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Enduring an illness- You don’t have to be strong all the time

I have always wondered why some bacteria can be very aggressive. I work in an Orthopaedic clinic where we get to see bone infections. This can be very difficult to treat so we treat each surgery with caution. As the staff there, we check it other so that we are sure that the patient doesn’t get an infection because of our actions. Some would find that it may seem extreme how we clean the leg before surgery to reduce obvious dirt especially when on has a compound fracture. A compound fracture is a one where the broken bone pierces the skin and then may go back into it position with dirt. These fractures if not treated well can fester long infections. We have had some patients who have struggled to control these infections for several years.

I’ve been down and out of work due to an infection, not the bone infection but something that started as a small pimple that went totally out of control.

The pimple started as small painful one on my thigh. I didn’t think much of it so decided to leave it alone and let it mature or the body deals with it. In-fact I continued with my life as normal even went for a bike ride with my neighbours teens and my hubby- we did 19km total. Thank God for living in the village where you have lots of trails to explore. By this time it seemed to grow bigger and looked like a boil.

I think boils have a small pump inside them like a heart. That thing has a heart beat, when it “ivas” the Swahili slang term for ripening or matures, you feel it pricking your skin and you feel it throbbing. If it was upto me I would have pierced the little pimple but I have had many before and remembered that the impatience of waiting for it to iva. If you don’t you will be back to square one and you get more. In-fact a friend says that boils always come in pairs. Its friend is always larking nearby. So when it ivad and the heart beat came very strongly a persistently we waited for it to burst on its own then pressed it. We wanted the white thick thingi to get out so that we are sure it will not cause more problems.

Infact after it was drained it felt like there was still some left. So I asked a colleague – one of our surgeons to look at it. So the boil was actually very big- it was infact an abscess. It was drained after some local anaesthesia. Then we did a few more daily dressings.

The dressings are torture- its like something that was put into the big hole. They actually stuff it with some gauze so that it drains slowly. This is supposed to be like a wick so that the inside part drains through the stuffed gauze. The pain is like you feel like someone is using steel wool ( the new kind the one that has big threads) to rub the wound as I walked. Torture felt like an understatement. Being me , I still continued to work but the pain started to get worse yet the abscess was still draining. How do you not work because of a boil. So we started antibiotics. Little did I know that the small pimple cum boil was now a full-blown thigh abscess. A sample was taken to the lab to see what appropriate antibiotics would be best.

I had it drained a few more times under local anaesthesia and then eventually under spinal to be sure its finally gone. No big deal I thought or so I thought. Since it left a small crater and the pain didn’t seem to improve, the dressing were torture we scanned the leg to be sure there was nothing underneath. So the scan didn’t reveal another pocket or new boil. I’m then upgraded to a vac dressing to help suck out the pus since it was collecting too fast and dressings had to be done almost twice a day and the pain. …. Anyhow I’m put on the vac- this a dressing that is collects the stuff from a wound and is connected to a portable suction device . I never imagined that it would come to this. The antibiotics were changed after the lab results came showing that the bacteria was resistant to the antibiotics I was taking.

Eventually the wound started getting better, we found another boil. So my friend was correct , there was a boil buddy that was causing trouble. After 3 weeks having changed the antibiotics, had it drained severally I have a healthy respect for infections. I was so sure that my journey would not have lasted this long but couldn’t predict how it would have ended.

What I have I learnt?

You need not always be strong. Sometimes you have to give in to get the help you need. Even something as mundane as boil can grow to be a big deal. I thank God for a supportive family and friends. I remember some of my primary school classmates checking on me and for once I felt that there is hope. My husband was there for me – he was the primary caregiver to the children in the evenings. He did the diaper changes and so much more than I can even explain. My youngest is learning to pray and has been praying everyday before bed that the leg gets better. He is learning to talk and so he would say “ Mum, leg , pona” in between the mumbled words. I’m sure God understood everything he said. My other child also used to pray every day for me to get better and would keep asking if the pain was better. This was more so when it got to the point I had to use a crutch for some support. My faith was tested and I almost felt like I was imagining this illness. How can a pimple get this bad. I found it hard to pray about this abscess because I feared that God would not answer my prayer the way I wanted it. My family’s faith and prayers that held me up at that time. I read my bible but just couldn’t pray about this. My dearest friends also prayed for me when I couldn’t get the courage to talk to God about this. I prayed to God about this today- that is a big thing for me.

My journey was short – a few weeks. Job in the bible had so many boils and endured lots of trials. I couldn’t imagine the pain that my patients go through. The constant dressing changes, dealing with setbacks when things don’t go as you expect is crazy. I remember 2 fellows who have been battling chronic infections over the last 3 years. In-fact one who had succeeded in controlling it would passby the ward to encourage the other one not to loose hope. I saw this friendship as necessary but once can’t understand the need to get some hope until you have been in their shoes. You somehow need to endure this long treatment and you need a buddy to walk with you.

Look forward to small things to give you hope. For me being able to walk outside without the nausea, dizziness was a milestone I deeply craved. I wanted to wake up and not feel the world spinning or is it me spinning. This bacteria must have spread to my blood which made me feel worse. So sitting up without dizziness was big deal. One of the 2 fellows I mentioned above had a dream of being able to wear shoes then when he achieved that, his dream was to wear trousers. Normal trousers- not the ones he had to buy that were extra big. In-fact after we removed the External Fixator- that held his bones in place- he first cried for a few minutes. It had been more than 4 years since his leg was normal. What I’m looking forward to bathing normally, I’m tired of wiping my self. I wish I could stand under a shower or at least pour water using a basin on my back. I look forward to taking a walk with my family without having to stop and spit. I look forward to going to the garden to plant a some tomatoes and kale for my kitchen garden. I’m looking mostly forward to sharing the gospel with some people. I miss the conversations and opportunities to be a blessing to someone else. I love dancing. If I was not born again I think I would have been a frequent customer to some of the rave joints. Yesterday we put some music from youtube- A children’s choir that makes some really nice music. We were able to dance with my family- even if it was out of tune. The pain was there but I didn’t care. We danced- that all I cared.

I have a health respect for micro-organisms. How did I get a resistant bug. I rarely take meds. Infact now I was reflecting with Levis that we most likely are now on a frequent customer list in our local pharmacy. I can tell you about some of the sideeffects of drugs, but that not so important. Anti-microbial resistance is a big thing. I for sometime only thought it was mainly something for people who have endured a long illness. Im thankful that the bug was able to respond to the high doses oral antibiotics prescribed. I can’t imagine myself having to get frequent Intravenous antibiotics. I remember the anxiety of waiting for the culture results, guessing that what I’m taking isn’t working but we can’t change until we know. I recall the disappointment when it was confirmed that the meds I’m taking aren’t’ helpful. I felt like getting dynamite like how road runner does it, Put the bacteria in a box- bomb proof one then blasting the little bug to many pieces even more than the stars in the sky. Then taking the remnant and mixing with a corrosive agent like harpic to kill the bugs then flush it down the toilet. Thank God for anti-biotics they would do better.

This experience would help me later on to a source of encouragement to someone. At least I can tell my patient I can understand. I can say this from first-hand experience. This has made me stronger and hopefully once this infection and pain is completely gone I will remember to give thanks to God.

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