All of you who are under the impression that cats are absolutely the best thing for the Internet —producing GIFs and memes galore—are bloody delusional. My 8lb house cat Franny almost destroyed a small section of your Internet last week, temporarily crippling one of the hands I use to type all your nightly posts.
Sunday, 4:00 AM: I’m at home. I’ve ordered nachos, delivery, and as I’m getting ready to eat them, my small cat Frances delivers a playful yet puncturing bite top of my left hand. I wash it off; I think nothing of it. I eat my nachos and go to sleep.
Sunday 10:00 AM: I wake up my hand hurts like hell—it’s difficult to move, without it hurting like hell. It’s red and it looks a little puffy. I fill a plastic bag with ice and wrap that in the towel, which I then wrap around my hand and I go back to sleep for a little.
Sunday 12:45 PM: My hand really hurts. Fuck. I try to sleep it off.
Sunday 3:05 PM: This is ridiculous. I search Google for “cat bite on my hand hurts”. All of the results to come up indicate the cat bites are terrible and I should go to the hospital immediately, which I think seems like an Internet exaggeration. But, then again…
Sunday 3:20 PM: I take a picture of my hand and attached that to an email which I send to my doctor. In the email I explained my cat bit my hand it hurts and that the Internet has scared me. My doctor calls me back minutes later and tells me to go to the emergency room, immediately. He calls NYU Langone Medical Center and alerts the ER that I’m on my way.
Sunday 4:00 PM: It’s been 12 hours since the cat bite and and my hand is pinker and puffier, I notice, as I look at it in the ER. I’m seen quickly. They give me an antibiotic and some pain pills and send me on my way.
Monday 11:00 PM: I’m in the middle of my shift and Brent Rose comes online and asks me how my hand is feeling. By this point my hand is much puffier and redder and it hurts more; it’s not exactly doing well. Also, I have a fever. Brent tells me to go back to the ER.
Monday midnight: I’m back in the ER. They take blood, look at my hand, and after little bit of sitting around, they admit to the hospital, where I’m given a private room.
Monday 1:15 AM: I settle into my room and am administered an IV. I have antibiotics flowing into my veins and they give me more pain pills. All through the night, they take my blood pressure and my blood, and doctors and nurses come in and out see me…and my hand.
Tuesday: I learn that I may need surgery if the swelling does not go down. At some point in the day I meet the orthopedic surgeons team; they wrap my hand and my arm in an Ace bandage in hopes that the swelling may go down, and they add a second antibiotic to my IV. Mostly, I sleep.
Wednesday: I wake up ravenous; I have been allowed to eat since 10:30 PM last night in anticipation of surgery, but they still aren’t sure if they’re going to actually do the surgery so I just have to wait. On an empty stomach.
Finally, around 2:00pm, I’m told that I definitely will be having surgery in about an hour. The swelling hasn’t gone down—in fact, it looks like it may be getting worse—and they fear that if they don’t go in and drain some of the swelling, the tendons in my hand may incur permanent damage.
Surgery happens around 3:30 PM and I wake up from the anesthesia around 6:30 PM with a morphine on-demand button on my finger, feeling very much like Neely from Valley of the Dolls.
They keep me in the hospital Wednesday night and Thursday night, and finally on Friday I’m released.
On Monday this week I went in for my post-op with my orthopedic surgeon; he took off my soft cast and told me what exactly they did during surgery. They made two incisions on my hand: one in the webbing between my thumb and pointer finger, and the other on the top of my hand at the site of the bite.
When they opened up my hand at the second incision site, what they found was something called tenosynovitis*. Essentially my tendon sheath, a single cell-thick film that text the tendons as they move across the finger bones, have been destroyed by the infection (which, I learned, was caused by a bacteria called Pasteurella). My surgeon said he went into my hand and the tendon sheath looked like “a bunch of wet tissue paper.” All clotted and messy. They had to scrape it all out—a process called at tenosynovectomy.
Next week I’ll get my stitches out. And for the next six weeks I’ll be going to occupational therapy, twice weekly, to regain full functionality of my hand. I wrote this post using Mountain Lion dictation (which works wonderfully, as it turns out). But mostly, these days, I’m typing with my right hand; my cat hand can’t move much.
Here’s the TL;DR version in case you bypassed all of the above: Cat bites are highly infectious. 80% of cat bites become infected (my doctor had three other cat bites on his shift at the hospital last week, but mine was the worst of all!), and the infections are so bad because cat teeth are narrow and long and act like needles, injecting bacteria from both the skin’s surface and the cat’s mouth into the punture wound cavity.
*I am so impressed that ML Dictation got this word on the first try. Holy hell.