Cellulitis (what’s that?) — not mumps!

 

So… a week ago we arrive back in Wiltshire from Diana’s choir trip to Paris and Chartres, very happy and relaxed after a jolly and sunny long weekend.  Then, on Tuesday morning, I wake up with a thumping head, forehead hot and sore to the touch, and all the glands in my neck swollen.  Ooer.  Diana, bless her, wafts me up to London, rings the doctor’s surgery, and takes an executive decision that I am not going anywhere.  She rings my boss – who leaps in her car on holiday in Norfolk to whizz back and take over my evening work – and rings the people with whom I was due to be rehearsing.

The GP (not one of ‘my’ usual ones) makes a thorough investigation and is slightly puzzled but concludes the most likely diagnosis is mumps, perhaps exacerbated by Parisian sunburn.  Rare in an adult, but there you are – we’re too old to have had the MMR vaccine, and I can’t be sure if I did have the disease as a child (when I was quite small I had an odd swollen gland which the doctor thought might be ‘a mump’).  She sends me off with some antibiotics ‘just in case there is some infection’ and advises paracetamol to cool things down as necessary.  So I retire to bed, feeling sore, hot and woolly but over the next couple of days gradually feeling better. 

Judi (my boss at work), bless her, organises to cover all my work for at least a week, since mumps can be very contagious.  Similarly the people with whom I was due to play in a concert on Sunday decide that mumps is not a good thing to bring to an old people’s home so it’s better if I don’t play;  they manage to find someone else – not easy when you’re a trio!

All well and good.  By Thursday afternoon I am sitting downstairs doing paperwork and eating heartily;  all looks set fair for a speedy recovery.

Then, after a deep and peaceful night’s sleep, I wake on Friday with an odd sensation.  feeling my face, I discover that the whole left side of my forehead and top of my head have swollen up like the Elephant Man (it feels worse than it looks) and my left eyelid is drooping.  (Not surprisingly no one thought to take a photo at this juncture!) 

At 7 a.m. I am panicking.  Diana, bless her again, bundles me into some clothes and her car and whizzes me off to the Accident and Emergency Department at Lewisham Hospital.  By the time we arrive I am feeling something of a fraud as the swelling seems to be going down.  However, my case is taken totally seriously and I am put in a side room where I am thoroughly investigated, first by a bright young doctor named John for whom no praise can be too high, then by his equally bright and improbably glamorous young boss, then by a more senior doctor, and finally by a couple of lads from Dermatology (who shine a blue light in my armpits… don’t ask).

There is much muttering and shaking of heads.  The eventual consensus is that it probably not mumps but an infection under the skin, and I am put on an intravenous antibiotic drip (young Dr John having neatly inserted a tap – or ‘cannula’ – in my hand).  After more mutterings it is decided to move me into the main Lewisham Hospital, where I am installed in a side room in case it is mumps after all and I am infectious.  There I receive luxurious attention, blood pressure, pulse and temperature checks every couple of hours, and several more antibiotic shots into my arm.  The food is jolly good too. 

Diana is a tower of strength, forsaking her own cares and responsibilities to look after me at every step and pop home for pyjamas and toiletries, clothes, books and treats, and keep me entertained with reading and word games and her inimitable company.

At 5 pm an avuncular senior doctor comes to see me on his rounds.  We have a nice chat about opera and what I do for a living!  Not much the wiser about what might be wrong with me, though.  The consensus is that I need to have 48 hours of intravenous antibiotics to chase away the infection, whatever it is.  As it’s in my head and face, it’s vital to stamp it out before it can infect eyes, ears, brain or anywhere else on the body including testicles (ouch).

And so it goes on through Friday night and Saturday morning, but the Microbiology results come through and it’s definitely not mumps, so I am moved into a communal room (4 beds) with some sad characters much worse off than myself.  On Saturday afternoon I feel well enough for Diana to take me out into the lovely riverside park at Ladywell Fields, to sit in the sun and even enjoy a coffee in the blissful sunshine.

It transpires that what I have is cellulitis, which I had never even heard of. 

Googling articles and pictures I now discover that it can be a horrible disease with nasty effects and I am very lucky (a) that it didn’t affect eyes or ears and (b) that it was firmly zapped so quickly.  And it has nothing to do with fat bottoms.  And it can affect cats and dogs and horses and chickens too.

Finally at Sunday lunchtime, word comes through that I have finished my 48 hours of intravenous antibiotics and can go home with a course of pills to take.  I am given a ‘discharge notice’, Diana brings the car and here I am – feeling absolutely fine and having lost a week of my life but possibly having been saved from an unimaginably horrible fate.

Immense thanks to the A & E staff – especially young ‘Dr John’ – for taking me on and sorting me out when they obviously had a thousand more ghastly cases to attend to.  And to all the sweet and attentive nurses and staff in Chestnut Ward for looking after me so well.

And to the NHS for existing, and providing all this wonderful care for absolutely nothing (well, apart from Diana’s parking and telephone charges – but that’s another story or two).

And to Judi for insisting that my recovery was more important than trying to turn out for work.

And above all to Diana, without whom… who knows what would have happened?  Bless you my darling xxx

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