Remember the arcade game Whack-a-Mole? The one where the moles popped up and you had to smack them down, FAST, one after the other? It’s been that kind of week.
There’s an incision under my right noob (new boob) that wasn’t closing well after the touch-up surgery in August, and after my last waltz with cellulitis, my plastic surgeon was keeping a close eye on it. Any opening in the skin is like a teenage germ, posting on Facebook that the ‘rents are out of town and there’s a party. Come on in!
Monday afternoon I got home hot and sweaty from a hike, feeling great, but when I unbuttoned my shirt I found the cellulitis moles had popped back up. It appeared that the open incision was ground zero for about a square foot of hot, flaming, painful skin. I ran downstairs and flung open my shirt for Jerry. Ordinarily this would be an opportunity for great joy. This time, though, his face fell. “You want me to take you to the emergency room?” he asked.
No. No emergency room. I swallowed an antibiotic my surgeon had given me to keep on hand if this happened, drew a line with a Sharpie around the flaming land mass to track its progress, and prayed.
Fast forward a couple of nights of fever, aches that felt like breaking bones, shivers and sweats and whacking at the moles with Tylenol and oral antibiotics…and Wednesday afternoon, I was back in the hospital.
Within a half hour I was in radiology getting a PICC line placed. This is a peripherally inserted central catheter, sort of an IV on steroids, and looks like a really long, skinny snake that’s inserted in the upper arm and threaded through the vein into the vessel that dumps into the heart. It’s great for giving powerful IV antibiotics that can chew up the smaller veins in the arm. The radiologist who inserted it looked about twelve years old. “Hey, my son’s a radiology resident,” I offered, buried deep beneath the sterile drapes. “How nice,” she murmured, busy with her snake-threading. End of conversation.
Back in my room, my surgeon summoned the wound care nurse and they went to work on the noob incision. “Do you have a scalpel?” he asked her. Yowza. They dug around and scrubbed and gently cut away some dead tissue, which strangely enough, didn’t hurt much. The noob is beautiful, but numb from the original surgery. Then they applied the latest technology in boo-boo care. A wound vac. Here’s what it looks like:
The black stuff is foam that’s cut to fit inside the wound (except the big black circle, which is just a “bridge” to the thin wound above it). Then it’s covered with saran-wrap material that’s really sticky on one side, and a suction tube is hooked up so that it sucks on the black foam, which sucks on the wound. All this sucking encourages healing. It also involves carrying around, 24/7, a purse-size pump that makes an impolite little chugging sound every few minutes. Kind of a bubbly, gassy…yes, like that. I’m stuck to a machine that farts.
It’s Saturday. I got home yesterday, schlepping boxes and bags and syringes and wipes and enough medical junk to start my own clinic. The plan is to keep the IV antibiotics going for a couple of weeks, and the wound vac sucking for as long as it takes to heal up the hole.
We’ll get those moles this time.
“Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” Jeremiah 17:14