Discussions By Condition: Medical Errors

Misdiagnosed cellulitis led to surgery

Posted In: Medical Errors 0 Replies
  • Posted By: Anonymous
  • February 3, 2007
  • 11:53 PM

About 7 and a half years ago, I had cellulitis in my foot/ankle/leg that was misdiagnosed and eventually I had to have surgery. Here's the story from the beginning: I was 15 years old and was about to start an instense figure skating program that would last all summer. I have bony, narrow feet and very small arches (not sure if this directly affected me) and my skates had caused many blisters on my feet, especially on my heels and arches. On the fourth day of skating camp, we were doing a jumping clinic and I suddenly felt a burning pain in my left foot/ankle so I got off the ice and took off my skates. I had 2 or 3 blisters on the arch of the foot and the whole area, up to my ankle, was red and swollen. I couldn't put any pressure on that foot and even with it elevated the pain was burning and unbearable. I waited what felt like an eternity for my mom to pick me up from the rink and take me to the doctor.

The doctor checked out my foot and gave me an ace bandage and crutches. We questioned this, but he said it should start feeling better in a few days. I honestly don't even remember what he said was wrong. My mom might know but she's not here while I'm typing this.

A few nights later I was in so much pain, I couldn't sleep, my mom was in my room with me, and I couldn't take it anymore, I had to take the ace bandage off. Unfortunately it wasn't the wrap-around kind but instead it was one of those tight pull-on bandages. I ripped it off, SCREAMING and threw it across the room. Relieving the pressure made it more bearable and I fell asleep. The next morning I woke up and my whole ankle was PURPLE and red and swollen. It looked like there was a ping pong or tennis ball in place of my ankle. The redness was also creeping up my shins and almost past my knees. We called my pediatrician (NOT the doc I had seen the day before) and he said to bring me in.

We got to his office and I couldn't even get out of the car. He came out to the car and took one look at me and said, "Bring her to the emergency room NOW." I was admitted to the hospital and given antibiotics and best of all PAIN meds. I was told I had cellulitis caused by a staph infection. The antibiotics didn't clear up the infection, so they decided to aspirate. That was not only painful but unsuccessful. The infection was still thriving. Finally they had to do surgery. They put me under anesthesia and surgically removed the infection. I was in the hospital for a few more days (I think I was there for about a week altogether).

I had to do physical therapy at the hospital and then as an outpatient for the next few weeks. I was on crutches for the rest of the summer. You could see how much thinner my left leg was because I hadn't been working the muscles in it. When I went in for my follow-up appointment, the doctor said the scar tissue was attaching itself to my ankle bone and I had to massage it every day to fix that and avoid it from happening again. (I don't know why they didn't tell me that when they discharged me from the hospital...)

I still have to massage the scar once in a while and my ankle hurts when I walk for a long time, especially outside or in cool/rainy weather. I'm lucky to be alive, thanks to my pediatrician who I really believe saved my life that day. I know that this could have been a lot worse, it was heading in that direction, with irreparable damage. And I am GRATEFUL I had a good outcome. But most of it could have been avoided if it had been diagnosed correctly the first time!

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