Posted by: monsonmadness | October 4, 2012

Abscess draining

If you get light headed or queasy with medical things, do not read this post. It’s pretty gross.

As you know, infections are common here in American Samoa. With the climate and all of the bug bites, you have to be really careful to take care of yourself. Children here have scars all over their legs from mosquito bites that get infected.

When we came here we brought about ten tubes of high strength antibiotic cream with us, and we use it several times a week. Most of the time, we are able to avoid serious infections by using good hygiene and keeping the bite/cut clean and covered in antibiotic.  Take this photo of Emma’s toe for example which got infected a couple of weeks ago. She was limping around for a couple of days in pain, poor kid. We were able to drain and treat it and within a few days, she was back to normal.

We are used to this, and don’t get grossed about it about any more. That is, until this week.

As you know, Michael is “off-island” and I am on my own. Mary had a bug bite on her forearm and scratched it. It started to get a little red, so I did the usual antibiotic cream, thinking it would go away in a couple of days. It didn’t.

On Monday night the redness was starting to spread, it was about an inch all around the bite, and the bite was starting to look green. She had a fever of 99 when I put her to bed that night, and I knew I probably needed to take her in to the doctors for antibiotics the next day.

Mary woke up in the night with a fever of 102 and I gave her Tylenol. In the morning, her fever was 104. If Michael were here, he would have given her a father’s blessing. She was very distraught and upset so I called the Senior Missionaries who live next door and asked if they could come and give Mary a blessing. That was a huge comfort (to me mostly!)

By now the redness was hard all around, and had spread to cover about 4 inches of her little arm. She couldn’t move it, or have anything touch it. I was started to get really worried. I got an appointment and drove down to the hospital. The pediatrician wasn’t sure if it was a Staph infection or some other kind of infection, but because of her high fever, he wanted to treat for both, so gave her two antibiotics. All in all, in wasn’t a bad day at the hospital. We only had to wait about an hour at the doctors, the pain in the neck was the two hour wait at the pharmacy in 90 degree heat with a bunch of very bored children. Urgh!

Came home feeling pretty good about things, and got her started on the antibiotics. I knew it might take another day or two before she really started feeling better, but we were on the right track.

Wrong! Mary was very protective of her arm and wouldn’t let me go anywhere near it all day. At night when I gave her the antibiotics and went to change the dressing, I was horrified to see how much worse her arm was. It was bright red and severely swollen, she couldn’t even move it. I knew that it was an abscess and that it needed to be drained.

In normal circumstances, this is a minor surgical procedure that would be done in a professional medical office or hospital. Well, i was on my own and had to take matters into my own hands, so with a sterilized needle, alcohol, and lots of tissues, I went to work. As you can imagine, 3 year old Mary was hysterical and was flailing all over the place. I felt so sorry for her, but she was in absolute agony and I knew this had to be done.

I knew it was going to be gross, but I had NO IDEA the amount of pus that would come out (told you it would be graphic), I was actually so shocked at how much and how fast it came out that I screamed! I would have to guess that there was at least 1/2 cup that came out of her small arm which had been so hard and swollen.

The pain relief was almost instant. I felt relieved and grateful. I was still in a little bit of shock at what I had just done, not to mention the small hole that was left in her arm.

For those of you who are super gory and interested in this kind of thing, here is a video of an abscess in the arm being cut and drained. This is pretty much exactly what it looked like when I did Mary, but with not as much drainage.

Today, the fever is gone, and the redness is only about 1/2 inch around the hole. Hopefully it will all be cleared up by the antibiotics in the next few days, but she is already moving her arm around and is much happier. So grateful for medicines. I keep thinking many years ago people used to die from these kind of infections. We are so blessed to be living at this time when we have so many modern medicines to bless and extend our lives. We have so much to be thankful for.



  1. Wow! You are one brave woman Helen! I watched that video you linked to. I got through about half of it when I had to stop it. Ugh, so gross. Did you notice any of the background noises? I heard a child screaming (in a hospital, kinda scary), and a woman retching. Lovely. I guess I am morbidly curious about bodily fluids. I should’ve been a doctor. I’m so sorry little Mary had to go through that. Glad things are getting better though!

  2. That poor girl. That is so sad. I’m glad everything is going to be ok. I only was able to watch about 15 seconds of that video!! So gross!!! I remember helping you hold down Hannah to give her some antibiotics that she hated! Modern medicine is wonderful!

  3. What an amazing mom you are. So, when Michael returns will you be going “off-island” for a bit?

  4. Way to go Helen! I am so impressed.

  5. Poor Mary. I had something similar a few months ago. It was pretty painful. It wasn’t as bad as Mary’s, though.

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