My Personal Experience Seeing a General Surgeon When My Flares Get Bad
Hidradenitis Suppurativa is a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding what works best when you’re flaring or having an outbreak. It’s no secret that I try home remedies when I get a flare (Vicks Vaporub, warm compresses, aloe, warm soaks in the tub, etc.). Sometimes though, the flare just gets to be too much and it doesn’t go away on its own and it’s time to call in the big guns: my general surgeon aka Dr. H.
In this article, I thought it might be helpful to describe the experience for anyone that’s looking for advice on what type of doctor to try and see for HS. This is just my own personal experience and other HS warriors may swear by seeing another type of specialist, but this is just what I do.
Step 1: Make the dreaded phone call
Like I mentioned above, it’s no secret that I’ll try and avoid going to the doctor and use home remedies first. I can’t lie, going to Dr. H is not the most pleasant experience and I will avoid it if I can. I mean he is a very lovely man, but it hurts and sometimes I’m just sick of being poked and prodded, you know? I know it’s silly since I can potentially make things even worse by waiting, but does that stop me? No, it does not.
So, when I finally stop being stubborn and wave my white flag, it’s usually because I start noticing that the flare is worsening and getting bigger. When I call Dr. H’s office, I am very grateful that they’re usually able to schedule me within a few days. Once or twice I had to wait a week but that’s the longest I’ve had to wait for an appointment. I’ve heard horror stories of HS Warriors having to wait months and I truly can’t imagine the pain they have to go through living that long with their flare.
Step 2: Psyching myself up
I’m going to be blunt: This trip to the doctor hurts and emotionally, sometimes it messes with my head. Sometimes I have to psych myself up for this trip (I say trip as if it’s an hour away but really, it’s 10 minutes away) because I will occasionally have a panic attack in the car before we get there (‘we’ as in my boyfriend, my best friend, my mom, or my grandma and I. Someone always comes with me and holds my hand because they are fab).
I feel like I’m making this experience sound horrible and terrible and that 10 out of 10 would not recommend, but the few seconds of pain that Dr. H causes helps so much in the long run and I feel so much better almost immediately afterward. Honestly, seeing him helps so much and I really shouldn’t avoid going.
Step 3: Draining the HS flares
Dr. H (or sometimes it’s my other favorite Dr. S) comes into the room and takes a look at the flare. They’ll feel around it and try and get a sense if there’s an infection under the skin and if there are any infected glands. Sometimes the flare isn’t big enough yet for them to open so they’ll put me on antibiotics and send me on my way and tell me to come back in a week. And if the flare is big enough, well here comes the draining part.
Dr. H will numb the area with an injection which is the worst part. This is the most physically painful part of the procedure. It feels like sharp icicles piercing through your veins. It seriously sucks and this is the part that I hate most. I am usually gripping Mike’s (my boyfriend's) hand so hard it’s turning purple at this point.
This is when the emotionally traumatizing part comes; the draining. You see, you are numbed. You can’t feel what is happening. But you know what is happening. And it is f****** weird. It messes with my head and makes me panic. I know what is happening and what Dr. H is doing but I can’t feel it and sometimes it makes it worse than if I actually did feel it.
But anyway, this is what happens:
Dr. H will take a needle and pierce the flare to open it and drain the pus and blood out. He’ll pierce it, and then press down on and around it to drain the contents. Sometimes if the flare is really big, he uses a scalpel. When he uses the scalpel, after draining, there’s a hole left that he packs with a shoelace-like gauze. It’s literally like a piece of shoelace put inside you and dangling out of the hole. Mr. Shoelace Gauze helps get out any pus or infection that might still be left as the wound is trying to heal. Pleasant, right? But wait! It gets better!
A day or two after the procedure, Mr. Shoelace Gauze will just fall out on his own and down your shirt when you’re just trying to live your life and you get to see him just sitting there on the floor and then you get to pick him up and remember the great times you just shared with Dr. H. and if Mr. Shoelace Gauze doesn’t fall out on its own, I have to have Mike traumatize me and actually pull him out. It’s real fun and a great time for us both. But seriously, shout out to Mike always.
After draining and packing me with Mr. Shoelace Gauze, Dr. H covers the wound with regular size gauze and paper tape. Almost immediately, you feel that there’s no more pressure underneath your skin from the flare and it’s like instant relief. He puts me on antibiotics and says to come back in a week for a follow-up. I’m in pain because of the draining, but it’s a different type of pain. Wound healing pain and HS flare pain feel completely different and Dr. H seriously makes me feel so much better.
Step 4: Watch the Lost Boys 5 times in a row
I usually then leave the office in a sweaty mess and go home and spend the rest of the day resting and sleeping in bed and watching the Lost Boys obsessively.
It’s just what it is.
Where did you first hear about hidradenitis suppurativa?