Memorial Day Weekend was low key for me this year. Not only because of the pandemic, although that certainly set the tone. The weather wasn’t the culprit; it was quite beautiful here for most of the weekend. There was simply nowhere that I felt like going to mark the beginning of what will be a most unusual summer season.
Some of my mood involved wanting to avoid crowds. I understand everyone’s restlessness and desire to get out and away, but I really don’t get all the celebrating without social distancing and masks. Pretending it’s over or choosing to ignore the risks to others from your own actions is to be willfully irresponsible. The virus doesn’t care how impatient we are. It will always have the last say. Tragically, the consequences of crowding over this weekend will be all too clear in a few weeks as the infection rates climb again.
The rest of my mood was due to spending the better part of the past few days recovering from a sudden and severe infection to my left thumb. I don’t know how I picked it up, though I suspect a visit to one of my providers in a hospital office a couple of weeks ago, when I was not allowed to wear protective gloves (hospital policy). In any case, several days after that appointment, my thumb started acting up, and by Monday, a course of topical antibiotics didn’t help, so on Tuesday I started my standby antibiotic to stem the tide.
It seemed as if this was calming down the discomfort for a couple of days, but by Thursday, I was experiencing more pain, and by Friday, I had spent a restless night trying to deal with what was becoming one of the worst bouts I’ve had with pain management in about three years. On a scale of 0 to 10, I was hovering around 8 or 9. The sensation was akin to the literal purpose of a ‘thumbkin’— thumbscrew torture—that, and unpredictable electric shocks from inflamed nerve endings. Not fun.
Fortunately, my infectious disease specialist prescribed a stronger antibiotic on Friday, and after the third dose on Saturday, the swelling began to recede and the pain was significantly less intense. I am exceptionally grateful to him, given that he’s the head of infectious diseases for one of our local hospitals and quite busy with COVID-19 cases. I’ve known him for at least 20 years, he trusts my account of symptoms, knows all the antibiotics I’m allergic to, and took an educated guess about this one, which seems to have done the trick without setting off a reaction (so far). We speak by a telehealth appointment this afternoon to review status.
The swelling and aftermath at the tip of my thumb caused the skin to rupture and allow pits of calcium and liquified calcium to escape, which also helped to relieve pressure and pain. I’ve known for decades that there’s a Milky Way of these pits in both thumbs due to calcinosis, and any inflammation or swelling stirs them up. I’ve been carefully debriding the wound, another skill I’ve developed over years of dealing with digital ulcers, and will be babying this thumb for weeks to come as it heals.
But here’s where the beginning of the summer season really is something to celebrate. It’s getting warmer, always good for healing. My energy bounced back pretty quickly after catching up on sleep over the long weekend. I’m feeling much more like myself again, and I’m grateful for the extra time to rest.
This infection is also a strong reminder that microscopic bacteria and viruses are ever present. Just because we can’t see them with the naked eye doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Skin is our first line of defense against disease. For those of us with scleroderma, caring for our skin and overall health is just a whole lot more complicated than hand washing. To get through this pandemic, however long it lasts, however inconvenient the restrictions may seem, there is nothing more important right now than taking the needed precautions that will protect ourselves and others, whether known or not.
End of rant. Be well.
Image: Kon Karampelas