Slug blood

Now that we’re a couple of posts in, I thought it would be a good time to regale you with a tale of one of my many misadventures.  Since I’m on a biologic and methotrexate, my rheumatologist has instructed me to go to the Emergency Room for labs, blood cultures, a urine culture, and sometimes a chest x-ray any time I have a fever.

One day this past summer, I was feeling really dizzy and had a temperature of 102.5*F.  A doctor at my local ER ordered all the tests above as well as fluids.  Since I have a medical port (which I plan to discuss further in a later post), I have cultures taken from my port and a peripheral site.  The nurse cleaned both sites before collecting the samples.  They kept me overnight for precautionary IV antibiotics and discharged me the following day.  Blood cultures take about 5 days to receive results – at least in my hospital system.  During this time – and until I got a negative culture – I was not able to take my immune suppressants.  Because of this, my pain and other symptoms increased.

I received a call the following week letting me know my peripheral culture grew, but it could have been a contaminated sample.  They wanted me to return to the hospital to repeat both blood culture samples.  I was initially admitted, but I fought to be discharged as the culture wouldn’t be back for days and they did not have a care plan in place.

The results for the second culture were released during an appointment with my rheumatologist, so she gave me the news.  This time, the sample from my port is the one that grew.  The bacteria were found to be Moraxella osloensis – a mutualistic symbiont of a slug parasite.  Since this was way out of my doctor’s wheelhouse, she called one of her friends who is an infectious disease doctor while she was still in the room.  Neither could figure out how this bacterium was introduced into my central line and the other doctor wasn’t able to get me on her schedule until 7 days later.  There were concerns from all ends of what would happen if it were in my blood and if my port would need to be removed.  Back to the hospital I went…

During this trip, I had one of the best nurses I’ve ever had.  She was unbelievably understanding and wanted to make sure this was the final round of my blood culture battle.  She wiped down both areas multiple times to avoid any contamination.  She also used a pediatric blood culture set for my peripheral draw, as it wasn’t giving her much of a sample and she didn’t want to have to poke me again.  As I said, one of the best nurses I’ve had.  Thankfully both samples came back negative for any growth, and I was in the clear to begin taking my medication again!

Being off of my meds for about 20 days was very difficult, as I’m sure you can imagine.  When getting cultures since, I always make sure they wipe down the area thoroughly twice to avoid a repeat of this situation, and so far, it’s worked! (Fingers crossed!!)  Please learn from this, and never be afraid to speak up.  You’re your own best advocate!

And still no answer to the slug-killing-bacteria contaminated sample…

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