Thursday, October 15, 2009

Adventures In The ER And The MPU (Medical Procedures Unit)

Wow, time has really gotten away from me. I can’t believe that it has been over two weeks since I last posted. There has been a lot of personal stuff going on, plus some unexpected health issues.

On Friday, I played the role of the dutiful patient and got a pneumonia shot as my rheumatologist suggested. When the nurse swabbed my arm, I noted that she had swabbed in a weird place, and she responded by telling me that the pneumonia vaccine is NOT injected into the muscle. Okay, I’m supposed to trust these people, right?

I started feeling a bit off Friday night, having chills and feeling achy. Saturday morning I woke up with a silver dollar sized welt on my arm around the site of the shot. My arm was really hurting, but I figured it would get better.

I called the doctor on call at the student health center Sunday morning after I woke up to a fist sized welt, rather than a silver dollar sized welt. I was told that this was probably a normal reaction, but I could come in Monday morning if I was still concerned.

Thanks to my good friend, Maria, for the suggestion, I called the rheumatologist on call at the hospital where my rheum is. I received a call back telling me that it sounded like I had an infection and I needed to get myself to the ER.

I went to the ER with the assumption that I would be given some oral antibiotics and be sent home. Unfortunately, this did not happen. My arm worsened, so after spending 24 hours in the ER, I was admitted to the hospital. The doctors suspect cellulitis, an infection of the tissue, possibly combined with a possible allergic/autoimmune reaction.

It’s difficult to determine if someone who doesn’t have my health issues and isn’t immunosuppressed would have had the same reaction. But regardless of this, it is clear that the vaccine was administered incorrectly – it was not injected into the muscle - and landed me in the hospital for three days.

I had to be taken off the CellCept, and have to stay off of it until I’m through with the 10-day course of oral antibiotics I was sent home with. I am a bit concerned about the side effects I might have once I start back on it again, but there was some concern that the CellCept was worsening the infection.


Despite all of the craziness, I was told to go ahead with the previously scheduled endoscopy and colonoscopy. So after getting out of the hospital Tuesday night, I was back in as an outpatient on Wednesday.

I was pretty nervous about this. I did have some discomfort during the colonoscopy, but slept right through the endoscopy. The doctor did a bunch of biopsies, so hopefully I will know the results next week.

Definitely the worst part of this adventure, in the Medical Procedures Unit, was the preparation. You know, there is some shit in my life that needs to be liquefied, but my literal shit, not so much. I think a great Saturday Night Live skit would be a boy band singing a song called “Liquefy my shit”…Okay, you get the point…


Amazingly after all of this, I saw my PCP for the first time this morning and have been cleared to go on my trip to New York tomorrow. I’m really happy about this as I am in much need of a vacation.

Mainly I’m recounting all of this so that you all know where I’ve been. I know there are a lot of curious people. I left the personal stuff out of here and focused on the health stuff. But suffice it to say that the last few weeks have been crazy.

Lessons learned over the past few days:

- Follow my instincts. If I think something is wrong, it probably is.

- During the bad times, your “people” are weeded out. It came through loud and clear who my people are. And I am so grateful to them.

- Lupus isn’t small beans. Neither is being immunosuppressed.

- The body needs rest. I guess my body needed to freak out and I needed to land in the hospital and do absolutely nothing for three days to realize this.

In the end, I think that my sense of humor is intact, although my appreciation for vaccines has decreased significantly. While, I’d like to say that I’m no worse for the wear, I kind of am…

This is a picture of my arm on Sunday morning. It got about twice as bad by the time I dragged myself to the ER.

This is a picture of my right arm – the left arm was the infected one – post blood draws and IVs.


  1. i'm glad to see that you are better and out of the hospital! i was pretty concerned when i put the pieces together and figured out it had to do with the vaccine. i want to share a few links with you that my chiropractor shared with me after her recent trip to d.c. for a conference on vaccines. the facts the government gives us about effectiveness and safety of vaccines are skewed by incomplete data and pressure/funding from the pharmaceutical companies. when it comes to vaccines, we think we do not have a choice and so informed consent is pushed to the side and we do what the doctors and the government tell us is best for our and our countries health. you can report vaccine reactions there. and that has the most comprehensive information about vaccines. most vaccines have not had extensive testing done for people with chronic illnesses like ours and some have been known to have autoimmune diseases as a reaction. i hope that you continue to get better and enjoy your trip to new york!

  2. What the? i sure do hope you get better. thank you sharing this with us. nice to have you back posting. rest up. stay strong.

  3. I'm glad that everything worked out okay for you, though it sounds like it was a week full of adventures. :( Good for you for following your instincts and getting your arm checked out.

    Hope that you can enjoy your vacation in NY without too many adventures.


  4. Ouch!!! Hope you ended up immunized after all that!

  5. I'm glad to hear you are OK now. I was worried. Have fun on your trip!

  6. Not into the muscle!?! Craziness.

    I just had my pneumonia vaccine today. My rheumatologist really wanted those antibodies to build up before I start Rituxan soon (maybe, the other choice is Imuran).

  7. I'm glad you're feeling better - what a rough week! Hope you have great fun in NY, and can't wait for a trip report!

  8. Glad to hear you are out of the hospital and on the mend! Enjoy your vacation, and try and get some rest :) (Easier said than done, I know...)

  9. Did you get to tell that nurse who stabbed your arm what happened to you? I think your rheumatologist needs to know what happened to you so they don't make the same mistake on other people.

    Enjoy your vacation! You need it.

  10. I had a similar kind of reaction when I first got the pneumonia vaccine in spring 2000. I also eventually ended up in the ER after I started having respiratory symptoms in addition to my arm being swollen from just below my shoulder to just above my elbow.

    Since I didn't have any autoimmune issues back then (that I know of) and wasn't on the kinds of meds you're on, it wasn't too big of a deal once I was in the ER. They gave me some IV steroids and then sent me home with an Rx for prednisone on a 10 day taper. I was feeling better within 24 hours, although I had discoloration were the welt/swelling was that lasted a LONG time. (When I got married in 9/01, I insisted on a sleeved dress because I didn't want it to show!)

    Anyway, I empathize. One thing you should be aware of is you might not have gotten the immunity boost from the vax. At least, I didn't. When they tested my immunity levels, I had lower than a normal healthy person who hadn't ever had the vax even though I'd had it. So, um, you might want to talk to your doc about that ...

    I'm glad you're feeling better now, and hope you have a fab vacation!!