“Wrap him up good so he doesn’t dribble pus everywhere”

Posting will be light for awhile:

Photo on 9-27-13 at 11.14 AM

I picked up an infection under the nail bed of my thumb, and it went necrotic: giant gray pus sack and everything. The primary care doctor misread the early signs, when I showed them to him. But on second visit he ordered me straight to the emergency room. The infection, said the crusty old ER doctor, was dining on my flesh. And might take the bone as dessert.

And he worried that I’d scatter pus all over his ER.

The ER doctor hooked me up with a surgeon that day – no easy task – and the surgeon cleaned out my thumb that night. I stayed in the hospital until the next evening.  I’m recovering – Rhumba washes and dresses my hand three times a day – but I’m sure the bill will make me feel ill once more.

Fifty-three years have passed since my last hospital stay: a tonsillectomy back in old Petropolis.  But I went back to hospital, this time around, with a clear and observant mind. I tried to understand what the ever-changing roster of nurses and technicians was doing to me, and why. I asked them a lot of questions. And I stopped them from making a few mistakes.

Mainly they were decent, hardworking people. Even so, I fervently believe that my health will be the better if I avoid hospital for another 53 years, no matter what ailment I might suffer.

Because the people are okay; but the system is crazy.

The only guy  fighting that system was the ER doctor, who spent as much time on the phone hacking a path through the bureaucracy for me as he spent in treating my thumb.  He appointed himself  as my advocate to a system that doesn’t automatically grant you one. And I’m fortunate that he did.

milburn_stoneExcept for his green scrubs, he looked and acted like a plainspoken old country doctor.  Remember Milburn Stone, the actor who played the cynical but dedicated “Doc Adams” on the old TV Western “Gunsmoke?”  Like that. Exactly like that.

Thanks for the thumb, Doc.

That’s all the typing I can do for now. Time to elevate the arm, stroke it, and massage the lymph nodes in my armpit.  See you all in a few days.



10 thoughts on ““Wrap him up good so he doesn’t dribble pus everywhere”

  1. azure

    Hope you’re better & typing again soon. Glad you were fortunate enough to get an ER MD who’s not yet run out of energy to deal effectively w/bureaucracy on behalf of a patient. I’ve been saddened by the articles I’ve read indicating that people need to hire “patient advocates” to do what you did for yourself, what the MD did, and what perhaps you are still doing. That and negotiate with the hospital regarding the seemingly inevitable errors (in the hospital’s favor, natch) in the bill. Also glad you’ve got someone at home able & willing to assist w/care.

    Be well.

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks, Azure. I’m sure that the bill is going to be amazing.

      The problem with hospitals — at least this one — is that the workflows seem to have been designed by MBAs using those workflows that treat all workers and patients as interchangeable units going through standardized processes in exactly the same way. And of course the goal seems to be maximum fee extraction rather than healing.

      1. Forrest Seale

        Holy frijole! Seems you do most everything with style. A flesh eating bug right out of “The Blob.”

        We need the likes of Steve McQueen to help deal with your condition. Where have all the heroes from our youth gone when they are most needed? Yeah, I know, they’re all engaged in courtroom battles involving outrageous healthcare bills. They have no spare time left to help save civilization from itself.

        Heal quickly. Perhaps you could send a bit of your flesh eating bug so I can apply it to my overly generous belly when you are again able to address an envelop? I’ve tried everything else to no avail.

        1. admin Post author

          Forrest, your comment is quite apt because at the end I did have a bulbous grey blob anchored to my thumb by spreading tentacles.

          I will say that in the course of all this I’ve been eating heartily while still losing a couple of pounds — more energy needed for healing, I guess. But I really don’t recommend it!

  2. LK

    Yikes! Glad you caught it before it got any worse. Chalk this one up to the “fickle finger of fate.” You never know when it’s going to give you a good poke. Be well, Boomer.

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks, LK; yes, quite a poke. Although in the hospital they did tell me that even the bacteria you find in your yard are bigger and stronger and more resistant now than they were 50 years ago thanks to a half-century or more of use and misuse of antibiotics. I have had half a dozen people come up to me with tales of similar infection, usually from the smallest of cuts. The giant white bandage is a real conversation starter.

      So perhaps things are different these days: when we were young I never remember things like this happening to me or even my parents. You got a cut; and if it was a bad one you went to the doctor for a shot of penicillin and maybe a few stitches. And that was the end of it, except for getting the stitches out.

  3. Ed

    Sounds a lot more like the doc in Deadwood. Crusty and effective for most of the series. Glad you had such a guide thru the labyrinth. The poor diagnosis of your primary sounds actionable. (At least a Yelp ding.) Hope you mend soon.


    1. admin Post author

      Thanks, Ed. I think what he’s mainly guilty of is being young and in a hurry, in a system that encourages hurrying.


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