GERRI BOWEN and the unfinished story of her finger

On November 8th I noticed tenderness in the first joint of my index finger. It was nothing new, I have joint pain from time to time, arthritis, so I let it go. But the pain didn’t subside, it grew a little stronger each day. At night the sharp pain and throbbing kept me awake, and when I did fall asleep, it awakened me.

One week later, November 15th, I was babysitting my youngest grandson and instead of reading while he napped, I tried to take a nap. Even my daughter commented that my finger was red and swollen. I still assumed arthritis, because…the month before, it was my left foot that kept me up with sharp pain and throbbing. After x-rays were taken and examined, I was told that it was arthritic damage and to elevate it, not do too much walking and the pain would go away. The pain did go away in my left foot.

OnΒ  September 17th, I googled about my finger and read that if the pain lasts more than four days to consult a doctor. It was a Saturday, and my primary care giver isn’t in on Saturday, so I decided to wait until Monday. Except the pain and swelling grew worse, so I went to a walk in health express that afternoon.

A Staph infection, I was told. When asked, I could not recall cutting my finger, or any injury to my finger. I was told that, since I had a hangnail on my thumb, it was possible I had had a hangnail and the Staph found a way in. Okay. Antibiotics twice a day. Ice or heat might make it more comfortable, I was told. Go to Emergency Room if I saw red streaks.

By this time typing was uncomfortable, and I had no interest in reading, which is very unusual for me. I kept my finger up, which eased the throbbing somewhat.

The next day my finger was worse, part of the nail was grey in color, I felt like crap, and still had no interest in reading. My daughter said it looked like my nail was rising and decided to drive me to the local Emergency Room. I went as I was, very casually dressed, no make-up, and I may or may not have brushed my hair.

Long story short, I was told it wasn’t bad enough to do anything, to go home and continue the antibiotics. They gave me a handout sheet on how to trim my toenails and fingernails.

For pain relief I resorted to Ibuprofen, and found that if I took two, every three hours, I would get one hour of reduced throbbing and dulled pain. Yes, I am aware of blah, blah, blah. It was that or I was going to cut the thing off.

Monday my finger was even more swollen. On Tuesday, the 20th, I saw a neighbor friend who is a nurse. She looked at my finger and said my antibiotics weren’t working. Had anyone swabbed for MRSA? No, no one had. She said to see a doctor, so I called my primary health provider and she saw me that afternoon. She used a needle to prick through and proceeded to push out a lot of pus, some of which she sent off to be cultured. It hurt like the dickens, but after she was through, all the sharp pain and throbbing was gone. Only my finger hurt from all the pushing, but that was a pain I could tolerate.

She changed my antibiotic to one that works for me and told me to come back the next morning. I was instructed to soak my finger four times a day, and she also provided me with dressing, tape and ointment to cover my finger between soakings. She also said to keep it elevated, which I had been doing anyway.

This is my bandaged finger. This is why I can’t type with my right hand with any speed or precision. The bandage tends to fall off when I remove a sweater or coat. Yesterday it fell onto the top of the Rice Krispie treats mixture I was making for grandchildren after their repeated and unrelenting demands.

When I ride in the car with this raised high, I imagine people think I am giving themΒ the finger, or I’m pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and giving a goofy wave.

Wednesday the 21st I returned to my Primary Care Provider, and after she pushed out more pus she said it wasn’t clearing up, the pus wasn’t liquid, it was still too thick, and referred me to an urgent care facility that could deal with this. Was there someone who could drive me? She mentioned the possibility of the facility opening it up, or IV antibiotics or drilling through the nail to relieve the pressure. She was worried I might lose my nail.

I did have a ride and was seen. It is a 45 minute to an hour drive.Β  Three x-rays of my finger. One of the nurses looked at my finger and said a man had been in that morning with the exact same thing, and he didn’t remember hurting his finger either. He was now with infectious diseases. She left while I was processing that. Then a P.A. came in, looked at my finger, asked questions. She took a razor and slit between my nail and cuticle, which, surprisingly, did not hurt at all, and had me soak my finger. After, she asked did I want to push the pus out or did I want her to do it. Instead of answering, I did it. As an aside, I’d rather give birth than have the pushing out of pus done to my finger.

I questioned the nurse again about the man with an infected finger like mine and she said something about gouty arthritis. Okaaay.

The P.A. wanted me to return on Friday, the 23rd. A doctor was brought in to look at my finger because he was to be the doctor on duty that Friday, and this way, he would know if the finger was better, worse, or the same. He told me to soak it in salt water, continue taking the medicine, and keep it elevated.

Friday the 23rd. I see the doctor and he says it looks like it is a little better. He leaves but promises to return. Fine, I found a National Geographic and that will keep me occupied. Nothing about drilling though nail, so I’m good. He returns and asks if I’ve seen infectious diseases yet? No, I replied. Did they get the results of the culture, I ask. He leaves, returned sometime later and reports no one knows anything about my culture. I suggest he call my doctor’s office. Many minutes later he comes in and says the culture was negative. I’m processing the fact that I have an infection, I can’t use my finger, and someone might want to drill through my nail but my culture was negative, and he leaves.

He returns with another doctor, a hand surgeon. They talk together and I interrupted to tell them that in early in September I had a large growth removed from my head which turned out to be a bacterial infection. They look at me and go back to talking together. Hand surgeon guy wants to see me on Monday. I ask if I can see him at the office nearer where I live, and so my appointment is for Wednesday, the 28th. Both doctors seem very happy with this. Hand doctor says by then he’ll have a better idea of what he’ll do, depending on the condition of my finger. Maybe open it up or maybe set up a surgery take off my nail.


I tell him I do not want to lose my nail. He says he took his off last May, and puts his thumb in front of me so I can see how much of his nail has grown back.

I do not want to lose my nail, I repeat.

The pictures below were taken Saturday, the 24th.

So, I am scheduled to go back this Wednesday. We shall see what happens. My finger is still swollen, but not as swollen as it was. I do not feel like myself. I am tired. I have lost 6 1/2 pounds, but that is a good thing.

I regret I am unable to do more at the computer, although 1st and 2nd edits for my Christmas short have come and gone during this time. I am way behind in reading, and owe about five reviews for some really good books. I have to delete most of my emails. I am very glad I do not work outside my home. I am also very thankful for antibiotics.

So, this is the unfinished story of my finger. Until tomorrow!

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29 Responses to GERRI BOWEN and the unfinished story of her finger

  1. Ugh, what a nightmare, Gerri. I wish you the best with this. Don’t worry about typing! If you do lose the nail, well, they regrow. Don’t ask me how I know! πŸ™‚ Good luck, sweetie.

  2. You poor girl…I’d have been stomping about wanting every available doctor looking at it in emergency in the first few days let alone weeks later! I wish you the best.

  3. Scary story! I get hangnails all the time. :^(

  4. Gerri Bowen says:

    Thank you, Mandy. I tend to trust that doctors know what they’re doing, forgetting that they are sometimes infallible, like the rest of us. πŸ™‚

  5. That’s awful, Gerri. Have you been soaking it in saltwater? I too want to know what they find out.

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Thank you. Ella. I was told plain table salt, so that’s what I add. I will do a follow-up blog, but I wanted to get this one out juuuust in case something happened to my finger which might prevent me from typing.

  6. Holy crap, Gerri! You are being soooo patient about this. I’d be a tower of fury.

    Okay, not fair of me to say that. I had an infected toe once, I knew exactly what had caused it, the GP sent me to a podiatrist, who said “ingrown toenail” (even though I’ve never had one in my life) and insisted on cutting off half the nail. Two days later, the infection was worse, so I forced them to prescribe abx, which cleared it right up.

    I hope SO much that tomorrow the doctor takes this seriously and finds a way to figure out what the hell is wrong and how to make you better. Good luck!

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Thank you, Natalie. Yes, I wish I felt they were taking this as seriously as I am. I understand there are guidelines they must follow, and I am sure insurance rules play into this as well. We shall see.

  7. my goodness Gerri. sounds awful. I hope you recover soon.

  8. Forget the nail. You might lose it no matter what they do. It will go back. Get the finger healed first, nails come later in thoughts. Take care sweetie and don’t wait for the doctors to handle everything PUSH PUSH PUSH

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      The only reason I’m worried about losing my nail, other than losing my nail, is that I see that as another, larger site for potential infection. I may be all wrong on that, though. It is very limiting to have a bandage on all the time. Could be worse. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Deborah.

  9. Holy Cow! I am so sorry to hear about this. I have hang nails and cracked skin (especially in the winter) all the darn time. Time to get really firm with these professionals. You have been dealing with this too long – and it hasn’t been all the responsive to traditional treatments.

    Time to state the obvious to these doctors … if you don’t know what this is or why it is happening for so long – send me to someone who can treat this. The nail will come back – don’t worry about that. Now I am worried about the tip of your finger!

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Wo! The tip of my finger? I get the impression that either this isn’t the big deal I think it is and they are humoring me, or they really don’t have the experience in this particular “thing”, and it is outside what they normally treat. Or, they do know but have to abide by certain guidelines.
      Tanks for stopping by, Elaine.

  10. Ann Mullen says:

    You have my sympathy, Gerri. I pricked my finger (small, little place) and it got infected. Two rounds of antibiotics later and a lot of soaking, it finally cleared up. But it was so painful! Makes you wonder how something so small can hurt so badly. Sure is a drag when you need to be able to use a keyboard! I’m sure your finger will get better, so just try to hang in there. One thing I noticed is that after I soaked my finger, and then let it air out a little while before wrapping it in a bandage again, it seemed to help the healing process. Good luck and I hope your finger heals soon.

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      Thank you, Ann. Our skin is the largest organ of the body, and after an encounter with an infection that requires two rounds of antibiotics, I am more appreciative of its strength, yet fragility. Thank you for the good wishes.

  11. I once had infections in the middle and index finger of my left hand at the same time. Lost both fingernails. Nothing hurts worse than an infection in the fingers. A lot of nerves there for feeling.

  12. joskehan says:

    Oh that finger looks really sore Gerri. I do hope they get to the bottom of it soon. It’s funny but just before I saw your blog, I realised my left foot has been sore for a couple of days now…it feels like there is a blister just below my toes and it hurts to walk…but there is no blister. Hope it all goes away as I doubt if I’d be as brave as you are right now. Keep us updated please. Sending big hugs to you. xxx

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      My finger is all better now, Jo. The nail is a little wider on the inside than it was before, but I can live with that. πŸ™‚ Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  13. malanouette says:

    Yikes, Gerri, I hope you’re on the mend.

  14. joskehan says:

    Oh gosh that looks so sore. All the best Gerri and I hope it clears up soon. You are very patient..I would have been demanding answers long before this from the medical people…some of them just don’t seem to know or care.

  15. Janesa says:

    Hey Gerri! I’m curious if they ever found what was causing your infection? I’m experiencing similar issues and have been searching the internet for answers and stumbled across your post. I’m stumped because all my cultures are coming back negative as well. Any answers you could give me would be greatly appreciated. πŸ™‚

    • Gerri Bowen says:

      I think it was one of my cats. She swiped my hand when I was making my bed, and I think I remember that it really hurt because it sliced along my nail and skin. This is the only thing that made sense to me. I hope this helps.

  16. This is now a couple of years past, but I’m going to read this post to my husband – poor man – I was very unhelpful and not sympathetic at all when he had a big blood clot forming under his thumbnail after knocking it accidentally with a 4lb. hammer, and he was in terrible pain. To cut a long story short, he had to get himself to the hospital where a young doctor helped him – he warmed a paperclip (blunt edge rather than a needle) and stabbed it right through the offending finger – immediate relief and nailbed not permanently damaged. So, when I read how long you walked with a throbbing finger, even after such a long time, I cringed!

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