In which I nearly kill Fred

Last week, Fred triumphed in a marital victory of epic proportions. On Wednesday morning, he pointed out to me a red spot on his waist, just at the top of the thigh bone, about an inch or so across.

“I think I need to go to the doctor about this,” he said. “It looks like it’s getting infected, and I think my lymph nodes are swollen.”

I peered at the spot. “Oh for heaven’s sake,” I scoffed. “It’s just an infected mosquito bite. That’s why your lymph glands are swollen. They swell up even for regular mosquito bites. If it starts to spread go to the doctor.”

“Are you sure?” Fred said.

I rolled my eyes and made the sort of face you might make at a small child pestering you to fix a scratched finger. “Of course I’m sure. You’ll be fine.” I am always sure, since I am always right.

That was the end of the story, I figured–except, of course, for getting a good laugh out of it with my female colleagues at work. What big babies men are! we said. Running to the doctor over a little infected mosquito bite! HAHAHAHAHA!

That night, as we were getting into bed, I said smugly to Fred, “I take it your bite hasn’t gotten any worse?”

“It still itches,” he replied, “but I haven’t checked it since this morning.”

“Let’s take a look at it then.” I figured we might as well put an end to this.

Fred pulled down his waistband. “It looks like it might be a little redder,” he said.

In that moment it dawned on me that Fred is no baby. The spot was not “a little redder.” It had grown about a half inch in diameter and turned a fiery scarlet. Worse, a pinkish swelling, about a foot or more across, had spread across his groin, waist, and thigh.

In that moment I remembered the inch-long splinter Fred had left in his thigh for over a month, which got infected and which he treated only when I made him go to the doctor.

“I guess I should go to the doctor tomorrow,” he said.

“No you will not! We are going to the emergency room right now!”

We’d recently had a friend hospitalized for just this sort of thing–a rapidly spreading redness on this skin that quickly developed into a nasty MRSA infection (a superbug that is resistant to multiple antibiotics). Fred, it turns out, had the same thing that set off our friend’s MRSA infection–cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin that can spread rapidly. The bite, which Fred later revealed had been there for a couple of weeks and had been growing steadily worse, probably came from a spider.

We were lucky to get  in and out of the emergency room in a little over three hours. I felt terrible for dismissing Fred’s worries earlier. I felt even worse thinking about the bill we would get for the emergency room visit. I felt still worse thinking that if I’d listened to Fred, we would be out only a $30 co-pay for a visit to urgent care and would not be sitting in Duke’s emergency room at 2:00 a.m.

As the doctor was writing out the prescription for some powerful antibiotics, I tried to think of something that would get me out of a lifetime of groveling, that might somehow indicate that I had not pooh-poohed Fred’s troubles in vain.

“So if we didn’t treat this,” I offered, timidly, “would it just resolve itself? I mean, is this the sort of thing that might clear up without going to the doctor?”

The doctor looked up from his paperwork. “Oh no,” he replied cheerily. Clearly, he was on Fred’s side. “He would die. The infection would get into his bloodstream and become septic. That’s why antibiotics were such an important development. This used to kill people all the time!”

Happy to have set our minds at rest, he handed us his paperwork and breezed out of the room.

Fred is recovering well, and he is too kind to gloat. But let’s just say he’s getting fed very well these days. I had intended to post a recipe for the lamb dish I made for him the next night, but frankly it didn’t turn out very well. But there will be plenty more, since I will be paying for this for the rest of our life together. And since I’m awfully glad he’s here.

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