Miss Understood: A Close Call

Miss Understood: A Close Call

As a rheumatoid arthritis sufferer who’s main complaints are stiffness, swelling, tenderness, redness and inflammation — I like to consider myself in tune with what my body is going through and aware of when I’m having an arthritis flare.

This past month I spent a few days hospitalized at USC. I was discharged on a Monday, but by Thursday I was exhibiting symptoms of an arthritis flare in my right knee. I went to see my doctor thinking he was going to have to drain my knee but I would go home and be fine after.

Arlene Grau

Arlene Grau

That idea couldn’t have been more wrong.

My knee was so swollen that my ankles were losing circulation. My doctor immediately got to work and prepped me for the draining.  I took a friend with me so that she could see what I go through on a regular basis. My doctor took 50 cc’s of liquid out and there was still a lot more left in my knee. He sent it for cultures and testing, and refused to give me a cortisone shot because he believed I had an infection.

I love my doctor and he knows my body very well. He knew that this wasn’t a typical arthritis flare. So after much persuasion on his part he admitted me to the USC hospital again — only a week after being discharged.

I thought he was just being cautious, which is totally welcomed. I settled in my room, joked with my friend who came with me, and expected to stay one night for labs and testing. At about 9:00 pm, the nurse walked in and said, “The doctor called and we need to prep you for surgery.”

My jaw dropped, my heart raced and the first person I called was my husband. I asked him to come see me before the surgery. I was scared beyond words. I started prepping my husband and telling him what I want done when I die and asking him to spread my ashes in Hawaii. Just in case my surgery took a turn for the worst.

I didn’t know why it had to be done right away or what they were looking for. All I knew was that I had a possible infection.  But the longer we waited for results to come back the worse my knee would be affected. So I signed the consent form, braced myself and went in to the operating room.

I remember waking up and not being able to speak, feeling like there was something stuck in my throat. I remember massive pain in my right leg and not being able to move it. I screamed in terror and the nurses ran to my side. I was given pain medication and a nurse stayed with me until I calmed down.  After that I was taken back to my room for recovery.

Later that day doctors came in to tell me they found the infection in my knee and it turned out to be staph.  I needed to be on antibiotics right away and all my RA medications had to be discontinued.

Can you imagine what my body would go through by quitting cold turkey?

Luckily, I have been medication free for one week now and have had minimal withdrawal symptoms. I’m on antibiotics for 6 more weeks and will have to stay off my feet for a few weeks.

But I am thankful. The doctors told me if they had not operated when they did I could have lost my leg. Had my doctor not pushed for cultures and tests because he thought something was off, they would have never caught it.

My doctor not only saved my leg when he called it an infection, he saved my life. The infection could have spread to my organs. He knows my body better than I do sometimes and I’m grateful for the close relationship we have. He truly cares about my well being and that’s why I drive so far too see him.

This was a very close call, but now I know I need to listen to my body more often and know when something isn’t right.

Arlene Grau lives in Lakewood, California. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s disease.

The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Only your doctor can do that!  It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.

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Myron Shank, M.D., Ph.D.

@Ryan Lankford: There are certainly physicians who are personally prejudiced against patients in pain, but irresponsible state medical boards must share in the blame.

Ryan Lankford

Only in the US would a doctor consider “flesh eating bacteria” as “he’s probably looking for drugs.”

Arlene Grau


I am so sorry you had to endure all of that. I know first hand that it is eventually difficult to find doctors who care. I’ve gone through similar issues when I visit other ER locations where they don’t know my history. They just don’t believe us. However, I learned that going to the same hospital for treatment is beneficial because they already know my situation and can pull up all of my information and see that my previous visits have been due to valid reasons. I really hope you find doctors that care and can help you the same way I have. It takes a lot of searching, I know. But the end result is worth it. Best of luck to you!

Cindi and Angelique,

Thank you so much for the positive and kind words. It’s an amazing blessing to have others support!! God bless you both!


Arlene!! You go through soooo much. . But God always carries you at the palm of his hands. God knows your little girls still need you. God is good!

Cindi Soutter

Oh Arlene I am in tears!!! God Bless you dear, and God bless your doctor. It is extremely hard to find such good Dr. these days. I suffer for the past 15 yrs. from chronic pain and have osteoarthritis among other things….I have yet to find a Dr. that genuinely cares about his/her patients as yours does. He is a godsend dear, don’t let him go!!! Love & Light to you…..♥

Ryan Lankford

Count yourself lucky. I had necrotizing fasciitis, and because the ER docs and the hospitalists chose to ignore my assertions (okay, screaming) about excruciating pain, my surgery was put off for three days. I lost 8 muscles, including my bicep, from my right arm, suffered extensive nerve damage and almost died from the infection when it started to spread to my chest cavity.