August 2009

My new morning routine is to wake up at 6am, down coffee and a quick breakfast, take my daily meds, check emails, scan blogs, then make sure my 85 year old father-in-law is settled for the day. I’m in the taxi by 7:45 am and at the hospital by 8 am. I take fresh coffees up to the room for myself and spouse from the hospital kiosk. We read the paper together while waiting for the doctors to make their rounds. We wait for the nurse to say he can get into the shower where the bandage is removed, the bedding changed and the cart set up for the packing change.

I’m learning how to change the packing as there may be a time when I’m the only one available to remove and repack the betadine-soaked packing gauze. Spouse is really against my ever having to do this and I’m not wild about the idea but – it’s important to know I can. You never know what life’s going to toss onto your plate next. So I watch, ask questions, participate and learn.

We won’t know until tomorrow at the earliest which staphylococcus strain we are dealing with, but regardless, the carbuncle will need to be repacked daily for a minimum of two weeks (and this, I’m told, is a very optimistic time-line). Smaller carbuncles, caught much earlier have been known to need daily packing for as long as eight weeks.

Carbuncles, whatever their size, consist of a pocket of pus on top of a layer of dead tissue. Rather like a toxic muffin. The surgeon makes an incision, drains the pocket and scrapes away the dead tissue. The conditions which create carbuncles are more common among diabetics, but they can happen to anyone. The really crap news is, once you have a carbuncle, you are predisposed to having another. For life.

Carbuncles in general, are the product of a combination of things going wrong. A weakened immune system coupled with a condition like diabetes or a virus, plus a skin irritation as simple as an ingrown hair follicle or as complex as a small wound never allowed to scab over enough to heal properly creates the recipe for this disaster.

I’d planned on giving a really serious lecture on the subject of personal habits and their consequences but I’ve decided to just post the photos.

This is a mere ten days out of our lives all because my husband has the nervous habit of picking at a scab, thinking it’s an innocent enough habit that should be his business and nobody else’s. Boy did he get that wrong.

Pay attention. This can happen to anyone. Even you.

First dressing change at home after initial visit to GP:
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One week later it’s enlarged and GP sends us to  local emergency.
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The incision after surgery.
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3-5 rolls of betadine-soaked gauze pack the wound daily.
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Spouse gave me permission to post these photos – as long as I promised he absolutely didn’t have to look at them himself until after he was fully recovered. He said it was bad enough hearing us all discussing it while he was face down on the bed and that he was quite happy to leave the actual graphic imagery to those of us with stronger stomachs.

Class dismissed 🙂

To comment on this post please scroll back to the title: Small Interruption – Update: Surgery (extremely graphic images) and click the word comments just beneath.  Thanks, OzMud

Friday 28 August 2009

The morning team of hospital doctors agreed immediately upon examination – the mass on my husband’s back is a carbuncle. Carbuncle’s occur commonly among male diabetics who have other health problems. My husband’s heart operates only at 30% capacity. He eats all the wrong foods, doesn’t get enough exercise and… habitually picks at scabs on his skin. He was evidently a prime candidate for giving birth to this oddly named pocket of purulence.

Surgery was only an hour long and he’s doing quite well. considering. They made an incision aproximately 1.5 inches by 1 inch, extracted the pus and scraped away all the dead tissue. The hole was then packed with five lots of gauze pre-soaked in betadine solution. This will be changed daily. Swabs were sent to the lab and we will know in a few days how serious or not the staph infection is and which breed.

When I left the hospital he was resting comfortably. A friend from the Gold Coast drove up to help me with running errands and disinfecting the house. I’m so tired. Her offer was a Godsend and I accepted without hesitation. This is one of those times when I so miss not being geographically closer to my children. In times of need we’ve always been there for each other.

Today I’m homesick. Shopping for manchester and full-on spring cleaning with a good friend will be great therapy 🙂

To comment on this post please scroll up to the title: Small Interruption – Update: Surgery and click the word comments just beneath. Thanks, OzMud

Thursday 27 August 2009

Last evening the wound stopped draining. By morning it had increased in size enough to make me really nervous, so we called the nurse and arranged a visit. The result was a trip to the local ER. Spouse is currently in hospital, connected to an antibiotic IV drip, where he will remain until the doctors and anesthesiologists agree on a procedure. (Spouse has had two heart attacks in 10 years so while one doctor insists he should go under general anesthetics, another insists he should not. Results of an ultrasound will determine the coin toss, but the staff had left before the doctors finished their discussion.) 

However they decide to proceed, the wound ultimately needs to be opened (incized), drained, cleaned out, and the contents tested.

So far my husband has not been in any real pain.
That’s about to change.

Need sleep…

Monday 24 August 2009

The lab tests came back yesterday. My husband’s wound is the result of a staphylococci infection. It is not an insect bite. It is not from the thorn of a toxic plant. It’s a simple, straight-forward staph infection which, in the lab, responded well to a particular brand of antibiotics that spouse is now taking.

The origin of the staph infection is disturbing, however, and anyone with a weak stomach should not read further because the rest is a bit graphic.

I married into a family with many odd traditions, one of which apparently, is picking scabs. Both my husband’s parents, his siblings and several cousins all indulge. All of them. Some have brown marks where a scab has been so repeatedly picked at, there’s permanent discolouration. The marks are passed off as bruises. No one comments. Commenting would be rude.

The monumental effort necessary to break bad habits does not escape me. I quit smoking after forty years of practically living on cigarettes and coffee. My weight’s shot up since and now I deal with food and exercise issues I never had to even think about before. So I know it’s hard to confront a demon.

In my own house and never in earshot of another person, I have tried to educate my husband on the possible consequences of scab picking. I have explained how the skin is a living, breathing organ as important as his heart and that chipping away at it’s natural defenses can be dangerous. I’ve googled articles to show him how a person can actually sufficate, despite good lungs, when the skin pores become clogged with mediums like metallic paint or severe burns. I’ve shown him anatomical diagrams of the layers of skin and how scabs prevent diseases from invading the bloodstream via open wounds. He blows me off. He’s been so angry with me for even bringing this subject up he has, on occasion, stopped talking to me for days at a time. It’s just a scab. I’m overreacting.

But this seemingly innocuous habit of picking at scabs before nature decides the body is ready for it to stop protecting the layers of skin beneath can actually be fatal. With so many diseases at our fingertips, like Tetanus, E-Coli, Asian Flu and Swine Flu, something needs to be said.

Photos and lecture tomorrow.

To comment on this post please scroll back to the title: Small Interruption – Update: Lab Results and click the word comments just beneath. Thanks, OzMud

Where to begin… first and most importantly, thank you all so much for your kind thoughts and generous words of encouragement. We’re out of the woods, though not fully recovered and I promise to write a running blow-by-blow as my energy returns. Then it’s back to S[C]arah Tactics, my generational insights and the nurse’s interview.

Waiting Rooms:

My spouse and I have spent so much time in our doctor’s waiting room these past few days we actually gave birth to a game we fondly named “my butt’s bigger than that butt”. Seated between the nurse’s station and the reception desk gave us an eye-level (rear) view of all the patients checking in, paying their fees, asking questions. It was more than my born-to-be-cheeky brain could endure. I had to say something. So periodically I would lean close to spouse and whisper a number between one and three, indicating I thought my bum was that many times larger than the one directly in front of us. He would look up from his magazine and either agree or disagree. If he disagreed I would guess again. Phase two of the game addressed the issue of what people wore to their doctor’s office. We agreed early on that some items of clothing should never, ever be worn in smallish public spaces like waiting rooms or elevators. The ratings went from omg (oh my God) to omdg (oh my dear God) to omfg (well you get the picture).

We were snarky yet dignified, keeping the game just between ourselves until that disasterous moment when the sound of keys dropping pulled me away from my magazine and I looked up to find an anorexic-looking old man clad in bikini briefs bending over right in front of me and I hollered “OMDFG! SIX!” in what one can only describe as a knee-jerk response to sudden absurdity. Everyone in the room turned. One of the receptionists actually stood up and peered at me over the top of the desk. A nurse poked her head around the corner and stared at me from the doorway.

Spouse came to my rescue, putting his arm around my shoulder and saying (just loud enough for all to hear) “Aww, having a lttle nightmare eh?” So I followed his lead and said “Yuh. And it scared me!” That would have been a good save because really, other than just being too loud in cramped quarters, babbling a couple of unconnected letters and the word ‘six’ was innocent enough. But this was spouse. My spouse So of course he was compelled to add “That’s okay. But could you not point?” Which is when I realized my extended index finger was a scant few centimeters from the ill-fitting shorts.

We’ve been together for more than 12 years. I have tales. OMDG do I have tales 🙂

To comment on this post please scroll back to the title: Small Interruption – Update: Waiting Rooms and click the word comments just beneath. Thanks, OzMud

With S[C]arah Tactics – pt 2 nearly finished and my telephone interview with a California RN done and notes sorted, my husband (whom we have assumed has had the flu for a few days) says to me “I think you need to have a look at this and tell me what you think.”

Turning around and removing his tee revealed a dark, oozing red mark at least four inches in diameter sitting atop a lump (just below the shoulder) at least twice the size more.

Ignoring his macho, ever-so-male-I-don’t-need-a-doctor protests, I’ve arranged to get him to the hospital this morning. 

Fingers crossed.

During the mid 1950’s Leave It To Beaver wasn’t just a television show. It was a blueprint for middle America. Flanked by the Donna Reed Show, Father Knows Best and Ozzie & Harriet, the families Cleaver, Stone, Anderson and Nelson showed the public how to behave in a post-depression, post-war world. It was the American Dream you could see in your own living room.

Roles between men and women were clearly defined on the small monochrome screens. Children were dressed, educated and shown their place in the cycle of life. The blueprint replaced the chaos of war and uncertainty of depression with a solid economy where anyone who could hold a job had the opportunity to own a house, start a business, or move up the corporate ladder to success. And the architect of this great blueprint was the United States Government – recent superhero of democracy who led the rest of the civilized world in the defeat of nazism, communism and tyranny.

We were badass back then.

In middle America men retained their macho head of the house status which included creating the family income and having the last say in any and all familial disagreements. Women raised the children and kept the family nest in order. Dinner was a family affair no one missed unless they were too ill to make it to the table.

In our house everyone dressed for dinner. That meant changing from school or play clothes into clean clothing fresh from the closet, brushing one’s hair and washing one’s hands and face. My mother was the chief cook while my brother and I were in charge of all the clean-up and any prep work my mother felt we needed to learn. My mother always set a lovely table. There were always flowers from the garden in the center and on holidays she’d set out little individual boxes or baskets of goodies. There was always dessert. It was always wonderful.

Dinner conversation revolved around what everyone had done during the day and a discussion of plans for the rest of the week. It was not uncommon to have a last minute friend over for dinner during the week. Saturday was leftovers or going out with friends but Sunday – well, Sunday was full on.

Sunday was candles in silver holders, freshly polished that afternoon along with the good silverware from the wooden chest. The good China dishes were used as was the antique lace tablecloth from the cedar chest. No one missed Sunday dinner. It was Stroganoff so beautifully cooked the meat melted on your tongue in a blissful sauce of sour cream and beef gravy. It was roast leg of lamb with a crunchy layer of fat on the top you could smell all the way down the block and it made your tummy rumble in anticipation. Sunday was angelfood cake and chocolate sauce or a home-baked apple pie topped with sweet whipped cream.

Sunday was planned visitors and energetic conversations about politics or religion or recent news events which affected our lives. It was people with different opinions sharing their differences respectfully (though sometimes too loud) over a good meal.

I remember countless Sunday dinners that ended with the same scenario – my Uncle Bud, after disagreeing with my father over how the government should be run, leans back in his chair and says something like “Johnny you’re full of shit. But your wife is an excellent cook – and that’s the important thing!”

It’s occurred to me that what was missing from all the townhall meetings this past week or two was a good meal. If the Republican hecklers had needed to get between citizens and a good feed, I bet more folks would have been willing to stand up and chuck them out. And if those remaining had been given a good meal to chew on, I bet more of them would have  focused on the reform bill itself rather than the ridiculous rumours of Sarah’s death panels.

To comment on this post scroll back to the title: S[C]arah Tactics – pt 1 and click on the word comments just beneath. Thanks – OzMud

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