PUTTING MY FOOT IN IT

Foot 2

Mentioned in the article were outpatients, those who go to the hospital in the morning for quick surgeries and are home in time for dinner.   I’ve had three such surgeries in the last eighteen months, all on my feet.

The first surgery, on September 1st, 2011, was for a bunionectomy.   The surgery itself lasted about an hour, but the repercussions caused me to have serious medical problems for almost one full year.

During surgery I got infected with one of those new bacterial infections London is warning about.

It was clear within a few days of surgery that something had gone wrong.   The wound in my left foot was just not healing.  The podiatrist tried all the usual things, then took a blood sample from the infected area and sent it to the lab.

I still remember his face when it came back.

We had gone to his office.  He had the results in an envelope, which was un-opened.  When he opened it, his face literally changed color.  From pink, it changed to white and there was a look of horror in his expression.  He mumbled something about how he could not handle this and was sending me to the hospital immediately for treatment.

When he finally passed me the lab report, I saw that I had contracted VRE.  This meant nothing to me.   But I’m now very familiar with it.   My foot was infected with the bacterial infection for almost a year – it’s even possible that it’s still in there.  I have to check my foot every day and at the first sign of the area turning red I have to go back for more treatment.

What is VRE?

The simple answer is this —-

MRSA is a bacterial infection that thousands of people get every single day.  It’s normally treated with a strong antibiotic called Vancomycin.   VRE is Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci.   IOW, there is no sure treatment for VRE!   No antibiotics work.

This did not stop them from putting me on a serious regimen of antibiotics, taken both orally and infused through a PICC-line in my right arm.  A nurse came twice a day to administer the infusion.  As my youngest daughter is a qualified nurse they let her do it on weekends.

The strong antibiotics were not only expensive  (one pill was $132 and a week’s infusions was roughly $5000), they also led to some uncomfortable side effects, which required further medications.

It was suggested on at least three occasions, by three different doctors, that the best thing would be to have my foot amputated, though they use a different word that makes it all sound better.   I said I would only agree if the infection was spreading beyond the foot, which I’m thankful to say it never did.   If it spread it would kill, just like MRSA does.

After a few months of this we were not getting anywhere.   We did have lots of people suggest various treatments, all of which I gratefully tried.  People were absolutely wonderful.  Two people even sent me moonshine assuring me it would work wonders.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to soak the foot in it or drink it!  I had a wound vac (which was great fun!), and even hyperbaric treatments (which were horrible).  It was a nine-month-long nightmare.

It was then that a wound care professional in our church contacted me to see if she could be of any help.  My wife started consulting with her and from then on, we got results!  She was amazing.  Basically, everything I had been told to do had been wrong.  Moist healing is the best.  (I had been told to let it air out between dressings.)  In moist healing, where the wound is kept moist and semi-airtight, the skin cells can migrate across the wound bed and fill in the wound.  She recommended silver based dressings that not only killed the bacteria but also debrided the wound (got the mucky stuff out of it).  It was just amazing to watch it heal – if I had had her instructions at the beginning, this nonsense wouldn’t have lasted a whole year – maybe only a couple of months.

A lesson I learned from this is that antibiotic resistant bacterial infections may be solvable with simple treatments.  After all, people did live before antibiotics, some of them even to a ripe old age.   We have become very dependent on them since World War II.   Sadly, their overuse may have weakened us all, so that we are more vulnerable to infection.

If that’s the case, then the catastrophe the British government warned of will likely come true!

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