The thing about existing in this universe while housed in these squidgy mortal vessels is that illness can come at you when you least expect it. You could be born to go on as an invincible hobo who subsists on moonshine and sewer rats, or you could be born as a Habsburg. While modern medicine can help extend your lifespan, that depends on the affliction. But the x-factor when it comes to the wonders of modern medicine is that it’s hella expensive. I was reminded of that recently, adding to my regret that I haven’t gotten proper health insurance yet (I’ve been planning to get one sometime in 2023).
Getting cellulitis can make you think of how fragile and unpredictable the human body is. You wouldn’t have thought that your skin can be infected by bacteria at any time. You hear about staph infections in the periphery and think that it’s something that happens on the other side of the world because they’ve been abusing antibiotics for decades now. But then, you realize that you had done the same for a few years until recently due to jank tonsils.
If you’re interested in why you should moisturize and take care of your skin for reasons aside for vanity, read on. Your skin is your first line of defense against biological invaders, so this is what happens when you don’t take care of your skin and just let it be as ashy as Pompeii.
Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional. This is not medical advice, only anecdote. Please seek out medical assistance, especially if you’re not sure what’s happening to you.
Also, WebMD Symptoms Checker is not adequate medical assistance. It’s just going to say you have cancer, even if you don’t have it. That thing is just meant to make you anxious and want to go to a doctor anyway, so skip the foreplay and just go.
My Experience with Cellulitis
On Saturday, December 10, I woke up with my leg slightly red and kinda hurting. I didn’t know how it became like that. I thought that I bumped into something that I don’t remember or I slept on it funny. I put it off, thinking it will fade away and it shouldn’t interfere with whatever I had going on that weekend.
The next day, December 11, was Manila Wrestling Federation‘s last show of the year, Noche Buena 2022, where I did my usual commentary and ring announcing. It was a successful event and I was able to do my work without difficulty. The leg didn’t hurt that much, so perhaps I just got used to it for the time being.
I came back home at around 11PM and started to relax. But then, I looked down and saw that my leg was a lot redder and more swollen than ever. I thought about it for five minutes, changed my clothes, called a Grab, rode straight to the hospital, and walked to the emergency room.
My first emergency room experience was a lot of signing forms and waiting. They inspected my leg, took my blood pressure, and determined that my case wasn’t that urgent. I was okay with waiting, but I did leave behind a mother back home who I decided not to wake up because she would just be a psychological burden while I’m seeking treatment. I only told her about it when I finally got back home by 6AM.
I’ve seen enough cases wherein the patient is a wailing child with a gash or some other non-urgent condition and their parents would go full Karen and demand to be seen first, which only makes things harder for the doctors and nurses who have to deal with them. I was a fairly healthy 36-year-old adult male with a janky leg. I could afford to wait.
Then again, I had to wait extra for the rapid antigen test before I could proceed. Of course, if I was positive for COVID-19, I’d likely have to be admitted and monitored and won’t be able to get my test right then and there. That would’ve been much more expensive, but I would’ve also been hooked up on intravenous antibiotics for my leg.
I waited for almost an hour to get my nose swabbed, then another hour to get the result, then another half hour for the MRI to be ready for me.
I chose to get an MRI because I’ve never had one before and I was curious about it. I’m the sort of guy who will burn money to experience something new, even if it’s silly. Also, I was afraid of having deep vein thrombosis. It was my chance to know if I have a blood clot on my leg, even though it’s just my left leg. If I ever felt anything with my legs, it’s usually with my left leg anyway, so if I was ever going to have a blood clot, it’ll likely be on that leg.
One of my heroes died of pulmonary embolism in 2019, and he had been susceptible to blood clots in his leg. A few days before his death, he had reported shortness of breath, but he put it off as nothing serious. Dying of pulmonary embolism is said to be painless — you just lose consciousness. I certainly didn’t want that to happen to me.
Getting an MRI is a test of one’s meditation ability because you have to lie completely still in there. When you have to deliberately not move a muscle, it takes a lot of mental effort. I could move my arms, so I could shift their position whenever I felt tight, but I couldn’t move them too much as doing so could move my body and my legs as a result.
I knew the machine was going to be really loud, so I asked for hearing protection. They provided industrial earmuffs with calming music piped in. Perhaps I could’ve requested for my phone to be plugged in so I could listen to podcasts, but it was a hospital and not a spa.
The MRI took a whole hour to finish, and that was just for one leg. The procedure cost me over ₱18,000, with ₱2,500 paid up front for the radiologist who would read my scans. I went to a private hospital, thus the cost. I was then referred to an orthopedic surgeon, who would be there later that afternoon.
I proceeded to walk home soon after, but I was called back on my phone because they forgot to have me foot the bill. I returned, paid for the MRI, then walked back home.
MRI Results and Doctor’s Prescription
Fortunately, as the pathology indicated, the MRI showed only subcutaneous edema, while vessels and nerves are “unremarkable” — meaning normal. I have no blood clots, no inflammation in my nerves or muscles. It’s just a buildup of blood in the subcutaneous tissue of my leg, so that rules everything out and leaves cellulitis as my diagnosis.
I still have no idea how it got infected. Maybe the skin on my leg got really dry, enough for a tiny crack to form, which may have let in some bacteria to cause an infection.
It turns out that it does tend to happen every now and then. Also, maybe I could’ve gotten infected while cutting my toenails absentmindedly at my workstation and didn’t disinfect because it wasn’t really a habit of mine to do so. I will have to do so from now on, especially whenever I deal with ingrown toenails.
I went to the orthopedic doctor later that afternoon after getting the MRI results. The sounds coming out of that office were somewhat alarming. I would learn later that it was the cast saw, used for taking off casts.
The ortho gave me a brutal course of antibiotics — clindamycin every 6 hours, which was 4 times per day for 7 days. I’ve taken clindamycin before in September-October 2015, so I’ve had to deal with antibiotic-associated diarrhea in the past.
Clindamycin (and Diarrhea)
This antibiotic is effective against a spectrum of bacteria, including staphylococci. However, that also means it’s indiscriminate, so it can kill a lot of good bacteria as well.
From what I’ve read before, there’s a 20% chance of clindamycin resulting in a Clostridioides (formerly Clostridium) difficile infection. The clindamycin is able to kill anaerobic bacteria in the digestive system, which means it devastates your gut flora. If there’s some C. difficile that survives that onslaught, it takes over your gut.
At first, it results in watery diarrhea that smells really bad and sinks to the bottom of the bowl. For a significant period of time after my battle with really bad tonsillitis in the fourth quarter of 2015, I could only excrete liquid poop. I would go to the toilet two to three times a day. Whenever I would come home from being out, my body would immediately trigger my bowels to empty, as if it knew that I’m finally in a place where I could defecate in peace.
If it gets worse, the C. difficile infection can result in pseudomembranous colitis. If left to persist, it can greatly diminish your ability to digest food and absorb nutrition, not to mention the constant diarrhea, thus impacting daily life. You may even have to get a portion of your colon removed if it really gets bad.
That era of diarrhea in late 2015 to early 2016 ended when I took a course of metronidazole, an antibiotic mainly used to address C. difficile infections.
For this particular course of clindamycin, I got the Hershey squirts by the third day and persisted for about a week after I finished the course. As of this writing, I finally had my first solid poop since then, so I’m making a full recovery.
I had started taking probiotic supplements a few days before, and perhaps that’s actually taking effect. Most probiotic drinks like Yakult and yogurt only have Lactobacilli that reside in the small intestines. I needed stuff like bifidobacteria that went all the way into my large intestines since that’s where the C. difficile was wreaking havoc. I know that yogurt has those good bacteria as well, but I felt like I wasn’t getting enough.
Perhaps my past antibiotic use, as necessary as it was (I’m not one of those idiots who takes antibiotics for little things), may have led to this bout of cellulitis. Hopefully, my body isn’t actually a breeding ground of superbugs. Then again, if that were so, I would’ve had more problems between 2015 and now.
Signs and Symptoms of Cellulitis
This is what I’ve learned thus far with my own experience.
The first symptom is redness. It was a characteristic redness that I got on my leg, not a blotch but a band of redness that went halfway around my leg, from the shin to the calf.
It is accompanied by swelling, which will get worse over time when not treated. You will feel a buildup of pressure in that leg, especially if you put your weight on it while standing.
The area will be warm to the touch. That’s actually what alarmed me because deep vein thrombosis has similar symptoms — redness, swelling, and it’s warm to the touch.
That’s why I had to get the MRI just to be sure that it wasn’t a blood clot.
You may also get a low-grade fever. I actually had one on the night of the first day, but it subsided and never came back once I took a couple of paracetamol.
If you have those symptoms and they get worse the next day, you should seek medical assistance immediately. It won’t be super urgent unless you have a severe staph infection, but you shouldn’t put it off for another day.
Cellulitis usually occurs in the extremities, but it could happen just about anywhere on the skin if adequately infected. Even with a strong immune system (like mine), it’s still a possibility.
A probable cause is cracks in dry skin where bacteria can get in, which is a good reason for even the most goober of people out there to take their skin care seriously.
If it’s on the leg, it’s best to determine for sure whether it’s cellulitis or deep vein thrombosis. If it’s indeed cellulitis, you’ll most likely get a prescription for oral antibiotics.
If the condition does not improve within three to four days of antibiotic use, you’ll have to be admitted to the hospital and be administered intravenous antibiotics.
Potential Danger of Cellulitis
If I did not go to hospital right then and there and put it off for a few more days, my leg would have blown up like a balloon. And even then, if I put it off even more because I’m deathly afraid of hospitals or something, it could lead to more widespread infection, which would’ve led to septicemia, which could then lead to death. That would’ve been not good.
The doctor told me to get a blood test just to be sure, so I got a complete blood count to see if my white blood cell count was elevated. If it was indeed greatly elevated, it likely meant I have a systemic infection throughout my body. I would’ve been admitted to the hospital and be put on intravenous antibiotics. Fortunately, I didn’t have that.
Strep and Staph
From what I’ve read, cellulitis may be caused by two types of bacteria — streptococci and staphylococci. Strep is an old enemy of mine as I used to frequently get tonsillitis, which I no longer have to deal with — that’s a story for another time.
Meanwhile, staph really scares me. As a mixed martial arts fan, I’ve seen many fighters get infected with staph and have holes bored through them by the infections. The doctor likely put me on clindamycin to make sure the infection clears up, whether it’s strep or staph.
I didn’t think I had staph since I wasn’t forming any boils or abscesses. The only thing I had was swelling from the subcutaneous edema, so it was likely only strep.
It has been somewhat therapeutic to write about my experience dealing with this affliction, as inconvenient and frustrating as it was. At the very least, I’m now far from any danger and I even started pooping properly again. Perhaps this overly long and self-indulgent blog post, as well as the video, will be of help to those who end up experiencing the same thing. I find it funny that this is how I’ll end a fun and somewhat productive 2022. Anyway, it’s good to be alive.
Have something to say? Do you agree or am I off-base? Did I miss a crucial detail or get something wrong? Please leave whatever reactions, questions, or suggestions you may have in the comment section below.
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