Monday, February 18, 2013

Why I don't wear earrings any more.

I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time, but kept putting it off for fear of alienating some extremely talented jewelry designers I know online.  Well, my designer friends, I still think the world of your talents.  But I almost ended up permanently disfigured by a pair of pierced earrings.

About seven years ago, I was having a garage sale.  I was handling germ-laden cash.  And a peculiar customer brought his pet bird into my garage and I let the bird perch on my finger.  Not sure whether I picked up some germ from the cash or the bird.  But as the day wore on, I was getting tired and I took my earrings off and massaged my earlobes.  And bad things happened. 

Later that night, my ear lobes were sore.  The next morning, they were red and slightly swollen.  By nightfall, they were beginning to throb and ache.  The next morning, they were very red and hot to the touch.  And part of my face was now swollen.  I made an emergency trip to my doctor, who informed me that I had cellulitis, which is typically caused by a staph or strep infection.  I had trouble listening to him after he used the phrase, "flesh-eating bacteria."  But I remember that I needed a daily antibiotic as well as a shot injected with a needle the size of a freaking harpoon every 48 hours.  And with our fingers crossed, just maybe I would not have to be hospitalized.  (Did he say hospitalized?!) These proceedings went on for a week and towards the end, my doctor said it was "touch and go" for awhile.  If it had spread further into my face, he said, I could have been permanently disfigured.  If it had reached my brain, I could have had meningitis.  And meningitis can be fatal.

Okay, enough drama.  The antibiotics worked and I was fine within ten days.  I became more diligent with cleaning my earrings and my pierced ear lobes, but to be perfectly honest, I'm something of a germaphobe, so I was already good about ear lobe and earring hygiene.

Fast forward a year.  Despite my diligence, I got another bout of cellulitis in one ear lobe.  It was the weekend and my doctor's office was closed, so I went to an immediate care walk-in clinic, told the doctor on staff that I had had this before and what I thought it was, he agreed, gave me a shot and I started the antibiotics on the spot.  I only needed one shot and yet I got well faster than I did last time.

But now I'm wondering, who else goes through this?  My doctor knew immediately what it was.  He had seen it before.  It is not uncommon.  Apparently anyone with a body piercing or tattoo is at risk.  Why aren't people talking about it more?

Hence this blog post.  I hope I can stop at least one person from going through what I went through.  Google the word cellulitis.  Look at the nasty pictures.  And then please do what you can to keep any broken skin very clean.  If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.  I am in good health and don't have any known risk factors for this condition.  And after what I have been through, I will never wear earrings again or get any kind of piercing or tattoo.  It's just not worth it.

Update:  this post gets a large number of hits, so I am guessing that a lot of people are going through symptoms of cellulitis at the site of a piercing and wondering what it is.  People, I beg you, go see a doctor.  Don't let my comment about the harpoon-sized needle make you hesitate.  You can deal with the needle far better than you can deal with permanent face disfigurement or death from meningitis.  The sooner you go, the sooner you will get well.  Don't end up in the hospital just because you hope it will go away on its own.

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