Sunday, April 06, 2008

Saturday Night at the ER

Reason #512 that this past winter and early spring have been, um...less than ideal: a Saturday night visit to the local Emergency Room because of a CRAZY adverse reaction to my recent tetanus booster.

(Here is where I considered posting a photo of the 8-inch-long, splotchy, red and purple, very painful bruise that stretches from my left shoulder nearly to my elbow. Then I came to my senses and realized: No one wants to see my arm right now. Trust me on this one. You really don't. Seriously: HID-E-OUS.)

So, what happened? Well, I got a routine tetanus shot on Tuesday morning, and every day thereafter my arm hurt more and my bruise became larger and more freaky-looking, which I blithely ignored until yesterday, when a.) Christopher totally freaked out about how much larger it had grown in the past 24 hours, the fact that it was red, and its linear migration up and down my arm, which in his mind suggested LIFE-THREATENING INFECTION GOOD LORD WOMAN GET YOURSELF TO THE DOCTOR NOW!, b.) I realized the soreness had extended up my arm to my shoulder and all the way up the left side of my neck, and c.) my good friend the nurse, who kindly donated a good hour or more of her Saturday late-afternoon to the project of examining my arm, trying not to use an alarmed tone of voice, and considering, with me, whether this all could wait until Monday morning, pronounced, "'s certainly not normal!"

By dinnertime yesterday, an after-hours nurse-line professional thought this all sounded quite serious, and since both the bruise and the soreness were worsening by the hour, I didn't argue. "You need to be seen tonight," she said. "I mean at the ER." OK then. As I readied myself to leave, Christopher said, "Honey, I feel so bad for you! I mean, you just got over that insane sinus infection, and now you have to go off to the ER for a severe reaction to a routine tetanus shot? This bad luck is ridiculous."

I grabbed a copy of The New Yorker for waiting-room reading, sighed, shrugged, and said, "'s bloggable." Because, you know, you have to be philosophical when you're about to go and get your left arm amputated.

Just kidding. I'm going to be just fine. It turns out that, although both the triage nurse and the ER doc proclaimed my tetanus reaction to be "CRAZY"--you should have seen all the head-shaking going on--my arm does not appear infected and it's not dangerous. It seems that the nurse who administered my shot likely hit a blood vessel, and that unfortunate occurrence, combined with the fact that I was on a very strong antibiotic at the time with the unique and mysterious side effect of causing unusually intense bleeding and bruising and other extreme skin reactions to injury, resulted in this enormous, hideous, painful, long-lasting bruise (rather than the typical one-day bump and small discoloration). Mystery solved. But: YIKES.


Mom said...

I *knew* it could be traced to an inept shot-giver!!

Mnmom said...

Holy Cow! That might beat my kidney story. In 1999 I had a C-section, and in 2006 scar tissue from that surgery cut off my right kidney and caused an infection requiring surgery and a few days in the hospital.

Shan said...

MNMom: Yikes! That's a bad C-section story. Uh....I had a C-section not that long ago. Are you saying that I might end up in the ER again?

Mom: Actually, if I had not been on the antibiotics, even hitting a blood vessel would not have caused what I have, according to my knowledgeable nurse friend. She says it happens sometimes (hitting a vessel), and you bleed more under the skin, but this reaction was way beyond that. She also said that even if the nurse who gave me the shot had known beforehand that I was on that particular antibiotic (which I didn't think to mention), no one would ever have thought twice about it or opted to not give the shot. One of those things no one would have ever foreseen.

Shan said...

That being said, it is certainly unfortunate that my doc's very nice nurse accidentally nicked a blood vessel while giving me my tetanus booster. Sigh! And YUCK. No one look at my left arm.

Mnmom said...

I have a good bruise story too! I'm just full of good news.

Last year on the last day of school, my husband and our youngest were playing on the playground at Riverside Lions park. I got on that slider-thingy and fell off just before I could plant my feet. My first thought was "did anyone else witness that?" before the intense pain set it - I thought I had broken my femur. I didn't.
But what I did have was a large BLACK bruise from my hip to my knee that lasted most of the summer.

One of my teenage twins saw it the next morning and said "Oh Mom!" in a very sweet voice, which quickly turned to acid as she said "You are NOT going to the pool!"