It’s been a strange week. It all started with a hand infection that needed urgent medical attention. I finally got to see a specialist yesterday and the day ended with the surprise offer of a new eyebrow.
I’ve had a small lesion on the back of my right hand for some time but as it wasn’t bothersome, I was not concerned to do anything about it. With my history of complex medical problems it didn’t quite figure as a medical priority. Anyway, when I eventually showed the lesion to my GP, he was puzzled by it but concluded that it was most likely a basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and advised that it would require surgical removal. He reassured me that a BCC is very treatable – it is the most common form of skin cancer. I was then told that there is a waiting list of over two years for an appointment in the public system and was advised to consider seeing a specialist privately. Three months later and with a lesion that was by now troublesome, I finally took action and picked up the phone to book a private appointment. This was in early November and the first appointment available was next January so having got myself into this pickle, I now had no choice but to wait my turn.
Last Sunday the lesion decided to take the matter into it’s own hands. I awoke with a throbbing, swollen hand. Over a period of 24 hours the lesion had changed radically from an innocent cyst-like structure to an angry looking sore which oozed pus. My immediate reaction was “oh no! Please, not MRSA again!”. I’ve fought a hard battle over the past two years to overcome a recurring MRSA infection in my skull and while I’m now supposedly free of the superbug, it’s hard not to think the worst whenever trouble strikes. Being a Sunday, I went straight to A&E to get checked out as I’ve been instructed not to delay in seeking treatment for any infections. Luckily it was a quiet day and I was seen promptly. I was told that my hand needed urgent specialist advice and as I already had a private appointment booked, this was the route I now had to follow. Sadly, our 2-tier health system is still alive and well. A swab was taken from the lesion for analysis and I was sent home with an antibiotic cream to await, a now urgent appointment with a specialist. I got to see the surgeon privately yesterday. The first bit of news I received was that the swab confirmed a significant infection but he assured me that it was not MRSA. Hurray, hurray, hurray! I was told that the lesion was ‘unusual’ and that it would definitely require a biopsy but not before an appropriate antibiotic had tackled the infection. I left the swish consulting room with an appointment arranged for day surgery next week plus a prescription for a course of heavy duty antibiotics. I felt well-satisfied with the advice received.
On exiting the building I decided on the spur of the moment to pay a visit to another specialist in the same hospital. I go back a long way with this top Head & Neck surgeon having been under his care for almost two decades for treatment of recurrent sinus infections. He has operated on my head many times performing surgery that ranged from minor procedures to fairly complex operations. Despite going through many set-backs along the way, I never lost respect for this surgeon. We shared a similar sense of humour and this really helped me through those difficult times. We came to know each other well and when I was referred on to another specialist some years ago, I was sorry to have to say goodbye to him. He has changed speciality since those days and now specialises in surgical hair transplantation. Yesterday, I decided to pay him an impromptu visit to pass on my best wishes. His receptionist was somewhat surprised by my intentions but she obligingly agreed to let him know that I was in the waiting room. Within minutes he appeared in full theatre garb and warmly welcomed me into his consulting room. It was strange meeting a doctor whom I’d consulted for many years and yet here we were meeting like old friends. He was genuinely delighted to see me again and wanted to know every detail of my medical history since I’d last seen him. We agonised together over my battle with MRSA and of course, he was fascinated by the complex surgery I’d had in the UK earlier this year. He studied the resultant cosmetic defect in my forehead and greatly approved of the neat scarring across the top of my head. He then recommended that I should seriously consider returning to the surgeon in the UK in about three year’s time, to have a final re-constructive operation carried out on my forehead. I really hadn’t expected this sort of advice but I was chuffed to find that he still had an interest in my case. What came next really caught me by surprise. He offered to re-construct my eyebrow, after the bony re-construction has been completed and not only that, he offered to do it free of charge – this sort of surgery costs mega bucks! I was bowled over by his kind gesture of help. My right eyebrow has multiple scars from repeat surgery near my eye but it’s not that hugely noticeable. It was at this point that I learnt from my old buddy that he is specialising in work to restore the faces and scalps of people who have suffered horrendous head injuries from bomb blasts. I was well-placed to benefit from his new expertise in this field. I thanked him for his very kind offer and requested that he put it on-hold for the time being. Frankly, I’ve had enough surgery already and as long as I have the choice, I won’t be volunteering for any more. We parted on the best of terms.
When I set out yesterday to get my hand sorted I really didn’t expect to end up discussing my head as well. My medical journey has been a long, hard road but yesterday was a real turn-up for the books – the tide has turned in my favour at last. Next week I’ve another small hurdle to cross but in the meantime all I have to do is to keep popping the pills. As I drove home yesterday, I raised both eyebrows to the world and thanked my lucky stars that the day had gone so well.