Even the best machines have breakdowns

the human machineWell…little scare yesterday. Deviating from the primary topic of this blog, mechanical things, I still manage to speak of the most amazing mechanical thing on Earth…the human body. I have a case of cellulitis in my right leg today, and it’s a bothersome, scary thing.

When I was eighteen I joined the National Guard, and the summer after high school graduation I arrived at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (Fort Lost in the Woods, Misery, for all you fellow sufferers out there, lol). Somewhere around the seventh week my company was out one night doing the “Baptism by Fire” stage of training where the troops have to make their way in the dark across hazardous terrain while live ammunition thurumps by overhead. At some point out there I cut my knee on something, probably a rock, and even with me cleaning it up later, infection had set in and I contracted a staph infection.

So near to the end of basic training, when our final running/pushups/situps tests were going to decide if we graduated or failed, I elected to stick it out before going on sick call. Reporting an injury then would have meant doing all of my tests alone when I returned to duty later, since all of the other boys would have completed theirs while I was absent. And all while surrounded by seven drill sergeants. Ugh! So, I ended up running the best time I ever had because I was so scared I would fail, even though by then I couldn’t bend my left leg more than a few degrees. It was red and inflamed from my foot to my hip.

As I finished the run, I went up to my Senior Drill, pulled up my sweat pants leg and told him I needed to go on sick call. He hustled me over there, and the physician, an Army Major, told me if I’d waited another day or two they’d have had to amputate my leg due to nerve damage. He lanced my knee, and putting his hands around my leg, squeezed out the infection. I remember how amazingly good it felt after that when I stood up and could bend my leg. It felt almost as good as new! But it wasn’t over. Nine days later I finally left Fort Leonard Wood General Hospital after constant I.V. drips of antibiotics. So that’s how it all began.

Flash forward to about three years ago, and I had ended up in the hospital after a night of body aches and three horrible fevers rising and breaking. I was so dehydrated the nurses almost couldn’t get an I.V. in, and after three days they released me without any sort of official diagnosis. But there was a large red patch on my leg, which finally faded and I got better.

Spring of last year I got very sick, and went to the local Urgent Care. At first they thought I had the flu, but when I pointed out the hot red area on my leg (in exactly the same place as the previous breakout), they decided it was cellulitis, and began a round of antibiotics treatments. I got two painful rump shots that day, and had to go back out there every day for a total of eight shots, but it finally knocked the infection out.

Now…I’m sleeping night before last. Feeling good. Suddenly at about 4:15 a.m. I woke up with chills. Hard chills. Began shaking so hard I was shaking the bed. Soon I began feeling the usual precursors to my body going through the process of breaking a bad fever…lightheadedness and severe nausea. Eventually I broke a small fever and dozed back off. I woke up before too much longer, feeling bad again, and went to the couch in my living room. My wife Terra was up, and we had decided I may as well go to the hospital because of the similarity to what had happened the last time.

She was telling me she was going to go get dressed and all, and I was looking at her and listening and then she was fading out on me. It was no different than when I go to sleep normally, and I do remember thinking how tired I felt, and I began to dream. Suddenly from far off I could hear her screaming at me, and something suddenly pushed me back into consciousness. She was calling my name and crying and my daughter Kara was on the telephone. They said I was sitting there when my eyes suddenly rolled back in my head and I went out. Terra couldn’t get me to respond. No movement. She couldn’t tell that I was breathing. She called for Kara, and Kara called 9-1-1 for an ambulance.

They say that after a couple minutes I suddenly sneezed and coughed and came around, and for all of that I really felt pretty good. Terra didn’t want to wait on the ambulance, so Kara cancelled that and they loaded me up and we left. On the way, Kara’s fiancee, who works for the ambulance company, told her he’d like to at least look me over before I made the fifty mile trip to the hospital to where we were going. They left it up to me.

Terra didn’t want to stop and be delayed. But I had this gut feeling I ought to take that ride, so we did. James came around to my side of the car and as I worked to swing my legs out I suddenly felt it all coming over me again. He said, “You really don’t look good at all. You need to ride in the ambulance”. I didn’t even hesitate. I said, “Let’s go”, and they loaded me up and we were on the way. I had a couple of bad moments in the ambulance, so I’m really glad I took the ride.

They got me to the hospital, and I got put on an I.V. for dehydration. They took me for a C.T. scan on my brain to see if I may have had a seizure. They ruled out a stroke, the C.T. came back clean, and they gave me an I.V. antibiotic for the cellulitis. He finally sent me home with a prescription, but it was only for amoxicillan, so I’m not really confident that’s going to knock this stuff out. I’ve got a call in to my primary physician to get a referral to a specialist. We’ll see how things go.

The human body is an amazing machine, but I’m always more amazed at how quickly it can shift from all systems go to total breakdown. What bothers me is that the Keflex antibiotic that wiped out the infection when I was eighteen won’t even touch it today. The bug is mutating, and there are reports all over the web of staph “superbugs” in the hospitals now. So I have to wonder…will I ever be free of this millstone?

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