Dot points are my saviour. Dot points and antibiotics – they are the things that enable me to make sense of the past ten days.
- At the dock in Kettering, catching up with our friends on Gusto. On Sunday 24 November I become aware of a little sore just inside my right nostril. All of us on Bella Luna are afflicted with this now and again – usually when we spend time in cities after being remote for a while. No big deal.
- Next day, sore still in situ. I feel very under the weather and stay in bed most of the day, getting up. only to cook bolognese and drink red wine. The thing in my nose seems to be trying to move in on that upper-lip moustachian area. Yellow and crusty. I assume it’s a rogue coldsore.
- It gets worse over the following days. Invades the other nose hole. My face starts looking like an overcooked pizza. I stay in bed feeling depleted, but not too depleted to crochet. As my face erodes I assemble the blanket I’ve been meaning to work on for a year.
- Thursday night I ring Healthline and they put me through to a GP. I text her some pictures of my face. “Looks like a staph infection.”
- I tell her we have a bountiful medical kit, courtesy of our overseas trip. I read out the names of all the drugs and when I say ‘Staphlex 500’ she says, “That’s the one.” I start taking them – waking up in the middle of the night because it says FOUR TIMES A DAY, EVERY SIX HOURS. I am convinced these things will be a magic bullet because I haven’t used antibiotics since 2010. Obviously I am RIPE for antibiotic magic. *
- I take the goddamn drugs religiously. Every morning a Small comes in to check on pizza face. I have NEVER been in bed this long. I can get up and wander about, but I feel depleted. Face is cracked, crusty and bleeding. No improvement.
- On Saturday M takes us to Copper Alley Bay where we again borrow our friend’s mooring. I wave to Copper Alley Bay out the window.
- On Sunday I have red streaks on my arms and right leg. We head up the Huon River to Huonville, where I know we can tie to the dock and walk to a medical clinic.
- At 3pm I see Dr Lemon. I dislike him intensely once he starts laughing hysterically at the packet of medicine I’ve been hoping is my holy grail. He’s laughing because he’s seen it’s two months out of date.
“Are you telling me that once they hit the use by date they stop working?” I am sure this is not correct – surely I’ve read about out of date medications being sent to the needy?
“They’re an organic compound, so yes, they probably do.” I slump. “What do you do for a job?” he enquires.
I struggle to find the relevance, but maybe it’s a crucial part of my medical history.
“I travel, I parent.”
“Hmmmm. OK.” he sounds dubious. “OK. I’m going to prescribe you a different antibiotic – Keflex – and if you see no improvement by tomorrow afternoon you’re going to have to get yourself to hospital.” I gape at him. My face cracks a little further. “Ow. Where’s the hospital?”
“The Royal. The Royal Hobart Hospital.”
- Gah. He draws a line around the red streaks under my right arm and inner right elbow. He laughs loudly again while telling me he won’t draw around the one on my face, but how it was SO FUNNY when he had to treat a 10-year-old with a staph infection on his face and had to draw a big line around it. I can’t get out of there fast enough.
[This is where I acknowledge my dot-pointing has been overun with needless exposition, but that doctor – he was terrible.]
I go to the chemist with my prescription for Keflex. The pharmacist looks at me with concern. I am a cornflake faced zombie. I tell her that I did not like the doctor I just saw, and does she think it would be reasonable for me to get a second opinion before filling the prescription? She encourages me to do so.
“But the other medical clinic is full — they’re not taking on new patients.”
She looks at me. “Don’t worry – if you turn up there, believe me, they will see you. I’d drive you up there, but I’m the only one on duty.”
She’s right, I get seen straight away by two nurses and then a doctor. I am sent away with a different prescription and told to return the next day. New drugs do nothing. When I reappear they tell me to get myself to the Royal, so I get in a taxi to the emergency department, where I sit for an hour or so.
“Next,” calls one of the nurses behind the counter, and the whacked out crim who came in after me starts to make his way over. By that time I am done. Very very done. I growl menacingly through my crackled up cornflake face, “I DON’T THINK SO.” And he apologises profusely, sitting back down.
and spend the night out the back of the ED in a chair. They whack in an IV and antibiotic me – my neck starts getting itchy and the red streaks increase. Where is Hugh Laurie? Strung out on Vicodin elsewhere.
They decide I have two ailments; the infection (cornflake face) and a reaction to penicillin (red streaks). Another bag of stuff (clindomyacin) is pumped into me and for the following two nights I’m given a bed. Hallelejah. Face begins to improve. Red streaks remain but don’t worsen. I’m on the mend. Heartrate normal.
They let me out mid-morning and I make a beeline to <strike>heaven</strike> ‘Straight Up’ – the best cafe in Hobart. I am SO HAPPY TO BE OUT! I seem to get puffed out quite easily, so I go slow,and when I pass Spotlight and cross the road and make it into the cafe, this is what I get;
(It is my current belief that you don’t hear a great deal of complaining about the absence of nutrition in the abysmal hospital food that is provided because people are so relieved to be discharged (as opposed to dead) that it immediately fades from their consciousness. The food at the Royal isn’t even made on the premises, it arrives, already compiled, in trucks – the predictable result of witless privatisation.)
I did not feel up to getting a bus back to Port Huon, where Bella Luna was hanging out with Gusto (their draught is so deep that it’s as far as they could get up the river) so I took myself to a blessed AirBnB in West Hobart and took the worlds longest shower.
The following day my friend Juleen happened to be in town and she drove me back to the boat. The Smalls were so happy that my zombie face had healed 🙂
• Note: I was delusional. It’s the infection I should hope has not been exposed to antibiotics, not my own self.