After coming down with an unexpected illness - unexpected because I just don't get sick - I have a 'lesson learned' story to share with you. First a few details about what ailed me.
One evening, a few days before Christmas, I noticed that my elbow, right on the bone, hurt if I touched it. Within a few hours of noticing that pain, I had swelling around the elbow and about two inches up the back of my arm in the tricep area. The next day I treated what I thought was a spider bite, and it could have been, with ice and ibuprofen. I was treating the inflammation. The area was pink and hot - which in retrospect, is a sign of infection.
About one and a half days later - on Christmas day in fact, I realized this was something I could not fix myself. I also felt chilled and feverish. At the emergency room, I was diagnosed with cellulitis AND bursitis of the elbow.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of "loose connective tissue just under the skin" and the bacteria that usually causes it is a strep or staph type. Bursitis is a condition in which a small sac that protects a joint, like a knee, hip or elbow, becomes irritated (possibly from swelling caused by an infection elsewhere!) and the sac fills with fluid. The cellulitis is treated with antibiotics and the area of bursitis is usually aspirated (i.e., the fluid is drained with a needle).
Because I had an infection, or because it was Christmas, there was no mention of aspiration. I was given an intramuscular injection of a strong antibiotic, rocephin and a 14 days supply of an oral version of the same drug family (cephalosporin), Intra muscular means into the muscle. I learned the other nifty antibiotic facts from a chart I found on line and you can view it here.
Turns out I was moderately sick and it took almost a week for me to feel myself again - but I only missed two exercise days :) I finished my oral antibiotics this week and should be seeing a sports medicine doctor next week re the bursitis. My elbow still hurts just on the knob, and it appears to still have excess fluid. I would let it go, but I am concerned about my ability to return to swimming. The pool opens next week! And yoga is a little painful still.
But here is what I really wanted to share with you so I hope you are still reading. When I saw the nurse practitioner at student health for my follow up (the incident occurred when I was out of town), I told her that I could not remember the last time I took an antibiotic. I bragged that it had possibly been ten years, and therefore, I was pretty confident that I would clear this infection in no time. I - I told her - am NOT resistant to antibiotics.
Here is the problem - and now that she said it and I'm writing it - it feels like I should have known this. It is not ME that we need to worry about - its the bacteria - the bugs, germs etc they are resistant to the antibiotics . I am sure that it matters that I am healthy and have a good immune system, but I still have to worry about the bugs that have become strong due to other peoples over use of antibiotics (part of that is doctors faults and part of that is patients faults, or parents faults). It is rather the opposite of Herd Immunity - I'll let you look that up.
So that is my Christmas Story... boo , huh.
PS - as I researched these issues after the fact, it is likely that the germ got through my skin (skin is a defense shield) not from a spider bite, but from a pretty severe exacerbation of eczema that I had at the end of the fall semester. There were openings in my skin from the rash. It worsens under stress. And though I can't say for sure where I was exposed to the bacteria - there is a good chance it was one of the three airports I passed through on the way to my Mom's in Florida.