Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Crash ~ A Cautionary Medical Tale

My torso is scattered with small red spots. It may look like chicken pox, but it's far more sinister.

It all started the day of my writers' group Christmas brunch on December 11 at a local cafe. The telltale sign of something not perfectly right. A trip to the restroom before everyone arrived and the urge to go again before leaving.

As evening approached, the issue, an obvious urinary tract infection (UTI), roared it's ugly head. It became so painful I thought I'd have to go to the hospital emergency. The pain felt like an intense burning in my lower abdomen. It miraculously settled down enough for me to sleep, but not without numerous painful trips to the toilet during the night.

Mistake #1
The next day I phoned the Kaiser advice nurse who prescribed a three-day course of antibiotic called Septra. I started the medication immediately and by Saturday, December 15, I finished the course and felt well enough to attend a holiday open house at friends.

I felt optimistic that I was better, although I still had some discomfort and frequent need to urinate. Needless to say, I had increased my water intake so frequency was expected.

Christmas Party
YoungLife Party
Monday night we attended a YoungLife Christmas party for all the volunteers and their families. I felt fine. Even spent the day making cookies for a planned event at our house on Wednesday—a visit by Santa Claus with invites to kids of neighbors, friends and family.

Tuesday, December 18, I felt my system weakening with pain in my lower-right back and abdomen. By the evening I was in great pain with severe cramping in the lower-right abdomen. I managed to get myself dressed and ready to go to another Christmas party, but by the time my husband got home, I knew I couldn't go.

Since I had been doing a lot of research on UTI's, kidney infections and kidney stones, the next thing that happened didn't shock me, especially with all the pain on one side of my back and lower abdomen. That's right... I passed a handful of kidney stones. It's interesting to see how tiny those little irritators are. Contrary to what I read in so many accounts, I did not experience stabbing pain in the area, only intense cramping.

Santa Claus
Santa Claus Visit
The cramping subsided after passing the stones. And I felt better. The next day I got ready for the much anticipated Santa visit. Kids sat on Santa's lap and claimed being nice for the year and thus deserving of all the toys they hoped to get. Hot cocoa with marshmallows and lots of Christmas cookies revved up the crowd. Plus Santa's elves made balloon toys for everyone. Even an angel for me.

Mistake #2
The next day I still felt soreness from the day before and started getting chills. I bundled up even more and hunkered down close to the fireplace. I chose party clothes that kept me warm and hung out by the fire at the next Christmas party we attended on Thursday, December 20.

Christmas Party Table
Christmas Party
Concerned I was not better, but felt weaker and chilled, I saw my doctor on Friday. I hoped she would make sure the infection was gone with a urine test. Instead she felt around and declared I was on the mend.

I slept most of Saturday bundled up to stay warm from the chills. I ate nothing—had no appetite. Food didn't even taste good. My temperature fluctuated up and down between 101º and 104º. Getting concerned, Bob thought he'd have to take me to the emergency that night. He called Kaiser and spoke to the doctor on call who ordered tests for Sunday—an x-ray to check for more stones and a urine test (my first) to see if I still had an infection. Assuming there was still an infection, a prescription was ordered and it was recommended I begin taking it immediately before the tests came back.

Mistake #3
It poured rain as we shuffled around the Kaiser campus looking for the right building. Once located, I went for the tests then lined up to pick up the prescription. As the pharmacist explained the usual caveat, "Take all the medication until it's gone," I noticed the antibiotic this time was a heavy hitter: 500mg of Cipro. Bob had a bad reaction to it about 7 years ago when he got sick. I had a nagging feeling... but took the package and left.

Christmas Eve, the fever broke and I began to feel a bit better. Christmas morning I woke feeling pretty beat after experiencing some extreme upper back pain which kept me awake during the night. I also found a few itchy spots on my back. Hmmm!

We had a wonderful Christmas dinner with our son and Bob's parents. Bob prepared the entire dinner while I rested. Thank goodness I had done all the shopping during a time I felt well. Later we sent off the parent's to their home, played a game of Mexican train with a dominos set we got ourselves for Christmas and then saw Nur off for home. He worked the next day.

Silent Night Holy Night
All was calm, all was bright until an hour after taking my second dose of Cipro for the day. I experienced a violent reaction. I had severe burning pain in my upper back and neck. It extended through my shoulders and down the arms into my hands. I had never felt this much pain in my life. It was excruciating! I curled up in the sofa and flailed my arms about trying to get relief. I took a Tylonol hoping I could get it to stop. It was horrible!

After looking up the side effects of Cipro, Bob found my symptoms matched rare side effects. He called Kaiser, but the doctor on call could not accept my reaction as the result of taking the Cipro. What a jerk!

The day after Christmas, we went back to my doctor. I showed her my torso—not chicken pox. Indeed I had a bad reaction to Cipro!

Again—for the third time—I got a prescription for an antibiotic. This time for a 10-day course. Now the doctor was concerned that I'm taking a third antibiotic for an infection. Turns out the offending bacteria I had was a resistant strain of E.coli. The first antibiotic was useless toward nipping the infection (Mistake #1).

I should have insisted on a urine sample to test the bacteria causing the havoc (Mistake #2).

I should have questioned the use of Cipro for the infection given my gut reaction and my history of taking few courses of antibiotics (Mistake #3).

My UTI went from uncomplicated to complicated and that's serious business in today's medical environment. I don't want to be like the case of the Portland, Maine woman. As I read, so many suffer from frequent UTI's which are routinely treated via phone with a 3-day (or more) course of antibiotic. With all the concern about super bugs, shouldn't we culture and treat in a targeted way? That sure would have avoided so many mistakes for me.

I hope I'm done with the infection and the pain in my bladder will be gone soon. My routine of care to prevent further infection will include:
  • Drinking plenty of pure water (check this water calculator)
  • Drinking pure cranberry juice or taking a cranberry extract
  • Taking D-Mannose daily
  • Taking a pro-biotic regularly
Taking pro-biotics will help rebalance my bacteria to keep my urinary tract and the rest of my body colonized with healthy bacteria to fight the bad bacteria (like E.coli) that so frequently invades our bodies.

What's been your experience with UTI's?

Happy New Year!


  1. What probiotic do you use?

    ~ Jennie

    1. I use PB8 (white bottle, big blue lettering). It's available at Nugget Market. It was a brand that my wholistic doctor in the past had prescribed for me.

  2. Yikes! Not a happy holiday season. My "persistent UTI" a few years back turned out not to be an infection at all, but an autoimmune condition called interstitial cystitis. It has a food sensitivity/allergy trigger (surprise!) so once we eliminated chicken and eggs from my diet it has been asymptomatic. But yes, before the diagnosis, they just kept putting me on antibiotics. Went to a different doctor and he zeroed right in on it and referred me to a urologist. What really annoyed me is that apparently it's commonly associated with fibromyalgia (which I had), and it took them that long to clue into it!

    1. Wow, Angelica, wish we didn't have to be the subject of doctors' "practicing" medicine. I'm happy you made it through that gauntlet.

  3. Hope that all is well for you now Chris. Wishing for goodness in all areas of your life in 2013!

    1. Thank you for your well wishes. I am almost fully recovered and back to normal energy.