Pain in the ass.
This is going to be one of those posts that reconfirms my well-earned reputation of being an “over-sharer.”
For reasons to become clearer momentarily, I’ve been reluctant to share this, but(t) it is my genuine hope to prevent others from going through this new experience I’ve had because it is NO fun.
In the first week of July, the same time that I was struck by a car heading home from racing at the track (perfect timing), I became infected with MRSA when an ordinary-ish saddle sore turned into something much more sinister.
Now, I’ve been a cyclist since 1982, so I’ve had countless saddle sores over the years (decades… yes, I’m *that* old). In every case prior to this one, I was able to treat them myself. Usually just simple hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol and a bit of antibiotic ointment, then they would fade away within a few days. I’m also blessed to be in a position of having enough cycling clothing that I never have to ride in a chamois more than once before it is washed … some things are not worth recycling!
This particular saddle sore was different, not only in what it became, but where it was located, in an area that does not contact the saddle. Since it didn’t effect my riding at the time, I didn’t give it enough attention- as it was in a spot that was not easily viewed by me. Ignorance is bliss… until it becomes angrily and painfully infected.
After getting hit by the car on July 5th, I was in more pain from the separated shoulder and off the bike, so the saddle sore issue went ignored. Then it got really painful. REALLY. After finally getting worried, I reluctantly used the full length bathroom mirror to inspect things. Once I did, I was scared of what I saw. I’ll spare the gruesome details, but the infection was BAD and the “sore” was now a full-blown “wound” that required attention. I visited the local Urgent Care on a Friday and they explained that it looked like MRS/MRSA to them. They swabbed the wound for a lab test and preemptively placed me on a course of antibiotic treatment that had shown good results locally. See, MRSA is very resistant to antibiotics and can be lethal, as well as necrotic (flesh eating). They said it was best to be safe and began treatment immediately while the petri dish was baking up a culture for them to inspect. I got the call on Monday morning that it was definitely MRSA, but by that time the wound had closed already and the antibiotics were working. THANK YOU BABY JEEBUS!
I continued and finished the full two week treatment and resumed my cycling. I also continued to be very vigilant about hygiene.
Flash forward to this past week …
Around Wednesday of last week, I noticed an unwelcomely familiar “saddle sore” brewing. I immediately began to attempt to stave off infection. It didn’t work. By Friday night, it was clearly becoming something I could not treat at home. Saturday was spent in the local ER getting one of three infected cysts “drained” and talking to doctors about treatment and prevention.
I am now on two heavy doses of antibiotics for the next 10 days, as well as a longer term antibiotic that I use twice a day in my nostrils, as the bacteria thrives there. As MRSA is highly contagious/ infectious, I am disinfecting every thing I touch or use in my home so that I don’t infect my wife or daughter. Kinda feels like being a leper, truth be told.
The doctors had no confident answers to my questions because very little is known about MRSA and how it thrives, etc. I explained that the infected sores have all occurred in areas I don’t sit on the saddle, so I couldn’t understand how I was getting the sores to begin with. One of their suggestions was to shave with an electric razor, rather than a bladed razor, since it causes less trauma to the skin. Well, since I don’t shave my ass, I was confused by the recommendation. They explained that they have been seeing many cases of men with infections on their faces, due to shaving- since the bacteria can live in the nose. Now I’m researching antibacterial/ disinfectant additives to use when I wash my kits because I’m growing more paranoid.
A sad side effect of this all, aside from the glowing orange urine caused by the antibiotics, is that this likely means the end of sitting around chatting while in kit- coffee rides, shop visits, etc. The risk is too great for me, because now I am more than twice as likely to get MRSA again and always will be. (So I have that going for me.)
The point of sharing this uncomfortable experience is to raise awareness of the risks. It’s bad enough that cars want to kill us, but bacteria want to as well. I’ve always been very careful about my hygiene, especially in regards to cycling. I’ve been guilty very often of returning home from a ride and then sitting down in front of my computer to check email or eat recovery food, etc while still in kit. That is now going to change, definitely. I may have to switch to an electric razor, which I hate to do. But one thing is for sure, I’ll never be relaxed about any kind of saddle sore again.
So, don’t ignore any of the signs of infection, and definitely don’t be a “dumb jock” like I was and just keep riding/ exercising. It’s simply not worth the risk. I’ve been off the bike since last Friday and will likely be off the bike for at least a few more days. Feels like a huge price to pay, as summer rages on and races are happening still, but(t) it beats the possibility of dying.