Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"It's just a flesh wound"

There are some perks to hanging around people who aren't studying exactly what you are studying.  In my case, whenever something goes medically wrong, or whenever something is bleeding, I get a call.  In my friend's case, when he split his finger open, he didn't have to go to the emergency room.

Last semester, I got a call at about 1PM on a Friday.  It went something like this:
Friend: "Hey, Erika... um... I cut my finger with a kitchen knife and I don't know if I should go to the ER."
Erika: "Oh no, how long has it been bleeding?"
Friend: "About half an hour..."
Erika: "I'll be right over."

I grabbed what was left of my EMT supplies and rushed over.  When I arrive, he explained that his room mate, also a law student, was too disturbed with the sight of blood to help him.  
Minor Finger Laceration
Upon examination, I realize that it was "just a flesh wound" and stitches would not be warranted.  I had learned at an early age when a cut or scrap was serious from my MD father.  I would often run to him crying when I had cut my toe running on asphalt.  He would look at it, give me a hug, and tell me it's just a flesh wound.  "Band-aids won't help," he'd explain, "We will just put some hydrogen peroxide and alcohol on it and it will heal up just fine."  I could see that the superficial skin layer, the epidermis, had been damaged, but the deeper layer of the dermis was not.  So, I told my friend it was just a flesh wound and gave him roughly the same treatment my dad would have given me.  I cleaned his injury with alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and some Neosporin.  Although, unlike my dad, I believe in the powers of band-aids, especially when flaps of skin are involved.  So, I tightly wrapped a band-aid around his finger to make sure the skin flap healed properly.  

This was early in my career as a personal on-call EMT, so unfortunately I didn't have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at the time.  I washed my hands thoroughly with soap and water both before and after treating the site.  Since then, I have increased my stock of medical supplies and am proud to say I now stash a box of gloves in my apartment.  Just in case my medical services are ever unexpectedly needed again!

Healed Finger

This is a picture taken months after the incident.  Glad to know he didn't have to waste his time at the emergency department over such a minor laceration. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Osteogenesis Imperfecta

After an incredibly memorable summer in Dallas, TX and Newport Beach, CA, I am proud to say that I will inevitably be returning back to my roots and settling down in California.  Now that I know I will be exclusively applying to PA programs in Southern California, I will not have to take the much dreaded course, Organic Chemistry!  Hooray!  This semester I am taking Physiology (for science majors!) and Genetics.  My class load seems sparse, so I plan on filling the gaps by working at the psychiatric research clinic and volunteering.  

Let's start with some physiology.  On the first day of class, my teacher wrote, "Osteogenesis Imperfecta" on the board and asked us to tell her what we thought it meant.  I rose my hand and answered, "Imperfect creation of bone."  Translated literally, I was correct but I didn't really have any idea what causes the disorder or its specific symptoms.  My teacher went on to explain that Osteogenesis Imperfecta is also known as Brittle Bones Disease and that she, in fact, has this condition.  She shared this personal medical history with us because she stated it will at times affect her teaching.  I feel like I owe it to her to spend a few minutes researching this disorder and sharing it here. 

According to PubMed Health, Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI) is a congenital disorder (present when you are born) that affects the gene that produces collagen, one of the fundamental tissues found in the body.  OI is Autosomal Dominant so if you managed to obtain the OI gene from a parent who is affected by the disorder, you will also inherit the condition.  There are a number of symptoms associated with OI, but all those affected by the disorder have brittle bones and are susceptible to fractures.  People with OI are often below average height, have early hearing loss, bowed legs and arms and scoliosis or an s-curvatures found in the spine.  One trait I found especially interesting is that the sclera, white of the eye, has a blueish tint.  

The prognosis depends on the type or severity of one's OI case.  Those with a mild case such as my teacher, will likely experience fragile bones, blue scleras, early hearing loss, and height impairment, but will ultimately live a normal lifespan.  Good news for my Physiology teacher!