Peter says I go a little crazy when I'm sick. If something is wrong, I sink into an irrational state of denial and declare that I am fine, that I will get better on my own, no doctor visit is needed. I have ultimate faith that my body will heal itself without intervention.
Two days ago, I woke up with a spider-bite looking wound just above my left knee. There was a tiny, pinpoint dark spot and a raised red area the size of my pinky finger. I have a bad history of reacting poorly to spider bites. I gritted my teeth, tried not to itch, got dressed, and headed into town for the first day of Paramedic Academy.
On examining my leg at lunch, I was startled to find the red area was now as big as all four of my fingers. When I got home, I could barely cover it with my hand. It was hot and stiff and significantly raised. I was sure it would be fine in the morning. Peter was sure I should go to the Urgent Care clinic. After a quick phone consult, so was my mother. I studied and went to bed instead. In the morning, it was worse and I was still convinced it would take care of itself.
I debated myself through eight hours of class today, as the heat spread and the swelling nearly doubled. After yet another conversation with Peter about how I should go to Urgent Care immediately after class, I was still undecided. It is just a spider bite, I told myself, while trying not to scratch through my jeans. My body will figure it out and be fine.
When they let us out of lecture half an hour early, I decided to drive over to the clinic. I would go in, hit the restroom and take another look before deciding. Besides, I needed to get another TB test and titers for varicella and measles for clinical rotations next month.
I muttered under my breath to the receptionist about why I was there. "I was bitten a couple of years ago, and it kind of blew up on me. My arm ended up all swollen and I got a nasty fever. And now I've got this new one ... it's just making me a little nervous. And also, I need a TB test."
After weight (ack!) and height check and blood pressure (110/60, hallelujah!) the doctor walked into the room saying, "You have a spider bite? There aren't any biting spiders in Alaska."
I explained while I hopped up on the table and let her take a look. She poked the spot and asked me again how fast it had gotten like this.
"I noticed it yesterday morning."
"You have an aggressive staph infection. In fact, it looks to me like MRSA."
(For the non-health care crowd, MRSA is a very nasty antibiotic resistant strain of staph that is endemic in many health care facilities and starting to show up in the general population.)
She went on to prescribe me a round of double-strength antibiotics to be started as soon as I picked them up, a prescription ointment and instructions to heat-pack it every two hours and stay off my feet. She then told me to go home and mark the red margins with a sharpie.
"If the red is past your margins tomorrow night, come back in immediately. You'll have to go on IV antibiotics. If you had waited two more days, you'd probably have ended up in the hospital."
Oops. I guess my medical education has begun in earnest.