A Trip to the ER with my Son Today

So before I begin telling the story of today’s adventure, I want to make it clear that my oldest son is okay.

I sent Little Bear off on his bus this morning as usual and set out to spend the day cleaning. Shocking I know, but my parents headed out early today and I wanted to take advantage of not having them in my hair to get stuff done. Got the dishes caught up and got the laundry started. Then I headed back upstairs to find blood on the floor. Or rather, I was hoping it wasn’t blood.

The trail lead to Scholar Owl’s bed. So I asked him if he had stepped in or on anything. He said he hadn’t and I expressed confusion and concern because it looked like blood. That’s when he slouched over and told me he had a confession to make and took off one of his socks.

My brain barely registered the black toe nail before it started screaming:


I started yelling at him asking why the hell he would hide this from me as I’m bundling us both up to take him to the ER. I continued on about how he can’t hide stuff like that because he takes Lamictal which has that exceptionally rare, but life threatening, rash. My head just keep going through every worst case scenario it could muster. Much later, when I had calmed down, I apologized to him for completely losing my shit on him like that.

Afraid? Scared? You bet. He told me he hid it from me because he didn’t want me to worry. Telling me your toe nails are infected before they got this bad would not have generated the reaction I just had.

So we get to the ER and I told them my son has an active infection that I just found out about and that I wanted them to make sure it wasn’t gangrene. They didn’t even make us wait. We were still doing the registration when the ER nurse came out to get him. This hospital is connected to the same network as our mental health hospital so all his info was there for him with a few clicks.

This is when he peeled off the double layer of socks on his OTHER foot. I almost completely lost it. It was both feet infected, not one. I won’t give you the grim details beyond saying I instantly thought of every zombie movie and game I’ve ever came across. I was completely mortified and feeling like the WORST PARENT EVER.

How could I miss something like this?

So the doctor tells us it’s a dual infection. One is bacterial and the other is fungal. The fungal is under the nails, causing them to split, and opened him up for the bacterial.

Not gangrene, but still far enough advanced that he needs blood work done. The infections have reached at least the deeper layers of the skin.

This Wednesday I have to take him in to the surgery wing so they can put him under, remove all the infected toe nails, and debride the dead skin and scabs and whatever else. This is when they’ll know how severe it actually is.

They started him on Keflex, a strong antibiotic in the Penicillin family, today. Once they debride his feet they’ll start him up on an oral anti-fungal treatment.

He told the doctor he feels no pain as both the doctor and I are looking at two ruptured toe nails. My dad says they probably feel better now that they ruptured. I had an abscessed tooth once that ruptured on me, so I can understand that to some extent.

I think the thing that gets me the most is that if I hadn’t found the blood before he had cleaned it up, I wouldn’t have known. I would have kept believing that he just had smelly feet. So I got quite a bit of the “I knew it all along” speeches from my parents, because Dad has often told me it wasn’t normal for feet to smell like that.

He obviously doesn’t remember the smell of teen locker rooms. Hell, Piggie had said not too long ago (the day I fell on the ice) that my son smelled like an unwashed person, not like a person with an infection. Not to mention that on one hand my dad will insist you see a doctor over the weirdest things, but then accuse you of being a hypochondriac for getting shit checked out. Basically you should only have it checked out if he thinks it’s a problem. You can’t win there.

I firmly believe that a teen has the right to privacy when it comes to their body. This is the reason I pushed as hard as I did for Tuxedo Cat to develop the skills he needed to be independent with his hygiene. So on one hand, I can understand how I missed this.

BUT… Scholar Owl has demonstrated avoidant behavior in the past multiple times. He’d rather pretend that the problem doesn’t exist than to deal with it. So even though he said he realizes now how not telling me made it worse, but I worry that next time it will be worse. How do you prevent something like this from happening again without violating privacy?

The only thing that made me feel better in all this is having the ER doctor tell me that I would be surprised with the kinds of things he’s seen that sons have hidden from their mothers. Apparently hiding illness and injuries from parents is a common, and well practiced, art. I suspect it’s not just boys that do this either.

It doesn’t solve my problem in preventing him from hiding something like this again. At least my dad was really cool about sitting down with him and I and explained to him why I had freaked out about the possibility of gangrene. My dad had lost an aunt to it before I was born. She had diabetes and cut her toe. Feet don’t heal as well as they should on their own when diabetes is involved.

According to my dad, my mom had lost it over the sight of blood on the floor when she went up there to see if I had left him at home or not. I forgot to leave a note when we headed out to the ER. He said he convinced her it wasn’t blood, but some kind of mess Little Bear had made. Honestly when I had first seen it, I wasn’t sure. It was one of the few times I was hoping it really was a mess Little Bear had made.

So yea, he will have to take the Keflex four times a day for ten days. And I don’t know what they’ll give him for the anti-fungal.

I’m sad it got this bad. I’m hoping that the infections aren’t so bad that he’ll lose his toe nails permanently. I’m grateful that he isn’t losing his toes or feet. I’m hoping his blood work comes out okay.

As a result of all of this, once back home from the ER I spent the rest of the day on the phone with calls back and forth making arrangements for Wednesday’s procedure. He needs a per-surgery exam for clearance. Once business hours ended, I spent the remainder of day with Scholar Owl. Plus, I also needed to set up a payment plan for all this and asked for an estimate so I could pay the co-pay. (Okay… am I the only person that finds it weird they are using the term “co-pay” for self-pay patients? Like… who am I helping to pay?)

Tuxedo Cat was surprisingly understanding that he would be carrying in wood by himself due to his brother’s infection. The ER staff gave him some special open toed shoes and my parents made me throw out his sneakers once we realized the shit was growing in them. I used the opportunity to explain to Tuxedo Cat how important it is to tell someone whenever you get sick or hurt so it won’t get worse. Actually of all the boys, he’s the one that is best at letting me know when something isn’t right. Usually though I end up playing a guessing game to figure out what it is that isn’t right. But I wanted him to know that him doing that is a good thing and to not give up if I don’t understand right away.

We also made a point to explain to Little Bear that this is why we tell him not to chew on his nails (fingers and toes – and sometimes bad enough to make them bleed). I don’t know why this is still a thing even though we have run out of things to try to break this habit. I’m all ears if someone has any suggestions on this one! And then we also told him the importance of telling someone if he’s hurt or sick.

Needless to say I didn’t get around to putting together the Chaos Pen Challenge for this Monday. Not sure when I’ll have the time to get it posted this week. Probably not until after Wednesday. Very sorry about that, and I hope you all understand.

So love and appreciate your babies, however young or old they may be. Today made me realize yet again how fragile life can be and how it only takes a second to shatter the world you know.

7 thoughts on “A Trip to the ER with my Son Today

    • Thanks! My sister said she’ll go with us tomorrow so I’ll have help if I need it to get him in and out of the car. Mom wanted her to go with me in case I have an anxiety attack. She’ll also be able to help me understand the after care instructions. Skin and wound care is primarily the nurses’ domain. And if there’s anything else the doctor says that I don’t understand, she’ll be able to translate for me.

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