Public Service Announcement: Fun With MSRA

Right around mid-June, I got this bump on my knee. No big deal, probably just a bug-bite…

The next day it got worse. Infected, I thought. So I got some hydrogen peroxide, cleaned the wound, and let it be.

Two days later, my knee had swollen to the size of a grapefruit and was acting as if I had brushed up against some poison oak. Home treatments did little to stop much of anything, and to make matters worse it hurt like hell.

So what did I have? Something this fella had…

A curious aspect of Whitney Lester’s affliction was its innocent beginning.

A pea-sized bump on his hip.

The 35-year-old Norfolk man figured it would go away.

Four days later, just before Father’s Day, it had grown to the size of a golf ball, radiating pain up to his waist and down his thigh.

The weight of a bed sheet on it made him wince.

Before it was all over, he’d visit an emergency room, spend two days in a hospital, and have a surgeon carve out infected tissue – twice – leaving a baseball-size crater on his hip.

What is it? Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a staph infection that is quite literally under your skin.

Here’s the neat part — I’m in Colorado, and the bacteria on our skin back home in Virginia is a bit tougher than the stuff out here. So when I went to the doctor to have my leg checked out, I got the wrong antibiotics.

So things got worse.

By the time I hopped off the plane at National Airport to visit family, the swelling had gone to my ankle, and yours truly went to spend 4th of July weekend at Mary Washington Hospital.

Lester went to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital’s emergency room June 19. By then, he was feverish, and the redness from the bump – somewhere between golf ball- and baseball-size now – had spread up to his ribs and halfway down his thigh.

He remembers emergency room staff gathering around. One commented, “Wow, that’s impressive.”

It was not the way he wanted to impress.

A nurse practitioner said it might be community-acquired MRSA. Lab tests later confirmed her hunch.

A surgeon carved away dead tissue that day. The next day, there were still pockets of pus, so more tissue was removed. Lester went home a few days later “with a good-sized crater in my side.”

Now thankfully I haven’t had to have any surgery on my leg. It got worse, it got better, the swelling went down. But there’s still this annoying little bump on my knee as a result, and like many instances of this my leg still itches (more from dead skin and the dry weather in Colorado than anything else).

Still, six weeks after the infection my leg is still discolored and I still feel a good bit of weakness in the joint. Doctor’s orders were to take it easy for about two months (so four weeks to go).

I will tell you this much — it is painful, but not in a “give me morphine” kind of pain. Everything you touch, hurts in a rugburn kind of hurt. At one point, I could not bend my knee, which ultimately sent me to an emergency center in Greeley, Colorado.

The doctor who took a look at me pretty much circled around my knee with his arms folded, took another look, wheeled around and looked again. “My, that’s impressive,” is what he kept repeating. To be honest, it was pretty darned impressive for such a short time of injury.

The article says that MSRA-type injuries are becoming much more common. Like myself, most folks have no idea how they were injured or where they received their “bite” or scrape, but in a matter of days the infection spreads — and can become fatal if untreated.

Most MSRA infections do not involve a hospital stay (unless you are hardheaded like myself) and most can be treated with a series of powerful antibiotics. Children are more vulnerable than adults, yet the good news is that most cases can be handled by the body itself. When in doubt though, go to the hospital and get it checked out.

The More You Know…

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