With 4 days scheduled off work and some airline credit to use, a quick trip to San Diego to visit my cousin and his wife seemed like a wonderful idea.  “Sure, it will be a fun time,” I thought.  Never could I have imagined the way the trip would end up.  A few days before, I’d had some mild aching pain in my right thumb joint.  I thought it was just from spending a lot of time crocheting and took ibuprofen and aleve for it and didn’t think about it much.  So I left for San Diego and began a wonderful weekend Friday night.  Saturday was a lot of fun as well but by Saturday afternoon my thumb joint was really throbbing and ibuprofen and aleve were no longer helping the pain.  That got a little concerning but I was determined to enjoy my time out of town.  Sunday I noticed some slight swelling to the right hand mostly at the joint and the pain remained a pretty constant throbbing.  I was thinking some sort of arthritis given the fact the pain was very localized to just the joint but I was a bit concerned that nothing over the counter was helping the pain.  And it was getting concerning that I had no grip in my right hand and my finger pinch was really weak.  Woke up Monday morning planning to fly home that evening and go to Urgent Care the next morning.  But my cousin pointed out to me and I agreed that now my entire right hand was very swollen and red.  I knew that just wasn’t normal or good and there was definitely something going on.  So on my mom and cousin’s advice, I agreed to go to an Emergency Department at a hospital there in San Diego.  I really thought they would do something temporarily to relieve the pain and swelling so I could get home that night and follow up with my doctor at home soon after.  Never in a million years was I expecting to be admitted to the hospital there!  But the doctor in the ED was thinking it was cellulitis or some other infection and I needed a few doses of IV antibiotics to keep it from spreading to my bone so wasn’t willing to let me go home.  I was incredibly disappointed and exhausted and cried a bit at that news.  But I recognized it was indeed the safest thing to do.  And she told me I would just have to stay overnight and could leave the next day.  Ok, I can live with that.  And I was relieved to have an end in sight to the pain as the infection cleared up.  But then things took another turn…

I got to my bed on the medical floor of the hospital and the hospitalist who would be following me while I was there said “I really don’t think it’s an infection.  I think it’s some arthritis.  You’re going  to get an arthritis anti-inflammation medication tonight and if the swelling isn’t down quite a bit tomorrow, I want to have a rheumatologist see you.”  At that point I knew if a rheumatologist was going to be consulted, I wouldn’t be going home Tuesday.  And I was right.  Monday night was miserable and I was in no shape to go home Tuesday.  Monday night the pain continued at a throbbing 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Constant.  NOTHING was helping.  Not norco, not percocet, and then not even a dose of IV dilaudid!  And I was getting truly scared when the dilaudid didn’t even work.  I’m not used to narcotic pain medicine.  I’ve been lucky enough to only need them maybe 3 times in my life and only for brief periods of time.  So when I broke down and agreed to take the dilaudid I was telling the nurse “This is the 1st time in my life I’ve ever needed IV narcotic pain meds!”  And I was very confident it would be effective.  But no.  2 hours later I was still in must as much pain as before.  I put my call light on to let my nurse know that and I told her “I’m not angry.  I’m just in a lot of pain and I’m scared that the dilaudid didn’t help.”  I’m not exactly sure why I wanted to tell her I wasn’t angry.  I suppose  I was trying hard not to be a “difficult” patient.  My nurse came back a few minutes later and had made a phone call to the hospitalist on that shift and he had given her an order for a one time slightly larger dose of dilaudid.  Thankfully, that dose did bring the pain down to a dull 3 out of 10.  At that point, that was very tolerable to me.  While I was laying in my bed in the hospital crying from the pain and fear, I was thinking “I know people do live with chronic pain every day, but I really don’t know how I’m going to do this if I have to do it every day.”  After the pain medicine helped, the next step was to get the swelling down.  The rheumatologist ordered a dose of IV steroids to get on top of that, and it was very helpful.  By Wednesday morning the pain and swelling were under control enough that I was discharged with prescriptions for an arthritis anti-inflammation medication and oral steroids.  And I can follow up with a rheumatologist here at home.  The final diagnosis on my discharge paperwork was osteoarthritis.  They had ruled out gout and rheumatoid arthritis based on lab results.  This wasn’t a big surprise to me; especially considering there is a family history of osteoarthritis.  I was surprised at the amount of pain and swelling that arthritis could cause, but both the hospitalist and rheumatologist who saw me there did not think it was terribly unusual and both told me it wasn’t unheard of.  I guess I just have to be unique and do things my own way!

My cousin and his wife were wonderfully caring and attentive and visited me every day and I couldn’t thank them enough for their help and support.  And my wonderful sister and mom both gave me lots of encouragement and support long distance.  And I have only good things to say about Alaska Airlines and how they were so helpful in changing my flight reservations with only minimal extra fees.  All of those things helped to make being admitted to a hospital in a strange time less scary and more bearable.

And here is a photo of what my hand looked like while I was in the ED waiting for my bed…hand