Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cooper: Human Guinea Pig

So last week, on Friday night, Cooper said, "My foot hurts. Something bit me." I looked and the front of his left ankle had a small hole surrounded by angry skin and the whole ankle was a little swollen. He thought he'd been bitten by a giant red ant at school the day before.

I put some Benadryl gel on it, gave him some Motrin, and watched it. Over the next two days, it got much less swollen, less angry looking, and seemed to be healing. Then Monday afternoon he came home from school with a hideously swollen ankle, a hole surrounded by very angry red skin that was warm and getting warmer. EEEEK!

We couldn't get a Doctor's appointment until 11:45 today (Tuesday), so I went into mild panic mode. I dug through the medical kit the company gave Ted when he started traveling to Africa and found some Benadryl tablets and some Amoxycillin. I stuffed two Benadryls and one 250mg Amoxy into the kid and smeared the site with Neosporin. After a night in bed and two more Amoxycillins it was less swollen and slightly less colorful. I sent him to school for the morning.

At 11AM Ted and I picked him up from school for his first African Doctor's Appointment. We had no idea what to expect except that this Dr. was vetted by the company and had been doing a good job for our expats in Accra. He was educated in the UK and had come back to Ghana with his skills. So off we went.

His office was in an old but reasonably tidy medical arts building that was a maze of rooms and hallways. We entered through a porte cochere that opened into a foyer and hallway. On the left side hallway was a doorway marked "Nurses Station" and in that room was a desk with two women at it. Cooper sat down at the desk and the nurse wiped a digital thermometer with a tissue and stuck it in his armpit. Then she took his BP with an automatic cuff. Both normal.

Once that was done, we continued through the 'nurses station' out a different door and were in a large waiting room with about a dozen other patients and a TV that was showing a Nigerian soap opera. After about 20 minutes, the nurse came out and told us that when the current patient left "Consulting Room 1" (there were three consulting rooms, all opening directly into the waiting room) we could go in. We were unsure when it was our turn, but the nurse came back and waved us in, so...

Inside the room was a large desk, two visitor's chairs, a bookshelf full of books and an exam table with cotton sheets and a kente cloth runner on the end. The Dr. was at his desk. He greeted us, and examined Cooper's foot as he sat in the visitor's chair next to the desk. Then he moved to the exam table and the Dr. started to work on him.

Diagnosis: definite infection, possible "Tumbo" bug. We had to ask for a repeat of the tumbo bug thing, and I'm sure I still have the name wrong, but that's what it sounded like. The bad news is the little bugger burrows under the skin and can be seen when the wound is opened, wriggling around. The good news is, Cooper doesn't have one. We don't think.

The Dr. cleaned the area really well and put some xylocaine on it and then messed around with it (while Cooper was a brave teenage soldier) to make sure he didn't see a bug and to get some of the pus out. Then he put disinfectant on it and covered it up and gave us a prescription for amoxycillin (double the dose Dr. Mom had been giving him) and some antibiotic cream to put right on the angry bite spot.

Cooper claims he didn't scratch it. He claims he doesn't remember the bite, just that there are ants all around the school yard. He claims he showed me as soon as it became troublesome. Ah, life with a young teenager. Vague, evasive, and...uh...vague. :-)

So now we wait and watch and heave a sigh of relief that one of us finally tried out medicine in our little corner of the third world and met a terrific Dr. with a good bedside manner and the double benefit of a good education and a local knowledge of Bad Stuff That Can Happen.

Final note: I stopped at the Pharmacy to pick up the two prescriptions and was reminded why I love Africa. Keep It Simple Stupid is the phrase of the day. I showed my prescription to the pharmacist, he said he had the Amoxycillin but not the Antibiotic cream. I said fine, he slapped the Amoxy box on the counter, crossed off the half of the prescription he'd filled and gave the sheet back to me, I paid the lady at the front and left. Entire transaction time: roughly 2 minutes.

To fill a prescription.

And I got the medicine in the original packaging, with the information insert and expiration date right there and the dispensing instructions written in pen on the box- one pill every 12 hours. No muss, no fuss.

Five pharmacies later I got the cream. Same simple procedure, just a little harder to find. :-) And I still have the prescription, with both items crossed off.

I'm putting two little pictures of The Owie here for the curious (and for Grandma and Aunt Judy). They are NOT pretty, so be warned before you click them to make them bigger...