I often worry I’m a hypochondriac. Actually, I know I’m not, but I often worry that others will perceive me as a hypochondriac. My medical history is just too weird, too full. This fear wouldn’t mean much…except when it does.
Take, for instance, the fact that since our move in August, my parents’ cat, Muffin, and our cats, Ella, Frodo, Litha, and Wednesday, have been waging a war. Muffin growls when any other cat is in view, the other cat simply is curious and wants to check her out, the fur flies, doors are closed between, and resentment and malcontent reign. I dislike this conflict, so I counter with daily “kitty integration” time…which often goes very badly. Take last Friday night, fer instance…
It was late. I was very, very tired. It had been a long, difficult week. I just wanted to sleep. However, if I closed the bedroom door with just Muffin in with us (as has been the case), the other cats worry at the door and pull up pieces of the very expensive carpet. If I open the door and integrate, I deal with growling and catfights all night. What’s a girl to do?
I was just going to transition from open-door integration to closed-door house destruction, and Muffin and Frodo–the pair that cause the most trouble as they struggle for alpha–were both under our bed. Justin and I were both lying on our stomachs next to the bed, attempting negotiations of the feline kind, when I decided that I’d simply move Muffin to on top of the bed and hopefully Frodo, who was showing his belly (i.e. acquiescing to Muffin’s dominance), would simply leave. I grasped Muffin by the scruff and was gently moving her to a position in which I could pick her up with both hands, and she, accordingly, yowled a bit louder. Not in pain, but anger. Something we’ve been through a zillion times.
Muffin, sleeping on Justin's pillow
This time, however, the acquiescing Frodo heard or saw something that suddenly snapped his psyche, and in a split-second, literally–as in, I didn’t even see it clearly and didn’t really know what had happened–he turned, leaped at me, and bit my hand, the one around Muffin. Then took off like a bullet, the other three cats hissing and trailing him.
I was stunned…physically and mentally. Justin took off to save Frodo from the gang fight happening elsewhere, Muffin removed herself to an undisclosed location, and I sat on the floor bleeding, my entire arm hurting, wondering why this felt so different from Frodo’s usually clawing. (Note: Frodo is a giant cat, part ragdoll, with enormous paws and claws, and uber ginormous fangs; he’s generally a wuss and gentle as can be, but twice, now, in about nine years, we’ve seen him fear for his safety and lash out. When he does, the lackadaisical cat suddenly becomes the fastest cat on earth.)
When Justin returned, I was still sitting there, bleeding and uncomprehending. He led me to the bathroom and washed off my hand–we were deciding it was a bite, afterall, and one of the punctures was deep–and went to bed. We thought that was the end of it.
The next morning, my hand in massive pain, I wrapped it and we went to Justin’s parents to do the fall chores. My awesome mother-in-law took one look and brought me to the bathroom for a peroxide wash. My awesome sister-in-law lent me some Thieves’ Oil for the week. While I was swelling and in pain, I didn’t think much of it. I was more worried that Frodo had broken a bone, by the way it felt, than any infection.
By Sunday night, I was beginning to worry. The deepest puncture was swelling and red, with a very hard lump. My knuckles were appearing again, but very tender. My hand felt warm to the touch.
I posted on facebook, with a couple of pictures. I had dozens of good people tell me that I needed to go to the doctor, and soon. In fact, some of these good people had said so two nights earlier, after the bite occurred. I should have listened to them!
My normal (right) hand, unbitten, on Sunday night
Bitten hand, Sunday night
Bitten hand, another view, Sunday night
I finally did some research. I saw pictures that looked amazingly like my hand. Every site said that I needed medical attention immediately, and that–again–I should have gone in immediately. But it was Sunday night in Milaca, MN. The only available medical care would be going to an ER in Princeton or St. Cloud, and that seemed just plain silly. Go to an ER for a little cat bite. Phooey.
I went to work on Monday, feeling miserable. I’d been sick to my stomach since late Sunday night. My hand hurt. I had a headache. I called for an appointment and got one at 6:00 p.m., because I certainly wasn’t going to leave work.
Yep, you guessed it. The doctor’s first words when seeing my hand were, “When did this happen?”
“Friday night,” I said. It was now three days later, remember.
“You needed to be here Friday night,” the doctor said, then proceeded to poke around the lumps and debate whether she should open up my hand or not.
“Okay…I’m not going to send you to the hospital for IV antibiotics just yet…” she said, and I groaned. “But that doesn’t mean you won’t have to. For now, start oral antibiotics–amoxycillin–tonight, and if this worsens at all in the next two days, you’re going to the hospital. And no matter what, you need to come back in a week so we can check for deep tissue and bone damage.”
It’s now Thursday afternoon, and the antibiotics (and Thieves’ Oil) are helping. A lesser puncture wound swelled up yesterday, concerning me, but it’s been, uh, getting rid of its infectious material, shall we say, and better today. There’s still a ginormous, ugly, painful mountain beneath the deeper puncture wound, but my knuckles are far less tender and the infected areas seem to be decreasing. At least they’re not increasing, and there’s been no sign of the infection entering the bloodstream.
My hand, this afternoon (Thursday)
Pretty ugly! This is today's view
The moral of the story (besides “don’t piss off Captain Bitey Pants, aka Frodo) is twofold:
1) My facebook friends are right.
2) Don’t let the fear of appearing a hypochondriac stop you from getting needed medical attention.
I recall the autumn I got my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, six or seven years ago. For months, I dragged myself through my day, unable to move properly, in massive pain. By the time I went in to the doctor, in November, I couldn’t walk the 200 feet from my classroom to the office without resting, and I couldn’t comb my hair. My hair was falling out, I was slurring my speech, and could barely function. Yet, I’d not missed a day of work. I thought I’d just gotten lazy over the summer, that my weight gain was my own fault and causing it all.
By the time I went in and got tested, my TSH (normal range 0.3-3.0) was at a whopping 84.75, one of the highest amounts I’ve come across in research. My muscle CPK levels (the stuff that makes your muscles feel tired after a workout) were at 747, at rest…and normal is around 60-80. It was a wonder I wasn’t comatose (myxedema coma is the final stage of hypothyroidism).
It took me two years to get my TSH under control, and years later, I still don’t have it right. I take more hormonal supplement (the only treatment) than anyone I’ve ever met. They don’t even make pills with a high enough levothyroxine content; I have to take two pills.
I also recall the time I refused to go in when I had chronic asthma so bad I could barely breathe (and this just months before the Hashi’s diagnosis). While I’d quit smoking months earlier, I still felt horribly guilty about it, and pooh-poohed the idea. If my husband hadn’t come home, unexpectedly, from work that day, I’d be dead. Instead, he found me moments away from losing it and rushed me in; by the time we got to the clinic, I was starting to turn bluish, and my blood pressure was 200/120. I was gasping and climbing the walls. I spent five days in the hospital on oxygen, and have taken daily asthma medication ever since (which has worked wonders).
After I had abdominal surgery in 2005 in which I lost a fallopian tube to a torsioned ovarian cyst, I quickly realized that the surgical wound wasn’t healing as expected. I hobbled around for a couple of days, then called, tentatively, feeling silly. I was told to wait a day or two and come in, which seemed sensible to me. The next day, I exploded with staph infection and my husband rushed me to ER; they cleaned me up and sent me home, telling me to check with a doc the next day. The doc took one look and admitted me to the hospital, where I spent several days on IV antibiotics and the next several weeks doing wound irrigation for infection.
Okay, so I get it. Let them think I’m a hypochrondriac. It’s okay to check to make sure things are going okay. I get it, I get it!
We’ll see… 🙂