The Health Scare that Advanced My Husband’s Life by 2 Decades

November 30, 2023

My 64-year old husband Dan had an extensive baseball career, including umpiring for many years at the collegiate level. He retired in his early 30s as his knees and ankles could no longer take the pressure of standing for long games. In June, when he hyperextended his left knee on one of our walks, it was no surprise when the x-ray showed severe arthritis. Fortunately, the orthopedic doctor did a fabulous job draining the built-up fluid, and with a shot of cortisone, he was back to gardening and yard work in no time.

As luck would have it, just a couple months later, after kneeling to paint the trim in our bathroom, his right knee started to bother him. He immediately started his icing routine. After a week with no improvement, he headed to the orthopedic with the hope he would perform that same magical procedure. This doctor’s visit, however, yielded just the cortisone shot. He was told it could take up to two weeks before it felt better.

Unfortunately, over the next couple of days, the swelling grew worse. Back at the orthopedic office, the physician’s assistant (PA) told us it was infected, and Dan was prescribed the antibiotic, Cehalexin (Keflex). With a thick, black marker, the PA drew a line around the large red and swollen portion of his knee and instructed that if the redness left the black line, we were to go to the emergency room. “Stay off it, keep it elevated, and keep a heating pad on it until we see you back in four days. 

Surprisingly (LOL), my husband did exactly what he was told. Over the next few days, the swelling and redness maintained, but it did not decrease. Back in the orthopedic office for a follow up appointment, the doctor thought about putting him in the hospital to get an antibiotic via IV, but he ultimately decided to stay the course. “Take the antibiotic orally and continue to elevate and heat.” 

With the pain worsening, the doctor prescribed an opioid. Again, he drew a fresh black line around the infection and instructed me to get him to the ER if the redness extended beyond. I was on it. He was also fitted for a leg brace to help keep the knee still to minimize the pain. 

When knee trouble is accompanied with pee trouble

The next day, Dan said he was having trouble urinating. He was getting some out, but it was difficult, and he had never experienced this before. Wondering if this might be a side effect of the medication, we called the orthopedic. We were told, “That’s a separate issue. You need to call your PCP.” We realize orthopedic doctors deal with bones and joints – not the bladder – but this did seem curious it was happening at the same time. Neither of us has a medical background, though it is not lost on us that a blockage in your urethra can be serious. We called the PCP and were instructed to go to the ER. 

Fortunately, Dan was able to hobble to the car with crutches, and once at the ER, each nurse and doctor looked at the knee curiously. However, once he mentioned the problem urinating, which also included one instance of incontinence earlier that day, the knee took a backseat. 

“We need to order a complete urinalysis,” said the doctor, and Dan was able to provide a small specimen. Within the hour, those results returned “perfect,” and they prescribed Tamsulosin (FloMax) “just in case.” We were told we were free to go. 

But what about this problematic knee? We thought he might get an antibiotic via an IV which could speed things along. The ER doctor recommended continuing with the oral antibiotic, and to elevate it. Dan was in pain and tired, and wanted to go home, so I pulled the car around.

The next day was more of the same – rest, antibiotic, opioid, elevating, and heating pad. And I was serving up the meals though his appetite wasn’t good. He was nauseous, but we figured it was due to the pain. 

The following morning – a Friday – we headed back to the orthopedic doctor for a follow up as instructed but with a new wrinkle. In addition to that right knee, the right ankle and foot were now red and swollen. Once we were in the examining room, I helped Dan on the table and took off his sock so the doctor could see it. Upon examination, the doctor thought the knee was a bit better. When I asked about the ankle and foot, he said, “That’s a separate issue.” (I later learned that for insurance purposes, this appointment was about his right knee only so nothing was said about the swollen foot and ankle.)

We were both concerned about the pain as Dan was taking the opioid every six hours with still much discomfort. The doctor’s assessment was to continue to stay the course. We left the doctor’s office, Dan hobbling along on crutches, feeling a bit defeated. 

Another restful, quiet weekend ahead for us hoping for some improvement. Though, that would not be the case…

I really tried to avoid calling an ambulance

Sleeping that night was difficult. Upon waking on Saturday morning, Dan was in agony with his other knee now red and swollen – larger than the right knee he had been receiving treatment for. I called the orthopedic office immediately. His doctor was on call that day, and he was very confused to hear that Dan’s other knee was now more painful, swollen, and red than his right knee.

The doctor was at a loss, and said if Dan could not take the pain, he would need to go back to the ER. If his knees moved even slightly (or I touched them), it was excruciating. It was challenging to say the least, but I managed to lower him from the bed to the floor. He used his hands to lower his body down the stairs, one at a time, careful not to move his legs. Sitting at the bottom of the stairs, we both wondered how I would get him out of the house and into the back of the car.

We had done everything in our power to avoid an ambulance, but I knew I had to call. Four visits to the orthopedic doctor’s office in two weeks and one ER visit two days prior. But my husband was in agony. 

A four-day hospital stay yielded many talks with various doctors and nurses, x-rays, an MRI, lots of blood draws resulting in 50+ labs in his patient portal, various pharmaceutical drugs, a nasty rash that developed on his back, little sleep, and according to him, some decent meals, though his appetite was certainly not normal. 

The perfect storm: When knee issues are spider venom poisoning  

On Day 1 at the hospital, one doctor said, “Hmmm. This looks like a spider bite on your ankle.” No one else said anything about those disgusting fang marks on his red and swollen ankle. We had noticed it earlier though we were all consumed with the knees. But now, I knew if a spider bite was in fact the culprit here, unfortunately, the hospital was not the most ideal place to treat him.

As I suspected, over the next few days, there was nothing seen by the doctors on the x-rays, MRI or the blood work that gave the doctors a definitive answer. They knew he had multiple swollen, red, and hot-to-the-touch joints. There was some sort of infection going on. That was clear. 

One doctor told us it was pseudogout (SOO-doe-gout), “a form of arthritis characterized by sudden, painful swelling in one or more of the joints… In both pseudogout and gout, crystal deposits form within a joint, although the type of crystal differs for each condition…and it isn't clear why crystals form in joints and cause pseudogout…”

Another doctor said cellulitis (which is caused when bacteria, most commonly streptococcus and staphylococcus, enter through a break in the skin). The doctor summarized that he believed cellulitis in the first knee likely kicked off a “gout attack” in the other joints. 

Another seemed to be thinking hard about Lyme disease. He asked Dan if he ever had it. In fact, he suggested adding Doxycycline, the go-to antibiotic for Lyme disease, to his med regimen, but another doctor decided against it so all that talk was halted. 

Ultimately, “gout” seemed to be the consensus among doctors and the diagnostic code used for insurance purposes. However, I thought it was curious that the treatment for gout is anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids, yet they kept administering various antibiotics. In fact, I noticed he was on an increasingly stronger antibiotic each day at the hospital (Tip: I took pictures of his IV which displayed the drugs):

  • Day 1: Cefdinir – used to treat many types of infections caused by bacteria
  • Day 2: CefTRIAXone – used to treat bacterial infections commonly resistant to other antibiotics
  • Day 3: Vancomycin – the big gun

By Day 4, the discharge instructions were five days of an oral antibiotic (back to Cefdinir) and more elevating, though how would he improve? He had been on this treatment course. He wasn’t getting any better. With two swollen knees, a swollen ankle, and a swollen foot, Dan had great difficulty as I helped him get out of bed for the first time in four days and navigate the walker to the bathroom. I stood behind him in case his legs gave way. 

After getting the “all-clear” to leave the hospital (because he had me to assist him) and getting him into the car with help, I fought back tears as I stopped to purchase a walker and a seat for the shower at home. That evening and the next morning, he needed assistance getting to the bathroom, getting dressed, and getting food. He didn’t feel comfortable navigating the shower just yet so I gave him a sponge bath. 

I felt like our lives had fast-forwarded two decades with my previously healthy and independent husband needing assistance with every basic need. 

Getting answers outside of insurance-based medicine

Since this was not our first go-around with the insurance-based medicine model not having answers, I knew there were experts who would be able to help us. If you are not familiar with the term, “insurance-based medicine,” I have learned that MDs must determine a diagnosis and treatment plan in order to satisfy the requirements of your health insurance company. In other words, get reimbursed by them. In Dan’s case, the diagnosis was “gout” and the treatment plan was pharmaceutical drugs. But I knew there was more to this.

Fortunately, while in the hospital, I was able to line up an appointment at NH Health & Wellness Center in Nashua, NH for the following morning after getting out of the hospital. The Center provides integrative health care services for all ages by combining evidence-based medicine with other healing practices that get to root cause to treat a wide range of illnesses, including Lyme disease, chronic pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia, digestive problems, hormonal imbalance, allergies, auto-immunity, and environmental causes of illness like mold and chemical exposure.

Juliann McCaffrey assessed Dan and treated him with biomagnetism for spider venom poisoning and a few strains of Lyme – Borrelia, Bartonella, and Lyme spirochete. Biomagnetism treatments address hundreds of infections from Lyme to strep to Epstein-Barr Virus (EVB), as well as symptoms associated with emotional trauma and more. The polarity of the magnet pairs interacts with our body’s electromagnetic energy field to help restore pH balance where infection cannot survive. It simply dies out and detoxes out of the body. This recent infection of Bartonella was in Dan’s bladder and various bacteria were in his knees, affecting various other body systems as well.

Dan also received pancreatic and lymph resets, along with the magnetic pairs for the emotional support of vulnerability. The Center uses the Emotion Protocol, which identifies the emotional root of symptoms that contribute to illness and help the body clear infections on its own. Magnets are placed on the affected areas of the body for about 20 minutes. Juliann encouraged Dan to drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins and do Epsom salt baths to aid in drawing the toxins out.

It's all about immunity

Dan and I had recently completed the Whole30 diet during the summer to help decrease glucose and inflammation and boost immunity. He had also been to Juliann in early August and cleared some low-level strains of infection that his body picked up along the way. So fortunately, I felt his immune system was in great shape to detox this recent infection.

Dan decided to stop the opioid and antibiotic, but continued with a probiotic to boost his gut bacteria after weeks of antibiotics – and let the magnets and his body do their job. The following day, he was walking gingerly but without the walker, and he could get to the bathroom on his own. Each day saw continued improvement with decreased pain, swelling, and redness, and all urinary symptoms resolved. Three biomagnetic treatments in two weeks (that’s a lot!) to combat that spider’s poisons. After one week, the walker was in the corner of the bedroom, drying his towel. 

Three weeks after being discharged from the hospital, with swelling and redness barely noticeable, we had a follow up appointment at the orthopedic office. His doctor said:

“Wow, this is a remarkable recovery. I was quite concerned because you weren’t much better coming out of the hospital. In my 30 years in practice, you really had me scratching my head, especially when your other knee flared up. Sometimes these things just happen, and we just don’t know. Infection can be a tricky thing.”

Fortunately, there are health care providers who do know. You just have to know where to find them. Orthopedic doctors are great with fixing broken bones and damaged joints they can see on an x-ray or MRI. Not so much with infection that doesn’t show up in blood work or otherwise. 

After being out of work for more than five weeks, Dan is back to work as a banker, has resumed all activity, and has begun PT to re-strengthen those knees after much trauma. 

Stay vigilant in your doctors’ offices and hospitals

The bottom line – when you cannot get real answers from your doctor, MD specialist or otherwise – like why symptoms are occurring – I have learned it is because they are working within the limited insurance-based business model where revenue-generating pharmaceutical drugs and surgery are at the forefront. While drugs and surgery are helpful and necessary for many conditions and where our MDs are very knowledgeable, they are not the most effective treatment for every disease. Insurance companies also decompartmentalize every body part. We were told a swollen right ankle and right foot were a separate issue from a swollen right knee. We were told the knee and bladder symptoms were separate issues. 

The symptoms were all related.

If you have ever heard a doctor say to you or a loved one, “There is no cure for that…,” or “We don’t know why that happens,” or “This is unusual; we usually don’t see this…,” or “We really don’t have a treatment option for that,” find a doctor who 1) does not have to work within the confines of the health insurance system and can take the time to dig for root cause, 2) looks at the body as the whole that it is and the reason behind why you are experiencing the symptoms you are, and 3) has access to more treatment options than pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. Most likely, that’s outside of insurance-based medical offices. 

And stay vigilant in your doctors’ offices and hospitals – it can help to put the pieces of the puzzle together that puts you on the road to healing.

Christine Snyder is a freelance writer in the alternative health care space. She also blogs at carewithcaro.com to share her family’s success with holistic medicine in hopes others who struggle reach for options beyond the confines of the insurance-based health care model. She is certified in Emotion Protocol, a profound approach to biomagnetism that identifies the emotional root of symptoms that contribute to illness and imbalance, and is a Reiki Master, trained by Karen Cerato of NH Health & Wellness Center. Christine has had a career in marketing and PR for 30 years.

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