Sunday, August 28, 2011

Resolution (somewhat) on the whole infection drama

So-- yesterday I (finally) received a call from the hospital about my cultures.

So it was staphylococcus Auereus but it wasn't methicillin-resistant. (It is not MRSA.)

This is GREAT news as the odds that the "Mangine Family Decolonizing" (or the MFD as I like to call it for short), are more likely to work.

I am headed back home tomorrow (Monday). The infection is currently gone, but the wound is still there. A few more days of wound care should do it once I get back.

I am so thankful for all the people who have really rallied around our family during this--
Jen Halverson, the Heartline folks, Kevin and Nikki Gainey, Brian Williams, the Stoners, DARLA GALLENTINE, Mary McClear, Cindy Brown, Deena Gilliam, Pam Markley... the list goes on and on. As always, the Crosspointe community took care of me. And while I missed my husband and kids like crazy-cakes, it was so good to be just engulfed by my Crosspointe family.

Thank you all for loving us well.

Friday, August 26, 2011

staph stuff-- don't worry... no photos

Anyone who has been following the blog for a while knows that we've had quite a run of staph in our house for over a year. It started when Yves came in with it in 2010 and since then so has Prisca, Sanndi, Felecia, Anndavid (who no longer works with us), Nia, Josiah, Hugues, and yours truly.

I have personally had a staph infection (manifesting itself as an abscess or boil) five times this past year. Yves has had probably the same number. Hugues had it twice. So it would APPEAR that at least some of us are colonized with it. I think the statistic I read said that about 20% of people are colonized with staph-- essentially meaning that they (we?) are carriers for it.

Normally that's not a problem, but given the right wound, scratch, clogged pore, pimple, ingrown hair-- anything really-- and a weakened immune system... well, you might have a problem on your hands.

So how did I get this particular infection?

I have a guess.

The first time I had staph in my pit was shortly after starting to use a new "clinical strength" deodorant. (Dude, have I mentioned that Haiti is HOT???) It was always really hard to rub on/wash off and about a week later I had the lump in my pit. I think the deodorant clogged the pores in my pit and then got infected. This one drained on it's own. I took antibiotics-- no prob. Fast forward several weeks later-- I likely was still using the same razor when not one but two bumps started forming in my pit. (Don't judge how long I use a razor-- they are Venus and can last a long time.) One boil hurt (like crazy). One didn't. The one that did ballooned up HUGE-- growing to 5 times its size over a 24 hour period.

So, there are two possible theories--
Theory one is that it's the same strain of staph that is in our house which is NOT mrsa. (At least when Josiah was cultured that's what it said.) Coming off of two months of really turbulent and emotional situations with one of our kids + traveling, etc... probably weakened my immunity making the infection really grab hold.

Theory two is that this was not the same strain (because it didn't act like any of the other infections we've had in our house to date). We've been told that this is probably the more likely scenario as this infection acted like a mrsa.

Now, since we are talking US medicine, that *should* be easy enough to find out. Cultures can tell us which bacteria are present. HOWEVER, by the time I reached the states for said cultures to be done, it was after 48+ hours of IV antibiotics. So, last I heard, the cultures have not grown anything. (They then repeated later in the week when they drained another pocket.) So, we might not get an answer as to what the actual bug was. The good news is that we know what meds work and I will be taking some back with me... JUST in case.

We are having a big decolonizing "party" when I get home-- scrubbing everyone with surgical cleanser and bactrobanning them in their noses. Bleach, lovely bleach, for all the sheets, towels, floors, sinks, doorknobs, toilets, showers, dishes... I am even thinking of running a water/bleach rag over our mattresses and sunning them.

Words cannot describe how nasty staph is. I have hit my limit and I want it out!

Would you pray that we could get this nasty bacteria under control in our home???

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

update on "the wound"

Things are good. I went back into UNC yesterday and they did an ultrasound and found another pocket that they had to drain. Then they irrigated/packed me back up and sent me on my way. I don't have to go back there at all unless things go in a bad direction.

So, here's the thing. I am not done with this little saga. I have to go everyday for a week-10 days to have "the wound" unpacked and repacked. I don't love that process but I have a great doctor friend helping me with this part and she's very gentle. That (obviously) means that I won't be able to get home for at least another week. I am so tired and worn out that is okay with me. (At least it is for me today... check with me again tomorrow.) Nick has to head home and while I am going to miss him to pieces, I am so glad he's going to get back to the kids. Believe it or not, this has been really nice time for Nick and I. I mean yeah, I've been in a lot of pain and have had no energy. But I've gotten to chill with the Nick-ster. He's taken good care of me and it's been nice to have him to myself. Silver lining.

Things are fine in Jacmel-- the hurricane was more or less a non-issue there. Looks like it will not be the same story for the Bahamas/the Carolinas. The kids are mostly doing great. Jean Louis is pretty sick, but he's been to the doctor and is getting the labs/meds he needs. (Still I am glad that Nick would be back tomorrow to oversee that.)

Did you hear that there was an earthquake in Virginia today? Apparently a bunch of people in the Triangle felt it. I, thankfully, did not. Crazy times, eh?

Okay, gonna go. I feel a nap coming on.

PS--I never know what to call "the wound." I am thinking of naming it. Any suggestions as to what I should name it?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The NEXT update + the pancake machine.

First, thanks for so much encouragement and help with everything. I am feeling so loved.

Here's the deal. I am headed back tomorrow morning for them to asess the healing progress with my cavern wound. I am feeling a lot better. A lot. (No fever. No nausea. No puking. Less pain.) But in my (albeit untrained) opinion, it doesn't look like the size of the infection is getting smaller. Maybe that's not a big deal at this point, but it would be nice if that could start getting better soon too, eh? Would you pray for that?

After this appointment tomorrow, we will be able to tell a bit more about next steps. Looks like I will be here for a bit doing cavern wound care stuff here. Nick was going to go home on Tuesday. However, there's a pesky little hurricane that looks like it would make that tough. Come ON Irene! So we're thinking Wednesday.

N'ap wè. (We'll see.)

In an unrelated-to-staph or my cavern wound topic. The hotel where we're staying has an EXCELLENT continental breakfast including a machine that makes its pancakes for you. Like literally you push a button and it pushes out pancakes. INSANE.

I am going to make a video of it working tomorrow to show my kids. Perhaps, if you ask nicely, I will share it with you too. I cannot imagine the Haitian reaction to an automatic pancake making machine. You can read about it here. You might want to buy one because it's ONLY $3,500.

Holy smokes. I think I have now seen it all.

the update.

In the states. Arrived at RDU at about 10:40PM and headed to UNC Hospital ER.

Jen had provided a really great biography of what had been done so that I didn't have to stumble through it all trying to remember details. Did the ER thing. Triage, nurse, resident, resident talks to attending, resident comes back... blah, blah, blah.

So here's the deal--

Today (during my non-puke-episode flights) the red mark around the infection shrunk a bit. I also was not feeling nauseous and was doing pretty good with the pain as long as I remembered to take my meds on time.

The great news is that because the infection appears to be "going in the right direction" I am NOT going to be admitted. I am SO THANKFUL for this-- for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that we don't have health insurance and that was really weighing on my mind.

The bad news is that when they cleaned/unpacked/cleaned/irrigated/repacked it tonight, it was THE WORST PAIN of my life. It was SO awful. She used lidocane but didn't really wait for it to settle in. It was horrible. I thought I was going to hit her. SO BAD. But that's not the bad news. The bad news is that I have to go back to the hospital EVERY 24-48 hours to have that exact same thing done to me. Seriously. The worst pain of my life, every 24-48 hours.

Nick and I are checked into a hotel (yes, we just got checked in after 3AM). Nick is out buying my prescriptions (they changed up my meds and may do so again after the cultures come back), and then we are GOING TO SLEEP. Like for serious sleep. We went ahead and booked 2 nights so that we don't even have to wake up tomorrow if we don't want to. (I don't have to go back to the hospital until Monday morning, since it's technically Sunday already although it feels like Saturday because I haven't gone to bed yet...) But we may want to wake up because we're like a block from a waffle house. So, really, that's enough to wake up for at least a half an hour for, right?

I also might pick up a few t-shirts as I looked at my clothes I hurriedly packed as I was headed out the door to Port three days ago-- I have lots of underwear. And a couple tank tops. And a towel and a sheet. ??? Nick had Hugues throw some clothes in a bag for him and have them sent to Port this morning and he ended up with bathing suits instead of shorts.

Or maybe we will just stay all awkward and missionary-like. Who knows? Since this isn't a vakay and we shouldn't be here TOO long it doesn't really matter, now does it?

Well, maybe it matters to me a little bit. But that's just because I am vain like that.

Ok. Vicodin rambling at 3:44AM. (Egads! That's the same time I wrote the post last night!... Weird.)

Okay, really going to bed now.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

leaving on a jet plane.

So, made the call tonight to head back to the states tomorrow. (Saturday)

Not what I want to do, but the doctor who is helping us here, Dokte Jen, whom we love and trust implicitly, says it's time. She says we will be scolded for not seeking treatment sooner as it is. Awesome. Looking forward to that. I will probably just cry and tell them to shut the crap up. Because that's what I seem to do when scolded lately.

We thought I was going to have to come back by myself as flight availability was a problem. The thought of being separated from Nick (AGAIN!) made me extremely weepy. But at the 11th hour (actually 2 AMish), miraculously 2 tickets showed up next to each other with the perfect timing for us. SO thankful for this. They were business class too, which, (while we paid an arm and a leg) works out really well with me traveling while puking every 10 seconds. I can't say for sure, but I am PRETTY certain that the other travelers in business class are going to be SUPER glad they paid a lot to sit next to the likes of me.

Nick will get me settled in NC and then come back to Haiti rather quickly as we have this situation going on where we have 12 kids... (how did THAT happen?!?!?)

A few specific prayer requests:
  • for the infection to clear up
  • travel ease tomorrow. I've been pretty sick, so I don't imagine this will be great.
  • easy diagnosis at the hospital
  • financial provision (we have no health insurance, so I am hoping they skimp on the $10/pill Tylonel)
  • our house (in Haiti) to run a few more days in our absence
This trip is all very last minute and thrown together. (Like Nick has NO extra clothes with him and has been wearing this set of clothes for the last 3 days.) But we're headed to America, the land of 24 hour Super Walmart. New jeans, boxers, and t-shirts are just there for the buying at any ole time.

We will try to keep you in the loop.

And just to expand on Nick's recent blog post, it's not that I don't *want* to be blogging lately-- it's just that everything comes out as a whine, and so I don't post it. Because yeah, who wants to listen to someone whine all the time? Not me.

So I will try to throw some awesome jokes and lovely photos in too in the midst of all my whining in the next few days. Because I ASSURE YOU, there WILL be whining.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Current Affairs - From Nick

It's a funny thing, the more things get bad, the less I tend to write. That, combined with a healthy dose of self-deprecation, makes me look humble without actually admitting any faults or struggles. I think Gwenn is similar. It's not that we're intentional in this way, but I'm afraid that it happens far too often. And if you haven't noticed, neither of us have been writing very much lately.

Gwenn and I are together (which is a rarity), but we're in PAP (which means our family is still not together). We had talked about us getting away for a few days as the end of our time apart but this was not the plan.

Shortly before I returned to Haiti with Nia, Nico, and Josiah, Gwenn got a staph infection in her armpit. Staph is not new in our home—Yves started it, Prisca, Nia, Josiah, Sanndy and others have had it. While in the states I picked up some Hibiclense to attempt to rid our house of all all staph for good. But this infection turned out to be different. In addition to a boil, on Wednesday night, Gwenn contracted a secondary infection. The redness on her skin around the boil grew from the size of a orange to the size of a basketball in a matter of 24 hours. Her temperature started rising and we began to go down the list of medical options for her care. We ended up traveling to PAP Thursday morning and seeing a doctor to figure out what to do.

Dr. Jen immediately started IV antibiotics. By evening we had decided to open up the abscess (Gwenn is all about pain with a purpose, as she calls it) and clean it out. She got lucky and found the cavity while injecting a local anesthetic which made the procedure simpler. But simpler is a relative term. As Jen cleaned out the infection she (skip this next sentence if you don't like the thought of blood) had her instruments up 4” inches inside the incision before she reached the end of the infection. Packed and IV-ed up, we headed back to the Heartline guesthouse here in PAP to recover.

It's been a day since then, but we still aren't out of the woods yet. The redness has stayed about the same (indicating the infection hasn't gone down), Gwenn's fever is now going back up. So she's still sick, but she's also dealing with the pain of a giant hole in her side and nausea from the medicine she's getting via IV every six hours—it's pretty pathetic. I wish I could take parts (if not all) of it away from her.

So here comes the true humility. We're not doing well right now. It's been over six weeks since our family has been together and healthy. It's been over a month since Gwenn and I have been together and healthy. All that separation was because Gwenn and I decided to split our furlough and not leave the family alone. But now, with Gwenn sick and me attending to her, that's exactly what we've done. This infection that Gwenn has is serious. And while I have no doubt that things will be OK for her, it's still scary to think about how it all could have turned out if we had made a few different decisions. I could go on.

I'm reminded of how fragile our lives are and how out-of-control we all are (we can't even make our own hearts beat). I'm reminded of how crucial our psychological health is. I don't think it's a coincidence that this infection came on the heals of 3 weeks of single handedly running a home with twelve kids (and five staff). And I'm reminded of how important other people are in our lives. So if you haven't heard from us lately, it's not because we don't need you. We do. Please pray for us.


  • For the infection to be killed by the antibiotics

  • For the Nausea to go away

  • For the pain to subside

  • For wisdom (for us and Jen) as we navigate the medical options

  • And that we can all be back together soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On a moto, episode 4, DIY gas tank

Haiti has the REUSE part of the Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. thing down.

And who knows what the gas tank might be next... a cooking oil gallon again? A urinal? A "clean water" carrying jug?

Only time will tell.