Black Swan Health Event

The most curious thing happened to me recently: one moment I was striding happily along, fit and healthy, the next I had been struck down by a fierce infection and was in hospital having intravenous injections of antibiotics three times a day to save my life. My blood was also being tested for the flesh eating disease, necrotizing fasciitis! Here’s how it happened to me, reported only in case a similar episode occurs in your life or that of a family member or close friend, so you know what to look out for and how to react.

First thing Tuesday morning, light gym workout, feeling fine. Lunch with old friend, not feeling quite up to par, but nothing too serious. Head off to afternoon engagement by MTR. By the time I arrived at Mongkok station, feeling feverish, headache (I never get these) and nausea, fellow traveler so anxious she started to give me tissues in case I began to throw up. Made it to event venue but by now feeling so poorly unable to take part and instead find couch to lie down. Collected by wife and driver in own car, driven home, bed for 24 hours. Wake up Wednesday evening, something clearly wrong with left leg which has gained a pink collar just above the ankle. Thursday to the GP, long time friend, immediately diagnoses problem (correctly) and prescribes antibiotics. Take medicine Thursday and Friday but situation spirals out of control. Leg now bright red up to knee height with purple patches, back to doctor Saturday morning. The infection has run ahead of the antibiotics, only way forward is hospital admission.

At this point Hong Kong’s fabulous public health system kicks in: walk in to Accident & Emergency department of Queen Mary Hospital, registered and triaged within 5 minutes, being examined by experienced doctor within half an hour, immediate admission organized. A couple of hours later, I am in bed, blood having been taken for testing (negative thank goodness) and on a drip to pump powerful antibiotics through my system. Five days later the infection has been brought under control and I can be released to continue treatment orally at home.

Moral: if anything like this starts for you or someone you love, don’t delay thinking it’s just flu and will pass. Get in front of a doctor right away.