It all started with lower back and abdominal pain. A trip to an ER out of town turned up nothing. All I got for the trip was a lousy morphine shot, script for hydrocodone, and advice to figure out what was causing my stress. Thanks, doc.
After a few days, even though the pain was subsiding somewhat – thanks hydrocodone – I mentioned it to my GP. The next thing I know I am getting sonograms, MRIs, x-rays, and blood tests among other things. a few days later, I’m in the hospital. More tests. More pain. Blood tests and biopsies were turning up nothing, in spite of the indication of a spinal infection from an MRI of my back.
One thing about the lower spine is that an infection there can come from anywhere. The density of blood vessels and location in the body creates an ideal place for bad stuff to settle in and set up a nice comfy home for themselves. While there, the infection damages the spine and creates phlegmon, which is the collateral damage from the infection. Think puss, bone fragments and other nasty stuff. I received a presumptive diagnosis that my back pain was due to an infected spine from an unknown pathogen. A broad spectrum antibiotic treatment was prescribed. After 4 days of hitting the pain pump, I was sent home. Every day for the next 3 weeks, I went to the hospital for two infusions through my newly installed IV ports – PIC line is the term ,I believe. I had to get infusions from both Rocephin and Cubicin. Every. Single. Day.
Since the diagnosis was presumptive, other tests, with other specialists, at other clinics, continued. Finally, a tissue sample from my back was sent to a research facility in Seattle, and the pathogen was discovered: Corynebacterium Kroppenstedtii. Now we know it is an infection and the pathogen. The treatment I had already begun was the correct treatment, so I was already getting better. The other tests continue to turn up things that while not necessarily serious, are things that we “need to keep an eye on”. I *guess* that is a good thing, but it will be a hassle the rest of my life to get constant tests.
I am pretty good with the Google, but apparently this is a rare infection. Dr. Khairy said he might be able to write a paper on it. Meh. We are speculating that my immune system was suppressed from the Enbrel injections I had been taking for the past 3 months or so, but who really knows how, why or where. I stopped the Enbrel anyway, because in the words of the rheumatologist, the next one “might kill you”.
Kudos to Dr. Raed Khairy, Dr. Gary Edwards, Dr. Arthur Johnson, Dr. Russell Branum, Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, and numerous other specialists and medical professionals all over town while working on “Team Tom”.
Thought I would post this on the web in case someone else experiences something similar.
Oh, the acute pancreatitis? Cutting back the Makers Mark fixed that. Apparently alcohol causes about 40% of acute pancreatitis cases. However, without it I don’t think we would have found the spinal infection before it caused serious back damage. Or something worse.