Two weeks ago I was recalled to the world of nursing, and I do mean the world. My 35-year-old son, Sam, had arthroscopic surgery in Gifu, Japan, August 20th. He lives there and needed a torn ACL in his right knee repaired. In and out of the hospital in three days, he was released to do his rehab at home. All went well for about a week.
The first I knew of any complications was the morning I received an email with a photo of an extremely red and swollen right leg, the incision site visibly weeping… well, suffice it to say it was ugly.
His orthopedist opened up the site, began cleaning it, and gave him IV antibiotics. The infection got worse or at least it refused to give up. Sam went back into the hospital.
I was sure he had something the medical world has learned to dread- MRSA or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Sam’s doctor kept assuring him he did not have it, but used an antibiotic protocol routinely used to treat it. It became a grim joke of ours: Oh, it’s not MRSA, it’s just like MRSA.
I have spent the last two weeks on the phone via the Internet (thank you Skype) talking to him, talking to his insurance company, and finding other surgeons in Australia should the need arise to transfer him. When I wasn’t phoning I was investigating on the Internet the drugs his doctor was using, emailing a physician friend of mine in the USA, and generally learning about resistant forms of Staph… and they vary from country to country.
Sam’s insurance company, InterGlobal, has been simply superb to work with. I can’t begin to say enough positive things about them. If you ever need international health insurance, think of them first. I can’t think of any insurance company in the United States that would have been half as responsive. I probably would have gotten a voice mailbox to send my complaints to and no follow up phone call.
When it became evident the antibiotics the doctor in Japan was using were ineffective in treating this, I sent a rather detailed list of my concerns to InterGlobal’s Asian agency, First Assistance. They assigned a physician to the case and forwarded my emails directly to him. He and the doctor in Japan began having conference calls every other day or so.
I never communicated directly with the physician from First Assistance, but went through one of their service representatives (there were two, actually, and neither of them ever- EVER– dropped the ball). They routinely emailed me the details of the conference calls. We all worked in tandem to keep an eye on Sam from across the globe, making sure he got the care he needed.
It was nip and tuck. As of late last week Sam and I were both looking for tickets to Australia for treatment there. Then yesterday he turned a corner and things look as though they are working out for the better. His numbers look much better and it appears he will be going home shortly to begin recovering there.. again. He will still need to go back to the hospital for follow up blood work, but the situation is much better than it could have been.
After reams of antibiotic regimens, failed IV sites, drains in his knee, and repeat arthroscopic debridement he is fed up. I knew he was improving, though, when he began to complain vehemently about his treatments and his roommates.
He says his arms look like those of a failure junkie and he will be glad to leave a place where: the nurse did not wear gloves while assisting the doctor change dressings, the staff changed his sheets once a week, and his roommates snored and farted all through the night.
To First Assistance in Aukland, New Zealand; and my old ER friend and doc, Paul, who I tracked down in Memphis TN; and to Sam, who kept hanging in there even when it looked its darkest, thank you all. We made quite the international team.
The Internet is a wonderful thing!