The other day I tiptoed upstairs with my sleeping 14-month-old on my shoulder to lay her in her crib for a nap. I have allowed horrific habits to develop, and am at their mercy until I get up the energy to wean her from needing to "nurse to sleep." In any case, the drop went bad and she awoke with much travail. I settled down to nurse her again, hoping (ha ha ha) the girls would sit tight and work on their schoolwork for a few more minutes. They did not, of course, and shortly Little Artist came up to express concern over her big sister having "something like a nail poked into her knee." Baby was sleeping at this point, so I put her in her crib (successfully) and hurried downstairs, mulling over the unlikelihood that Li'l Artist would confuse "sliver" with "nail" and that this probably wasn't a broken nail, and I hope it doesn't require surgery since health insurance isn't one of my current tools.
Big Sister was crouched low, the holey-knees of her jeans exposing her kneecaps and then some. In one of her knees was... something. "Something like a nail," in fact. I say "something," because while the business end of it (the part poking through her skin and skidding around on the surface of her patella) was very nail-like. The rest of it wasn't, much. It looked like something that might've been attached to the bottom of a table leg. Circular, metal, and protruding from the back side of it were two 'nail-like' appendages, maybe an inch long or more. One of these was decidedly through the skin. I tried gently to pull it out, but it wasn't cooperating, and Big Sister howled a lot at the attempt. I assumed the inserted spike was like the other one (not barbed or anything), but it wasn't acting like it, and I didn't want to cause more trouble by helping. I called my husband at work, and he advised taking her to the local doc that saw Gi-gi last year, and that chided my husband for his lack of "eyebrows." I had the same thought, so I helped her to the van, and plucked the soundly-sleeping (doggone it) Baby from her crib, and loaded the rest up as well. It's only about 2 miles away, so we got there and I walked Big Sister in (yes, she could walk), showed the receptionist, and was called back to the doctor by the time I'd finished filling out the medical history paperwork.
He injected some novocaine (or something), the sight of which, since she wouldn't lay down and doc wouldn't wait, caused her much anguish. By the time I took her face in my hands to assure her the sting would be short-lived, doc had the wicked thing out with a pair of tweezers.
What followed was discussion about tetanus, punctuated with phrases like, "promise you this thing is covered in tetanus" and "guaranteed death sentence" and other gentle, compassionate utterances. I told doc I didn't think she'd had the shot before (later, in reading, I changed my mind, as she did have the 'routine' shots for a few years early in life. I didn't realize tetanus was part of that.), and asked what else was in it. "What else? Nothing else! It's tetanus!" "Well, what is it preserved with?" I don't know that I got an answer, having to check on and/or retrieve the other girls at this point. I asked if there was a 'safe window,' that is, could I look into things, and if I decide to give her the vaccine, would I be able to come the next day.. He said he wasn't terribly sure, tetanus being so rare in America anymore, but he figured that it was likely I'd have a day or two.** I thanked him, and the receptionist said she'd bill us, and we were on our way home.
I'd like to say I knew what to do from that point, but I didn't. I called some friends who are better versed than I in dealing with such things, and they recommended soaking her knee in hydrogen peroxide, really working it in to the spot, bandaging with antibiotic ointment. Doc had already recommended epsom salts, so I thought I'd start with the peroxide.
We did the peroxide, we did the epsom salts, we did the ointment and bandaid and I googled tetanus info. Which wasn't very calming. But I discovered that it's the T in DTAP, and I was fairly certain that sounded familiar from back in the day when I didn't ask so many doggone questions. While getting a new vaccine is a huge, difficult decision with what I know (or rather, what no one seems to know) about vaccines, there's not a lot I can do about one that's already done, and at least I felt I could inform the doc of that. This was a Thursday.
Friday morning came, and with it a puffy, red, painful area around the entry wound. After watching Gi-gi's rapid infection (from a wound far less serious) last year, I didn't want to mess around with this, either. We were still doing epsom salts, and I had her scratch at the spot to try to let in more peroxide (I really wished I could just inject some, not that it's recommended!). I remembered my midwife recommending chewed plantain for Gi-gi's wound (which didn't work, or at least not enough), and I knew I had comfrey growing everywhere I didn't want it. I googled a little more, discovering that comfrey is a great healing agent, but you want to apply it to a clean wound, and not knit the skin together over something infected. Oops. That wasn't going to work. I found some plantain in the grass, and, in lieu of having her chew it (the girl was already balking at the soaking schedule, etc), I tried putting some leaves in the blender with some of her spit. :) I wrapped it on her knee with plastic wrap, simultaneously calling the doctor to see if he recommended antibiotics. He sure did, and told me to go to a pharmacy and have them call him. [My plan was to fill the prescription, but give the herb a chance to work. I didn't want to be caught on a weekend with a serious infection, but wasn't going to give any antibiotics to her just then either.] As it happened, the pharmacy didn't have the right size/dosage of pill, but they were open briefly Saturday morning and they'd have it by then. I told them that was perfect, since I planned to treat her with spit and weeds from the lawn (okay, I wasn't quite that brave) for a day or two anyway.
It didn't change for the better by afternoon, and further research said to let the poultice dry, that the drawing-out would be enhanced. Oops on the plastic wrap. I ditched the blender too, chopping finely on the cutting board and mixing with spit in a bowl (I suppose there might be reason to have her chew and absorb some of the elements that way, but the enzymes would work on the plantain however the spit was introduced. :) When she had to be up and around, I used a bandaid to hold the leaves in place, and also as she slept.
By morning I was quite surprised to see NO sign of infection. It didn't hurt. No redness or swelling. Hubby's second opinion concurred, and not only did I save the cost of the antibiotics, but I got to call and cancel the prescription and say that my organic, backwoods, voodoo-medicine worked! In turn, he assured me he'd hold the prescription on the shelf for me "in case" I needed it early in the week. :)
We didn't need it, and the knee is healing nicely. I DID take a picture on my cellphone, but I don't know how to get it from there to here. You really didn't want to see it anyway.