Case history: A spectacular, causeless, inconvenient affliction (yukky pic – you’ve been warned)
Here’s something I didn’t know. A minor blood vessel can be broken by the smallest of impacts, and cause a bleed that becomes a big problem.
It began with an unnoticeable bump. Racking our brains, we could think of a single occasion when Taifeng had said ‘Ow’ as Catdog’s forehead went into his tum. But it could have been that he walked into the kitchen work surface or picked up a bag too quickly, anything, not enough to say ‘Ow’.
He began to have tummy aches on Saturday. On Sunday he declared he’d take Monday off work, but I was surprised on Monday when he actually did.
By Tuesday he had a faint, greyish bruise, barely an inch long, and its position agreed with where the pain was centred. He was wondering if he’d torn a muscle, but we couldn’t believe he could have done that without noticing so we were inclining towards appendicitis.
The GP’s earliest same-day ’emergency’ slot was 5 pm. When she saw the amount of pain he was in she refused to let him drive home. So (after sitting for two hours in the waiting room, with no pain relief) he went into hospital by ambulance. He, and both paramedics accompanying him, had to wait two and a half hours for him to be admitted and by midnight he was on a ward, in shock with dangerously low blood pressure, with a doctor not leaving his side for the next four hours. (Don’t get me started on joined-up healthcare provision. I do know the Third World has it much worse, but it doesn’t feel like First World conditions.)
On Wednesday Taifeng told me the bruise had spread ‘all over the abdomen’. Which I, knowing him, took to mean it was maybe three or four inches across by now. But that evening we saw it – and YES, it was pretty well ALL over his tum.
Right up to the navel, right round from the mid-line to his side. They drew an outline twelve hours before I took this photo, to show how far and how fast the discolouration spread. It was also alarming to see an odd reddish colour, when I’d been expecting something more bruiselike.
By Thursday it had spread round to his kidneys, and that’s when it began to recede. All this time we didn’t know it was a bleed that had started off from a trivial knock.
For two days the doctors were worried about some kind of infection so they kept Taifeng isolated and threw a load of antibiotics into him. They called in a dermatologist just in case. Meanwhile I was googling frantically and finding all sorts of repulsive skin conditions, obscure forms of cancer, weird immune-system problems and scary bleeding disorders.
He was nil by mouth, fed intravenously, for two days, and on a combination of morphine and codeine for longer than that despite his best intentions to come off the drugs as quickly as possible. Once he was eating and the bleed getting smaller, he improved quickly and came home yesterday, though signed off work and prescribed Tramadol for a whole week.
I wish I could give you an explanation as well as a description, but Taifeng was morphined-up and alone with the consultant while it was explained. Without a medical term it’s difficult to research it online. But the layman’s version is that an almost-not-a-knock-at-all knock broke a too-tiny-to-notice blood vessel, which bled, and caused a bet-you-can’t-tell-if-I’m-appendicitis crisis.
Always good to learn something new.
[UPDATE: Edited to remove three words and two ___s; i knew i wasn’t quite with it this last few weeks. Sorry if it makes this blogpost reappear in your feedreader.]