Tiny Scratch Can Lead to Amputation — Almost
Infections can take hold quickly and require rapid response.
Scratches, abrasions, splinters and small cuts are daily pains we suffer on jobs. When I was young these injuries usually healed within a day but since I hit about 45, the healing time has slowed — and keeps getting slower as I get closer to senior citizen status. I keep a patch kit in my tool belt — adhesive bandages, topical antibiotic and first-aid tape. As soon as I get a skin break due to a slight cut or splinter I tape it up. If I don’t take quick action the wound will likely get infected in a few hours.
I pulled out a 1/4-in. wood splinter out of my left index finger in July, taped it up and all seemed fine when I showered in the evening so I didn’t rebandage before going to bed. The next morning I could see the puncture spot was getting red, so I taped it up again with topical antibiotic. The following night I woke up at 2 am to a swollen throbbing finger, and knew it was bad. I called my doctor’s office as soon as they opened and stopped in for a 9 am appointment. My PCP took one look at my finger and sent me to the urgent care center in the same building for an antibiotic infusion. The urgent care doctor commented that had I waited another day I would have been at risk for more invasive treatment and a lengthy recovery.
This wasn’t the first time a tiny cut or splinter on a hand has almost cost me a finger, but it always amazes me how fast an infection can take hold. The infusion was followed by eight days of twice-a-day oral antibiotic. The infection took another couple weeks to finally fade and the swelling to go down.