Some of my podcast listeners and blog readers may not know about the tale that was my summer. It was trying, tested my resolve, and I have come back out better on the other side. So let me quickly share some of that with you today in order to understand some of the inconsistencies that have happened in the schedule of podcast episodes and blog posts.
I found out in April that my position as a Technology Systems Specialist was being eliminated due to funding issues from the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) with an unsure budget from the legislature. If you aren’t aware, West Virginia had a major budget battle during the last legislative session between our Governor and the legislature. It ultimate resulted in some big cuts in specific areas. My position was funded directly from a grant provided to districts by WVDE that was eventually eliminated in the final round of the budget negotiations. I ultimately accepted a teaching position and planned to return to the classroom teaching Tech. Ed. & STEM at Poca Middle School in the fall. By taking this position I would be left from 6/30 until 9/15 without receiving a paycheck and had to pull out from attending the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference in July.
On July 4 (a Tuesday) I began to feel ill and spent most of the day in bed asleep. At first I thought my taking a nap without the use of my CPAP device had forced by blood oxygen level to drop and that I was having a hypoxic seizure. It turns out that this was not the case and that I actually was running a fairly high fever. It spiked at it’s highest at 103.5 that afternoon. My wife shared with me later that at one point I was fairly delirious and couldn’t recognize simple objects such as chewing gum. It wasn’t until late that evening that we noticed my leg was extremely red, starting to swell, and hot to the touch. This was a sign of two possible conditions; an infection, or cellulitis, or a blood clot.
I woke up the next morning (Wednesday) preparing to attend a job interview (ultimately it was done over the phone due to my illness) but was presented with a strong pain in my groin areas. This increased my concern and led me to immediately contact my physician’s office to be seen as soon as possible. Just a few hours later I was at the doctor’s office seeing the second physician in the practice (my normal doctor was off for the holiday) who agreed with my assessment of it being cellulitis or a blood clot. I received an antibiotic injection (Rocephin) in the office, a prescription for another antibiotic(Doxycycline), and orders to immediately report to on of our local hospitals to have an ultrasound of my leg to ensure it wasn’t a blood clot. The ultrasound showed no blood clot, but some immense swelling of my lymph nodes in the groin, accounting for the pain I was experiencing. I left, picked up my prescription, and headed home to rest and get my leg elevated.
Over the course of the next few days the swelling and pain in my groin subsided, my fever broke and returned several times, and my leg was not looking better. I called my doctor’s office again (Monday) to setup an appointment so that we can make a change in our course of action. My doctor was available and saw me right away. We made a shift to a different antibiotic (Bactrim), and did a second antibiotic injection in the office with plans to return the next morning to check on the progress after 24 hours. In that time frame the fever had completely disappeared and the leg was beginning to turn back to a more normal color, but beginning to blister. The doctor was extremely happy with the progress so we decided to continue our course of treatment with an another antibiotic injection before leaving the office and the continued use of the oral antibiotic and return in 24 hours.
It was that morning that I did receive good news. Our Director of Technology called to let me know that the county had decided to pick up the funding for the position that were lost with the elimination of the WVDE grant. That my previous position would be posted to bid within the next few days and that I could return to it on 8/1 and resume my duties as a Technology Systems Specialist. I was extremely excited at the prospect of returning to this position and that I would no longer have to wait until 9/15 to receive a paycheck.
That evening (Tuesday), things took an interesting turn. After eating dinner I took my shirt off to prepare for a shower when my wife noticed a “spot” on the right sight of my chest. Upon examining it I noticed a second on the underside of my arm as well. Within the hour I was then covered with these “spots” wrapping from my chest under my arms to my back and along my hair line. I assumed that this was some type of allergic reaction and that the “spots” were hives. I immediately took the only antihistamine (Zyrtec) that I could find in the house and proceeded to the emergency room to be checked out. My assumptions were correct and I was diagnosed with an allergy to the antibiotic I had been prescribed. They gave me an additional antihistamine (Zantac) and a steroid shot with instructions to be sure to follow up with my doctor in the morning, which worked out well since I already had an appointment scheduled.
Upon returning to see my doctor the next morning (Wednesday), he walked into the exam room carrying only a clipboard with my appointment page. If you know my doctor, you know that this is unlike him as he always has his computer with him for taking notes and research purposes during an office visit. He entered the room stating that he thought this would be his easiest visit of the day and asked how the leg was doing. I replied, “It looks pretty good, but I had an allergic reaction to the Bactrim.”
Completely out of character for him, he tossed the clipboard down on the exam room bed, walked back to the hallway to obtain his computer, and returned stating, “You needed an allergy to Bactrim like Nixon needed a tape recorder.” Being a former social studies teacher, I lost it and thanked him for the laugh in the midst of all this going on. We choose a course of action that would leave me without taking any oral antibiotic for the next 24 hours and taking another antibiotic injection before leaving the office. I would then return again the next morning to check on the condition of my leg with the possibility of being admitted to the hospital should it show any signs of a worsening condition.
I returned the next morning (Thursday) with an optimistic attitude because I felt that my leg had not worsened over the last 24 hours, and had actually improved some. Upon inspection he agreed and we made a shift in our course of action to now add a new oral antibiotic (Keflex) and another antibiotic injection before leaving. The goal was to see continued improvement over the weekend and to not return unless the leg showed signs of increased infection or worsening condition.
Over the next week the leg continued to improve and show less and less signs of infection. The redness and “hot to the touch” feeling subsided by the start of the week and the swelling was reduced dramatically by Tuesday. As the swelling reduced though, the blisters began to open. Trying to keep these areas of opened skin clean and covered proved to be futile in many ways because they simply did not want to heal. So at the beginning of the next week (Monday) I phoned the office and setup and appointment to get the leg examined again. My doctor was unavailable that morning so I was slotted in with the physician’s assistant. She was concerned at the way that the skin was not healing but wanted to have my doctor to make the ultimate call on what to do. I received another antibiotic injection that day to be safe and scheduled an appointment in to see him the next morning (Tuesday).
Upon seeing my doctor the next morning, he was not as concerned as the physician’s assistant but helped to formulate a new course of action in promoting the healing of the leg. I discontinued washing and cleaning the leg with anything but soap and water. I then switched to only putting a healing ointment (Aquaphor) onto the leg to promote the healing of the skin. Keeping it covered was also a key part in this new process, but the best way to do so was hard to judge. Wrapping the leg would keep it covered but was extremely inconvenient if needing to apply more ointment or check the status of the wounds. Wearing a stocking was the best choice, but the cost was high considering my present status of not receiving any pay until I could return to work on 8/1 for the 8/15 paycheck. My doctor also wrote a referral to the wound clinic at one of our local hospitals just in case the healing did not start and they could help provide more care in doing so. The caveat to this referral is that it usually takes them a month or more to work someone in to the clinic so that we had time to see what would happen with the leg and could cancel the appointment if necessary. Shortly after leaving my doctor’s office and stopping off at a local pharmacy to pickup needed items for promoting the healing of my leg I received a phone call from the wound clinic. They had a cancellation for the next afternoon and could see me immediately. I was surprised but gladly accepted the appointment and hoped to get some additional advice on getting this leg healed up.
I began the treatment that my doctor and I had outlined that day upon returning home. Throughout this entire process I had documented my leg with pictures. This helped dramatically in trying to explain the condition to the doctor at the wound clinic. Perhaps best of all, the picture from the day before, prior to starting our new course of treatment to promote healing, helped me to see just how quickly my leg was starting to heal in taking this new direction of treatment. He was extremely pleased and told me that he felt that I was in great shape and wouldn’t need to see him. He did advise wearing a compression stocking on the leg to promote blood flow and continued healing due to the varicose veins visible in my leg. His nurse then provided me with a pair of these, helped me to get it on my leg, and sent me on my way to continue my healing process.
Fast-forward a month and a half to today. The open sores from the blisters have all healed. The leg looks terrible from scarring caused by the staph infection. I’ve been back to work since 8/1. I’ve also had a dramatic wake up call about my health. I’m preparing to enter into WV PEIA’s Weight Management Program to drop as much weight as I can through diet, exercise, and behavior modification. As I inch closer and closer to age 40, I have to get things under control due to my family history of heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.
All of these things have made it hard for me to keep up with my initial podcast (The Randall Black Show) and blog. It has also make it extremely hard to launch my second podcast (#WVEdChat Recap) to aid in sharing the #WVEdChat. I hope to correct these as this week progresses and appreciate everyone who listens and/or reads what I have to say and share.