It all started with the leather-topped shoes he picked out last year. He wore them for about eight months before he started complaining that they were hurting his toes. About four months ago, he showed me his toes.
They were swollen and looked like they were full of pus. I told him after his next shower, to squeeze the pus out of them and we dabbed them with a little alcohol.
That seemed to help and I didn’t give his toes a second thought for several more weeks.
And then, he showed me his toes again.
They were worse, MUCH worse.
Kevin and I decided that he needed to see a doctor. So we took him to the family walk-in clinic. The doctor didn’t do much for him, in fact, she didn’t do anything for him. She said that he obviously had some sort of fungus and prescribed some antibiotic with a recommendation for him to see a podiatrist.
This was back in May. We started him on the antibiotics, but they did weird things to him, mainly, they pretty much knocked him out cold. He came home from school complaining that he couldn’t keep his eyes open and he was very snappy and VERY un-Jazz like.
That scared me enough to stop giving him the medication figuring the podiatrist would just likely prescribe him a different type of antibiotic.
I had to reschedule his first appointment with the podiatrist because it was smack dab in the middle of the day on a day that he had finals. That rescheduled appointment was yesterday afternoon right after summer school.
His toes were looking really bad now. The nails were yellow and starting to turn black. I’ve lost a few nails in my lifetime, so I recognized the signs – he was going to lose his nails. In addition, the skin just below his toenails was swollen and oozing pus and blood. (I hope you’re not eating while reading this – if so, my apologizes!)
I told Jazz that if he had to remove them, we would reschedule at a time when he didn’t have summer school (one of his classes is P.E., which means he would need to be on his feet and active) and band practice (which translates into on his feet and marching for three hours). I just figured the doctor would take one look at Jazz’s feet, prescribe him a different antibiotic and tell us to come back in ten days to see how the antibiotic worked before proceeding any further.
I had done enough research online about fungus that I knew removing the nails entirely was not something the doctors liked to recommend right off the bat.
If I had known how wrong I was, I would have rescheduled this appointment for another day.
As it turns out, the doctor took one look at Jazz’s toenails and said, “these have to come off.”
As in now. As in TODAY.
The infection hasn’t spread to his toes or anything. If I had seen any sign of red lines on his toes (an indication that the infection has gotten into the blood stream and was spreading up his leg, which is VERY serious), then of course, I would have taken him to the doctor sooner. But I’ve had toe problems my entire life (ingrown toenails, corns), so I sort of knew that Jazz’s situation warranted a doctor’s visit, but that it wasn’t that serious.
And it’s not serious now. But the boy is in pain.
I wish now that I would have postponed the procedure until next week, or even the week after that. This is just NOT a good time for Jazz with everything he has going on right now, but the doctor said waiting would only make the problem worse, so we really didn’t have a choice …
He had to have both of his toenails removed.
He sprayed Jazz’s toes with a cold mist that was supposed to help numb his toes, but judging by the number of OW’s and winces, it didn’t work that good. The doctor then injected Jazz’s big toes with a numbing solution and it was about all I could do to stay in my seat as I saw him stick those needles into each big toe, several times and from different angles.
The doctor put up a screen in front of Jazz so he couldn’t watch, but Kevin and I were sitting in the front row and had a bird’s eye view of what was going on. I hurriedly grabbed a magazine because there was no way I could watch, but Kevin sat there and watched the whole thing.
I had to sort of make myself go numb because if Jazz saw me freak out, he would freak out. It’s always been that way – both of my boys have always fed off my reactions to any given situation, which is the biggest reason I have to act sort of cold and tough whenever something like this happens so I can be their mental strength.
But inside? I felt faint and COMPLETELY grossed out.
After the anesthesia started to take effect, the nurse came in, slathered his toes with some Betadine (that orange stuff you see in the picture) to sterilize the area and then the doctor came back in.
Again. I didn’t watch. I couldn’t. But I asked Kevin later, and when Jazz had gone to bed, he told what he did.
Brace yourselves, it’s pretty gross. (Feel free to skip this part if you’re queasy about stuff like this).
He slipped a knife under Jazz’s toenails to cut away the skin under the nail. Then he had to do a bit of tugging to dislodge the nail. Though the nails were loosened by the infection, they were still a bit difficult to take off. Kevin said the right one came off easier than the left one – he said he had to do a bit of digging to get the left one off. (Which sort of makes sense, because I think Jazz had an ingrown nail on that foot).
When he got the nails off, he put some ointment on them and then wrapped them up, as you see in the picture. He didn’t prescribe any antibiotics because he thinks by us removing the nail and putting antibiotic ointment and Betadine on them, and soaking his feet in Epsom Salt, that should take care of the infection. We’re supposed to go back next week for a follow-up visit and we’ll see how effective that was then. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to knock out the infection, he will likely have to take an oral antibiotic.
Believe it or not, Jazz went to band practice last night. He was uncomfortable, but not really that bad. He sat on the bench though while everyone else marched. They were only teaching the new kids the basic marching steps, so he wasn’t missing out on much.
However, this morning, when I woke him up for summer school … I walked into his room and he had all of his covers thrown off and was curled into a fetal position. He had had a rough night. I had given him Tylenol, but his toes were throbbing something fierce. I felt absolutely terrible for sending him to summer school today, but they are pretty adamant about the kids not missing any classes because they simply don’t have the time to spare. I did write him a note, though, to excuse him from physical activity in P.E. class. I think he’ll be okay if he’s allowed to sit instead of participate.
He asked me if we still had the wheelchair Kevin used whenever he was recovering from his pelvic injury. When I said no, Kevin jokingly offered his cane.
Jazz actually ended up taking the cane to school with him. He said it helped. Even though both toes were throbbing, his left one was more painful. (Which makes sense since the doctor had to dig a little deeper on that toe – which, we didn’t tell Jazz that, by the way).
I loaded him up on Tylenol this morning and told him if he wanted me to come up there at lunch and give him more Tylenol to call me. The schools go berserk whenever the kids try to take any sort of pain reliever (which, I can understand), so he couldn’t just take a few and pop them at lunch.
You can imagine how that would look.
But I could meet him in the parking lot and give him a few more to get him through P.E., if he needs them.
He’s supposed to have band practice again tonight, but I have a feeling he won’t go. Which is fine, these band practices are pretty informal at this stage and it’s really not that big of a deal.
Jazz had to take a sponge bath last night. He wasn’t supposed to get his feet wet. So I put a bowl of soapy water in the bathroom for him and afterward, I washed his hair in the sink. I think he sort of liked being pampered.
Today, after school, I will have to grit my teeth, take the bandages off, soak his feet in Epsom salt for fifteen minutes (the Epsom salt sucks out the moisture, which is great for infections), then put fresh Betadine and antibiotic ointment on his toes and re-bandage them. I’ll have to go through the motions again after his shower tonight.
In fact, we have to do that twice a day for the next two weeks to try and keep any infection out and to kill any lingering fungus.
I have a pretty strong stomach, but still, I’m NOT looking forward to this. Not only for the gross factor but because I HATE IT when the boys are hurting in any way. I’m sure you guys know what I mean – I would much rather endure this than put him through it.
It was funny though, on the way home from the doctors yesterday, Jazz said, “Now we’ve all had surgeries this past year. Dad, your accident, mom, your intestines and now me. Well, except for Dude.” I think he’s sort of proud to belong to the “surgery” club.
I would prefer that be one club the boys NOT belong to.
ADDED: Oh, I meant to tell you guys, in case anyone goes through something similar, the doctor said that it’s not that common for shoes to cause this much damage to someone’s toes (it’s more common for an injury to start the ball rolling on infected toes and losing toenails), but in Jazz’s case, what must have happened is this:
Jazz has really long toes (see picture above). And what most likely happened was, the shoes I bought for him were too short in the toe area (which makes me feel bad, because I tried to make sure he had enough toe room before buying the shoes), but since his shoes were too short, over time, after normal wear and tear on the shoes, it creased right over his toenails and just kept pushing and wearing down on his toes. This caused the skin to separate from his nail, which allowed bacteria to get in and grow – hence the problem. When he asked what sort of shoe caused this (it was Reeboks), he said to also watch out for Nikes, that it’s been his experience that Nike shoes tend to give people feet problems as well. Anyway, just a quick tip to be careful and make sure there is a lot of toe room when you buy your kids shoes. Also, stay away from leather tops – they’re less forgiving and don’t allow air in as easily to help keep feet dry.
ADDED TOO: I’m on pins and needles and keep checking my phone to see if Jazz has tried to contact me. I’ll be so glad when this day is over!!
ADDED THREE: Jazz just text me – he’ll live. No Tylenol. He says the cane is helping a lot though. That’s my boy – tough it out. 🙂
ADDED FOUR: Wow. That was AWFUL!! I had to cut the big, bulky bandages off his toes, and they stuck, so we had to rip them off and Jazz cried … there is probably nothing worse than seeing a teenage boy cry. His toes are super sensitive, so we let them air dry for about thirty minutes before I put iodine and then antibiotic cream on them – now they have a light layer of gauze over them. He’s already canceled band practice tonight, so hopefully that will allow his toes to dry out and toughen up a bit. Poor kid. That was truly heart wrenching. Hopefully, the worst is over now.