Warning: This post contains graphic images. Do not proceed reading if you don’t like blood, gore, and nasty wounds. Continue at your own risk. You have been warned.
I have been incredibly blessed with overall good health over the last year and a half living in Tanzania. Other than malaria and dengue, I’ve had only a few minor colds, and no serious injuries. Even this my current experience with an infected wound is minor by comparison.
Last Tuesday, exactly a week ago, I was driving merrily on my way to Ultimate Frisbee when a policeman waved me over. I dutifully pulled to the side of the road and stopped my motorcycle. Mistake #1. I respectfully answered all of his questions, and when he eventually asked me to get off of my bike and push it up over an 8-inch curb, did my best to obey. In the process of doing so, my leg brushed against the engine and I sustained a small burn, which of course immediately blistered and stung. Now a little angry, I followed the policemen further from the road as he explained to me that I needed to pay a fine, nearly lost my driver’s license because he didn’t know where he had put it, and then, to top it all off, asked me on a date. Now completely disgusted and angry, I marched back to my bike and drove off to Frisbee (less than a kilometer from where I was stopped). No big deal in the scope of things, right?
I cleaned the burn after Frisbee and then forgot about it. Wednesday and Thursday passed, and it was healing fine–just a small open scrape on my shin. No big deal.
Then, Thursday night, while playing hockey, I was nominated to be goalie and without thinking, put the soaked-with-sweat goalie pads over my open wound (small as it may have been).
Friday morning, my leg started hurting and I noticed redness, bruising, and swelling around the burn. As the pain increased exponentially throughout the day, I recognized all of the signs of an infection and took steps to treat it, requesting antibacterial cleaning solution and burn cream from the nurse at school. By Friday night, I could barely walk, and had to bow out of playing touch rugby.
Saturday morning, I had a nurse/friend look at it, and then headed off to the international clinic to get treatment and antibiotics from a doctor. He prescribed both an oral and topical antibiotic, and scheduled a check-up appointment for Wednesday (tomorrow) afternoon. That afternoon and evening, I just laid around the house, too exhausted and in pain to bother moving.
Sunday afternoon was much the same, except the swelling in my leg (and the corresponding pain) had continued to increase despite the antibiotics. My entire leg was red and blotchy, showing all the signs of cellulitis (which seems to be fairly common here). I used three bags of dog food to elevate my leg, and spent the afternoon sleeping on the couch before moving the dog food to my bed to be able to sleep in the same position.
Finally, Monday morning, I saw some improvement. The swelling was reduced significantly, and with it, the pain had decreased. I kept my leg elevated most of the day at school, and then coached volleyball tentatively that evening. The wound itself didn’t look too much better, but the redness immediately around the wound had dissipated slightly even if my whole leg was still red, so there was some progress.
Now, today, nearly all of the pain and swelling is gone, and the wound itself looks substantially better. The redness on my leg as a whole has disappeared, and I can walk without a limp again. Now, here’s hoping it continues to heal with only one more day of antibiotics left and less than a week before my dive trip begins over the school midterm holidays.
These things don’t happen back in the U.S. At least not very often. Oh well. I guess #TIA.