After much thought and many requests, I decided to post photos from my two bouts with MRSA infection. These are posted on for information and reference, should you find yourself in this situation. MRSA often presents as a bug bite and it can escalate QUICKLY. You can read my posts HERE:
Please note: These pictures are graphic and gross and not something I recommend looking at for pleasure. Also, excuse the leg hair. :-)
May 23 – I was awoken from a deep sleep by a sting on the back of my thigh a couple of inches above my knee. I think I rubbed it for a second and then went right back to sleep.
May 24 – Woke up with what looked like a mosquito bite. It bothered me all day – something between an itch, a burn and just general discomfort. My girlfriend L came over that day and even asked me about it. I told her, like I had shared with Honey, that a mosquito must have got me during the night. Honey immediately rose his brows and said “I haven’t seen one mosquito this season.” We didn’t think to check the bed sheets or look for a spider at this juncture.
May 26 – By this morning, there was a hard nodule about 3″ x 3″ under the bite. A red area was spreading out all around that, reaching the front of my thigh. It was warm to touch, but no red streaks, fever or other telltale signs of infection. We were leaving town on May 27 so I called my primary care and dermatologist. The dermatologist could see my the morning before we left.
May 27 – Dermatologist said it is hard to tell what bit me at this point. However, there were signs of infection with the hardness and celluitis (the red area). She prescribed an oral antibiotic and said I should feel a lot of relief in 24-48 hours. We are off to Disney!
May 28 – I can hardly walk at this point and can neither fully straighten or fully bend my left leg. I stay the course.
May 29 – The original bite part shows signs of just barely splitting. It isn’t too alarming to look at, but I wasn’t sure if it was normal. Google has been zero help! I messaged the DR a new photo. She called me, we talked through things and she called in a topical antibiotic to go along with the oral.
May 30 – I wake up and now the entire bite part is gross and a little bloody. We cancel our day plans but I rallied to go to dinner that night. By the time dinner was over Honey insisted on taking me to urgent care. We choose one in close proximity to Disney and make a 10pm appointment online. It is only 8pm but I’d rather wait in our room than in the urgent care. When we arrive they won’t let me wait inside, saying the waiting room is full (2 people waiting, probably 35 chairs). Honey had planned to drop me off since the boys were in the room alone. And, it wasn’t just any room, it was a standalone treehouse in a wooded area without anyone they could easily go to if help was needed. I was already in a state, and the anxiety over this was likely overstated but it was very real to me at the time. They told me I would have to wait outside. I told them that I was here for my leg and could not stand. They said I could carry out a chair. Can you even?? Honey ended up waiting with me so I could sit in the car. At 11pm, he went in to check on where I was. We had seen nobody go in or come out in the hour past my appointment. They told him it could be 1-2 hours. At that point we decided to cut our losses and find another urgent care. I have always loved the Celebration area and thought maybe we’d have better luck there than at Lake Buena Vista. We pulled up to 24/7 Urgent Care and they were amazing. They took me to a room right away and had me looked at within a couple of minutes. The DR called in a second DR and they grimly said that this “wound” was beyond an urgent care and that I needed an ER. They said I would likely either be admitted for 2 days or go in for a night and need to return for a second night. Honey and I tossed around idea of driving back to Atlanta so that we could be home to handle it. I won’t forget the look on the doctor’s face when he said – that’s a 7 hour drive and you don’t have 7 hours to lose.
May 31 – It’s the wee hours of Memorial Day and I’m now in the ER at Celebration Hospital. Honey left me here to go be with the boys. As our bad luck would have it, we were also changing Disney resorts just a few hours later at the 11AM checkout time so he wanted to be with them, reassure them and start packing. Everyone at Celebration Hospital was absolutely outstanding. There were banners in the lobby showcasing “best hospital in Florida” awards and I believe it. They were professional, compassionate and knowledgeable. They started me on an IV antibiotic right away and began to prepare for a “procedure” and they almost immediately declared this a spider bite. They said lots of people think they have spider bite but few really do. We laughed a little when they said not many people come in with an open wound and think a mosquito got them. :-) They gave me time to call Honey and for him to return before they started because I was so scared. They gave me some crazy drug that made me hallucinate (I remember it ALL…. so bizarre) and then Honey said they injected large amounts of stuff into my leg to numb it. They ended up having to cut out a huge abscess (3x3x1″). They were relieved that it hadn’t reached the muscle. They suspected MRSA and a culture that came back June 2 confirmed that. Afterwards, the DR said he believed he got all of the infection and started me on a new antibiotic and pain killers. The cavity was packed and we were sent back to the hotel the next morning for about 18 hours. This was the day my parents and sister were all joining together in our trip. I was so sad to spend it in bed but so happy to have my parents and family there.
June 1 – After a family dinner, Honey and I went back to the ER. They unpacked the cavity and gave us wound care instructions going forward. I was still unable to walk well and in a decent amount of pain.
June 7 – My doctor at home is on vacation so I made a follow up with another in her practice. He has some concern about another lump and extended my antibiotic. He said it is hard to tell if this spot is coming or going infection wise but that if it doesn’t correct by next Monday we may have to start over by cutting out another abscess. (tears) He moved me to a wet to dry wound care procedure, just like the ER doctors in FL had said would likely happen. This one is pretty painful to remove, but we are supposed to stay on it until the hole in my leg “looks red and beefy like meat”. (yum) I really wish I had seen my own doctor because I just didn’t click with this one.
June 14 – We went to see my doctor today, and I could have hugged her I was so happy to see her. Like Honey, she’s kind, patient and positive. And, also like Honey, she gets me. She knows I’m scared of needles, pain, blood and basically anything that happens inside of a doctor office, lab or hospital and she treats me gently. Unfortunately, she took one look at the (still open) wound and said “I had hoped it would look a lot better than this by now.” I felt crushed! In all fairness, Honey and I have NO idea what it should look like so the fact that it was basically pain free made us think we must be knocking this healing thing out of the park. She said that she wanted me to see a wound care specialist, but cautioned that it can take two weeks to get in. Well, within an hour the wound care office called.
June 16 – Wound Care – The office is nurse run, and mine was yet another kind, gentle and extremely knowledgeable soul. I wanted to hug her too. (emotional much?!) After her first look at my wound she called in the vascular surgeon. They explained that all of the skin around my wound was dead and that most of the cells on top were not viable. He performed a debridement and, despite constantly checking in on me, holding my hand and being yet another compassionate human on this journey, I nearly passed out. And then was overcome with nausea. We got past that – after a while – and were given brand new instructions and a “care package” for the next two weeks. Every three days we have a six step process of cleaning and dressing. No getting it wet, and still no swimming in the lovely pool that mocks me all day long. I can take quick, light showers with the bandage on. They also explained the importance of protein and water intake in healing a wound, which I appreciated and will follow diligently. I have another appointment with the vascular surgeon in two weeks. I begged for an approximate timeline, even a no-strings-attached-worst-case-scenario timeline, but nobody will give me one. That doesn’t sound encouraging either. Now that two more medical professionals have said brown recluse, I’ve looked up pictures of the different stages of that bite. It looks eerily similar to mine. NOTE: THIS WAS NOT A SPIDER
Photos before and after debridement:
July 3 – I had a check up with the vascular surgeon at the wound care clinic. Overall it was a good report. They feel like I’ve made nice progress in healing and the open cavity has pretty much filled back in. It now looks like a nasty scrape as opposed to a gaping hole. (I know you love that photo in your mind’s eye….) Nurse: “Red and bloody is beautiful”
Me: “I guess we all have different definitions of beautiful.”
Once I was all cleaned up, the vascular surgeon said I had some extra granulation tissue in the center of the wound. I momentarily panicked when she asked for the silver nitrate stick. She assured me that it wouldn’t hurt, but might give a burning sensation. It sure did – not painful but definitely noticeable. This should level out the wound as it continues to heal.
I also have a new dressing procedure, which I thought I’d share. Every third day we remove the bandage and clean thoroughly with saline spray and gauze. We then cut a square of something that resembles hard gauze and place a pea sized dollop of medicinal honey on it!!! (I am just in AWE of that!) We press that into the wound and then cover with a bandage.
I have learned so much from the wound care clinic and marvel at how knowledgeable they are, as well as at how much things have changed in wound care since I was a kid. Back then it was let it air out, go swim in the ocean and let some salt water get on it, cheer when we finally get a scab. Now they don’t ever want it exposed to air or water and know scabs are bad! I feel so fortunate to have this clinic here in Atlanta and grateful for the excellent care I’ve received. My family and many friends have asked for details on the products I’ve been sent home with. For your reading pleasure…
MediHoney | Bandages | Iodosorb | Silver Nitrate Stick | Sure Prep
- Iodosorb was used prior to the cavity fully filling in, after gauze packing was done.
- Sure Prep is used to wipe on the skin before putting on a bandaid. It has been wonderful at protecting skin against constantly having an adhesive bandage on and off of it for almost 7 weeks. It works great with the bandages linked but we tried it with a waterproof bandaid and that still hurt to remove.
- The wound care clinic uses other bandages but they are extremely expensive and can only be ordered using insurance in a 30 day supply. They recommended these to me for a great alternative and I’ve loved them. They stay on, are waterproof enough to shower (still no swimming) and don’t tear my skin off (Sure Prep helps too.)
I have officially been released from the vascular surgeon and will follow up with the wound care clinic nurses at the end of the month. This time when I begged for a “best guess at how much longer” they were willing to say “maybe a month”. I can do that! I’m hoping perhaps my end of month visit will be my last. <3
August 1 – Pronounced healed. My scar! I was able to start shaving, showering and swimming again.
October 30 – On Saturday when sitting in mass for John’s confirmation, I felt a sharp sting in my inner left thigh. I distinctly remember running my finger over it and seeing a tiny bump.
October 31 – On Sunday while manning the trick or treat table with Mother, a familiar pain and burning sensation set in. I unbuttoned my chipmunk suit (things you never think you’ll write…) to see infection already spreading around the spot.
November 1 – After an anxious night, I got in to see my doctor first thing Monday morning. The first thing she asked was “did you see the spider this time?” Once again, I did not. She stated with confidence that this is not and was not ever a spider. This is MRSA.
November 3 – Honey and I spent the morning with the ID doctor. The immediate term care is oral antibiotics (back on the ones that make me vomit and feel like a vampire when I see sun). I’ve added zofran which helps with the stomach sensitivity. I’m on a routine of swabbing my nose with an antibiotic ointment to decolonize the staph and mrsa that already lives on the skin. I will be using moist heat to help it bubble to the surface. And I am supposed to wait…. something I am admittedly terrible at doing. At some point the boil will come to a head, at which point we hope it can be drained. If it is a week day, I head to the ID office. The drain it and refer me to a surgeon in the hospital if needed. If it is a weekend, I head straight to the ER again.
November 4 – The spot started draining on it’s own so we were back to the ID office. They tried to fully drain it both with their hands and a needle. IT HURT! Next steps are still unknown.
November 6 – I had almost immediate relief after the draining, and have a nice bruise to show for it. :-)
November 19 – I had my last follow up visit with the ID doctor today and was released from his care. There is still a hard nodule under the skin, which is scar tissue, and my leg still looks purplish in that spot. My orders are to bathe twice a week with Hibiclens and to use Bactroban in my nose one week of every month. I have a brand new prescription of the oral antibiotic waiting for the moment a future spot pops up. I will use a new razor every time I shave, which is what we believe we traced this all back to. I have not yet investigated sterilizing razors so if anyone has a tip on that, I’m all ears. A new razor every shave sounds so wasteful, but that’s what I’m doing for the short term.