Staph infection (or how I spent my weekend)

by | Monday, April 7th, 2014 | Breast Cancer | 12 comments

I am writing this blog post from my hospital bed with a staph infection. When we went to bed on Thursday, I had just noticed a light pink blush color on the lower half of my left breast, below my mastectomy incision. After waking and taking my shower Friday morning, Mark said it looked like it was definitely still there, and perhaps slightly more pink.
It being so early in the morning, I got on the phone and left a message to see what my doctor would suggest. His staff called back as soon as they got my message and had us come up before noon. After meeting with my surgeon’s nurse, we ran over to the Breast Care Center at Froedtert for an ultrasound to see how things looked inside. We were then sent to Day Surgery, the same place I had my mastectomy, and registered into pre-op. It was all a whirlwind, and I was so very upset. I don’t think I have cried this much in a long long time.

Dr. Hijjawi, my plastic surgeon,  met us, and after he took a look, he strongly recommended going into surgery to take a culture of the potential infection, have my left expander replaced, and clean out any fluids that might have built up.

I just sat there and cried.

They had me into the operating room by 3:30 Friday afternoon. It was a pretty quick procedure, I was coming out of anesthesia by 5:00, and beginning the second hospital stay of my life — and the second in less than a month.

It was not clear on Friday how long this stay would be. One surgeon told us that it could be 5 days. You can imagine how I felt. The tears came back. The cultures take time to grow to see what kind of bacteria it is, such as staph or strep, which strain, and which antibiotics could work. That’s why there is such a wait.

Over the weekend, a team of doctors from the infectious disease department was added to my case. Saturday morning, I was visited by two of these doctors, who told me that it takes some time and that now I most likely would be set up with a PICC line in my arm to have the chosen antibiotics administered intravenously. If only I would have kept my good ol’ port in! So for now, until they figure out exactly which antibiotic to use, they are filling me with Zosyn and Vancomycin, which really breaks down the veins, I am told.

All weekend, there was a lot of poking in the one remaining arm they can use now, after my lymph node dissection. The veins in my left arm were never the greatest for giving blood before the chemo, and for sure now they are no good! It was late last night that these two little angels from the IV department came to my room to try and find that one good vein that will help bring the Vanco to kill its prey. One woman stood by my bedside just to let me squeeze her hand, and the other found the vein that would pull me through. Whew! That made for a much better stay. I have been literally dancing around my room with my IV pole now that I’m able to continue the antibiotic and kick this bug’s butt.

So today, they gave us the news that I would get my PICC line installed, and by the end of the day or maybe tomorrow, they will have the correct strain to attack. They have told us that I have Staphylococcus aureus, and they will be treating me with nafcillin for the next 42 days.

The IV team came right to my bedside and did the installation of my PICC line this evening. They just gave me a shot to numb the skin, and fed the line right into one of my arteries. So now I have this little purple tube sticking out of my upper arm,  and tomorrow we can go on our way and treat me at home. Tonight, the first round of doses begins. The nurse has just hooked me up for my first treatment, with another every 4 hours under their watch at least until 2 p.m. tomorrow.  Once I get through those without any reactions, it’s safe for me to come home and have a nurse come to the house and teach us how to do it there.

This first treatment in my new PICC line kind of feels like getting the chemo again. I feel a strong sensation of the drug going directly into my heart. I sure hope this all works out and I can get back home and back to exercise, and out in the nice spring weather that people have been enjoying outside my window.

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