First, we want to say thank you to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. WOW - we are all in awe again of the power of prayer !! Our God is an awesome God !
What started Wednesday as a suspected poisonous spider bite resulted in a trip to our local ER. After a few medications and some lab work, the doctors in the local ER collectively agreed that they did not know what was causing the necrotic (dead) tissue, and were getting more and more concerned as time passed. So after 2 hours at
Upon our arrival at the "big city" hospital, many many doctors, residents, and medical students (we stopped counting at 20) came in to examine the blackened tissue and the surrounding red hot area on Cherub 2's calf. Everyone seemed to say the same thing -- "I've never seen anything quite like that" or "I have never seen that before". No one seemed to know exactly what the original cause was --- we discussed black widow bites, brown recluse bites, various snake bites, and at one point even discussed scorpion stings – all of these "ideas" were discussed because no one knew when the initial bite occurred. In the 7 previous days our family had been up in the higher elevation mountains fishing and swimming, and we had been all over the farm and our local area too fishing and swimming and hiking. We talked about chemicals and toxins, injuries, infections, and our family medical history. And after every conversation, we found ourselves again and again discussing spider bites and snake bites. Finally, the "show and tell" slowed, and a collection of doctors gathered. The game plan was formulated – the doctors were going to keep researching and making calls to other doctors armed with photos of our daughter’s leg, and in the mean while they wanted to let the medications from the initial hospital ER completely run their course so as to start working on her with a clean slate. They drew a lot of lab work, and then drew more blood an hour later, and then again an hour later, and so on. They said that when the labs showed "the right time" , the new game plan would begin. Of the new game plan, the doctor in charge only said, very seriously, “we’re going to hit her really hard and really fast with everything appropriate for either type of bite. We are assuming the worst case scenario to be true”. YIKES ! The doctors were worried of course about the three blackened (confirmed necrotic tissue) areas that everyone had been observing all day (shown in the photo above). But now there was an even greater concern -- that some of the swollen red tissue in the general area was possibly going to die too, and that perhaps within a short time the entire 8x12” red swollen hot area could/would die and turn black as well (which would extend from just over her knee to down just above her ankle). It was very frightening !!
Cherub 2 was admitted to the hospital and taken to her room.
And we waited … and waited …. and we prayed … and prayed. And the lab techs came faithfully every hour to collect more blood samples. A rainbow of tubes in every size, it seemed. Cherub 2 and I giggled that next time they came to draw blood, she might be without any left to give. HA !
And at 9pm they came in to draw more labs. Then promptly 10pm the medicines began – steroids of several varieties, allergy medications, and heavy antibiotics. These doses continued, coming roughly every 2 hours all night and well into this morning, along with drawing more labs. Cherub 2’s poor little hand and arm hurt, her whole body turned fire-truck red in response to the steroids, and her veins actually hurt a lot from all of the harsh medications. Her little arms looked like pin cushions. Her leg was very carefully checked every 30 minutes or so; they were watching carefully the pen-line that had been carefully drawn around the entire area shortly after our arrival at the "big city" hospital. It was heartbreaking to sit by and watch Cherub 2 go through everything --- she was very brave. The nurses would say very sweetly that they were so sorry over and over, knowing she was in pain from the treatments and the needles and the lab draws. And Cherub 2 would simply say “I know you are just trying to help me" with a smile on her sweet little face, and tears in her big blue eyes. She was soooo uncomfortable.
We understood from the doctor that the goal for the night, best case, was that nothing would get worse -- that the redness and swelling would not pass the marked pen lines, and that the black tissue would not increase. The docs said that if nothing improved overnight, it would be good news. We thought that was a bit strange. But we understood that if the reddness or blackness spread even a tiny bit, that would mean big trouble. We were a little confused that they weren’t aiming for it to be improved – but we understood that getting the situation under control had to come first.
Quietly we prayed ... for complete healing, rather than just "no change". We know Our God is a healer ... and that even this situation could be resolved with His touch. And we knew that, all the while, the heavens were being stormed on Cherub 2's behalf. And we were so thankful !
After a very long nearly-sleepness night, bright and early onThursday morning the doctor-in-charge returned. She pulled back the blankets and said WOW ! (and I was afraid to even look, wondering if that was a good "wow" or a bad "wow") First, she showed us that the black spots looked worse (much darker - and exactly what was expected) but were the exact same size and shape as the day before. But she said WOW because instead of the whole situation being “the same” as they had set their high hopes to be … 80% of the red swollen area had totally returned to normal. YAHOOOO !! That was sooooooo much more of an improvement than the doctor said she even considered possible, even with the high doses of medication given for the past many hours. With close inspection of the now-normal skin, finally there was a visible pattern to the injuries …. three other long scratches (not bloody, but just scratches like one sees with dry skin vs tall grass). She hurried off without explaination to call another doctor … and after a specialty (dermatology) consultation was arranged with a very wise dermatologist, the actual “cause” was named …. Cherub 2 had a very severe (but not uncommon !) reaction to Poison Sumac !! The dermatologist said that the areas that received the highest concentration of the sumac oil swelled so quickly and began to be infected so fast that the tissue in those select (now black) areas died completely for lack of circulation, which resulted in those strange black markings and the dead tissue.
We now know that the "game plan" of high doses of steroids reduced the swelling rapidly and the heavy antibiotics limited the power of the infection … thus preventing further tissue death. And the doctors know that in this case, assuming the worst was the BEST plan of all !
Poison Sumac – grows in most woods and tree lines at creeksides and riversides and edges of ponds – it is a very common plant that prefers damp soil. There are several varieties of Sumac, only one of which is actually poisonous. We suspect Cherub 2 came into contact with the Poison Sumac while hiking and fishing near our home on Tuesday evening – we are going to work on finding it and the farm has promised to do what they can to get rid of it asap.
The dermatologist did say that although this reaction to Poison Sumac is severe, it is not at all uncommon, happening to adults and children alike despite various immunities and non-reactions to Poison Ivy. She went on to say that this problem seems to be more common this year in our area perhaps because of a very wet spring making the plants stronger and able to produce either more oil or a more potent oil ?!?! So please be careful ! Necrotic tissue, whether from a bite or a plant toxin, is VERY serious !!
At this point, the 2 doctors decided it was best to discharge Cherub 2 from the hospital --- they said there was some concern that her immune system has been through a lot, had a long battle ahead, and then had had a lot of steroids and medications to deal with. They felt that Cherub 2 may be more vulnerable to other germs and bacteria present in the hospital in her current situation. So they felt she would be safer at home (surrounded by "normal germs" - ha !) … with a course of steroids and antibiotics, wound care, and close contact with the doctor until everything is resolved.
Praise God ! We are back at home. And we believe that the worst is over !! We will check in with the doctor every few days, will continue treatments as we were directed, and then will wait to see what happens next.
I will admit that there were many moments through this ordeal that were rather frightening to say the least – discussions of large amounts of necrotic tissue, debridement care, and all of the other very drastic things that “might” have come to pass. YIKES !! I know now that the doctors were trying to prepare us for the worst case scenario, which they apparently were more concerned was likely to come to pass that we even realized. At every scary moment though we were all comforted to know that prayers were heaven-bound, and never for a moment did we doubt that God would see us through this.
If you could have seen the look of surprise on the doctors face when she saw the dramatic improvement - when she said WOW - after she had just hoped for “stable and unchanged” overnight --- well, it would tell you what it told us --- Our God is near and He heals !!
Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers.