Article by MuscleTalk Member PhilWARNING: Graphic content below!
The following is the full account of my recent experiences with the development of a rather nasty abscess and the aftermath; it’s quite a long story but I’m sure you’ll find it makes good reading…
I’ve been training for over 12 years, competing for four, I have used anabolic steroids on and off for probably around seven years. I would describe myself as fairly knowledgeable and experienced and I have administered literally hundreds of injections to myself and others with no problems at all; that was until August this year…
Eight days out from a show I did a 1ml shot of Winstrol depot to my right pec; I aborted the shot as it blocked the needle. I didn’t inject any steroid and I did the shot elsewhere, but my pec swelled to double its normal size and after three days the injection site, although painless, had swollen and now had a 6cm swollen lump under the skin. By the show day it hadn’t gone down and I pulled out of the show on the day as it was so obvious.
I visited A&E that afternoon. The doc diagnosed a ‘haematoma’ (also known as a ‘sterile abscess’). I’d caught a blood vessel doing the jab, it had bled into the muscle, and the blood hadn’t been able to escape so pooled causing the lump. I was given a course of antibiotics to safeguard against infection.
I got my head down and trained and dieted two more weeks competing in Leicester taking 2nd in my class but not qualifying for the British Finals. I’d had a hell of a time carbing up with terrible guts unable to tolerate carb loading; which I think maybe was due to the antibiotics.
I set my sights on Birmingham three weeks later and again returned to the strict diet and cardio. I had three weeks and restarted my prep course – test prop, tren ace, winnie depot and winnie oral for two weeks; show day was 28th September.
I had my last shot of winnie depot on Friday 19th Sept. I was also due 1ml of test prop that day so i loaded the winnie depot and test prop into the same barrel and injected my right glute nice and deep with a blue. Prior to injection I had washed my hands, cleaned my glute with surgical spirit and cotton wool and observed sterile handing procedures of all injection paraphernalia.
By Monday 22nd my glute was very sore. I thought nothing of it. By Tuesday it was causing me to limp and my 2 hours of cardio was very uncomfortable. By Wednesday 24th I was in real pain sitting, driving and lying on my right side. My glute had started to swell in size, and my show was only 4 days away! I didn’t use antibiotics or visit the doc, I was so focused on the show and I know antibiotics make me hold lots of water. The swelling remained and slowly increased all week; I spent many hours lying with ice packs on the muscle to reduce inflammation.
On the 28th September I went to Birmingham on the back seat of my car lying as comfortably as possible and cursing the sports suspension! Once weighed in, I found a quiet back room and didn’t really move from the floor, I managed to get use of a fridge with an ice compartment and kept putting ice packs on my glute. I was downing Nurofen and paracetamol every couple of hours and just about staying on top of the pain and swelling.
I stepped on stage in decent enough condition, but not carrying enough size and I was a little watery (due to the infection I didn’t know I’d got). I was unable to really pose my hamstrings or hit my side shots properly; I could not push my left knee against my right hamstring as the swelling restricted my flexibility. I took 3rd in my class.
I awoke Monday morning and swelling was still there and still very painful. I managed to drive to the NHS drop-in centre and presented the nurse with my swollen bum cheek and told her what I’d done. She went to get a 2nd opinion as she wasn’t sure. Her superior looked at it and said it was not an abscess because it was too big! They sent me off with a script for antibiotics and I was told to use ibuprofen and paracetamol every few hours.
Wednesday 1st October – still in a real mess, limping badly, painful walking, standing, sitting, bending, etc. Went to GP for an emergency appointment and a second opinion. She said I had a large haematoma caused by the injection. It was localised bleeding and bound to be painful due to its location. I queried that it might be an abscess but she said no as that would have a head on it and be boiling hot to touch. I went away uncertain but not knowing what else to do.
Thursday I was back in the gym for a back session. I felt great after the recent carb up – at least it took my mind off the discomfort for a bit.
By Friday 3rd October I was still no better. I got out of the shower in the morning and my other half saw me and nearly dropped her cup of tea! I went and looked properly in a mirror; she was right, it was even bigger and now had a definite head on it. I rang the doctor I had seen, told her it was bigger, hotter and now had a head. She said “Yeah that’s okay, it’s not infected, don’t worry you’ll be okay. It will go down.” I came off the phone feeling a bit lost.
I went away that weekend to watch the Leeds show and I was in pain all weekend. I drove my training partner up as he was competing. I trained Saturday afternoon at a great gym in Leeds called Altered Image, a great hardcore gym. I trained delts and tris and it took my mind off the pain until I tried doing seated shoulder press! I hobbled round all weekend and collapsed into bed Sunday night worn out.
Monday 6th October – swelling was even more pronounced:
Late evening, after training chest and biceps!, I went to A&E at midnight I saw a doctor at 4am, she took one look and was like “Bloody Hell, that’s a huge abscess, you need admitting and you need to see a surgeon right away.” At 5.30am on Tuesday 7th October I saw a surgeon, and he told me that I had a massive abscess which was badly infected, that it would need to be removed and that he was going to put me on the emergency list for surgery. It was at this point that I realised things were going badly wrong!
I was put on nil-by-mouth, and I rang my girlfriend who brought me down a wash bag, a book and of course some protein drinks! (Nil-by-mouth, except for protein, that is!).
They finally took me off for general anaesthetic at 8pm. I didn’t know what to expect. I was told they needed to make an incision to drain out the puss. I came round about 10pm that night and all I wanted to do was eat, which the nurses found strange as most people feel crap after anaesthetic!
Wednesday 8th October – morning walkround by the surgeon. He told me they had drained 900ml of puss from my ass cheek; yes, you read that right – in perspective that’s nearly three cans of coke, or the shaker bottles we mix our protein drinks in hold 700ml – that’s a hell of a lot of puss! He said they had to cut a lot deeper than expected and the wound was very large, 6 inches in length and more than an inch deep. It would take three months to heal. My world seemed to be coming apart at this point.
To further put the frighteners on me, they told me they were very worried about my hip joint – due to the depth of the abscess and the volume of it, the puss had been trying to find a way out, normally it would come to the surface and burst, but with me it had been pushed against the bone of the hip joint. They were worried about bone infection and septicaemia (blood poisoning). By now i was having visions of losing my whole bloody leg!
Later that day they changed my dressing. An abscess is not stitched up post-op like a normal wound as it will become re-infected. Instead, they leave the wound open and pack it with sterile packing; it effectively heals from the inside out. While the nurse was out the cubicle I took a sneaky photo of the wound:
As you can imagine, seeing as I had this was a bit of a stomach churner – I couldn’t believe the sheer size of the wound!
I was extremely lucky that each day my girlfriend brought me down a cool bag full of good healthy food – chicken salad, natural yoghurt and peptide, etc – this at least meant I could keep some level of normality with my eating habits and not feel like I was wasting way, which would have been the case on hospital food!
Thursday 9th October my dressing was changed and the wound re-packed. I took another photo; this one shows the wound packed with sterile packing to absorb tissue exudate – it’s really sick!
Following my dressing change on Friday 10th October with the tissue viability nurse present, the decision was made to keep me in for observation over the weekend, the wound was still infected with Staph aureus (common bacteria). I was being pumped full of IV antibiotics until the weekend when I went over to orals. A nurse measured the wound today at 14cm long, 4cm wide and 3cm deep!
The dressing was being changed daily, but despite loads of packing it was leaking exudate constantly and by the time of each dressing change it was all soggy and generally unpleasant, although I could walk around with a lot less pain than before the op!
Time dragged on and I amazed all the nursing staff that I could spend all day eating. One of them got so worried she demanded I be weighed every day expecting me to be piling on loads of weight, so she was most puzzled by the fact that my weight was coming down (water rebound post show had been huge and was finally subsiding LOL!).
On Tuesday morning 14th October the tissue viability nurse made the decision to fit me with a vacuum pump. This is a device used post surgery in certain cases. In effect the wound is packed with sterile absorbent foam and sealed with an air tight dressing out of which a thin tube feeds into a portable vacuum unit. This constantly drains the wound and removes the exudate (tissue run off) preventing it sitting around to become infected and promotes fresh blood flow to the area.
I took another photo of the wound; this was after she had cut away a couple of blood clots – nice!
Thursday 16th October – the tissue viability nurse changed the dressing on the vacuum pump – ouch! I was given the all clear to leave the hospital that afternoon. The wound now looked like this:
I am now at home, though I have a portable vacuum unit to carry around with me. It’s about the size of on of the large CD Walkmans from the mid ’90s; it chugs away in the background literally sucking the tissue run off out of me. It is believed these devices greatly speed up wound healing!
I took a pic of the vacuum dressing. It makes my ass cheek look rather saggy, but you can clearly see the size of the wound:
I’m hoping the scaring, when it finally heals, will be covered by my posing trunks. I was desperate to get back into the gym. I’d been told to take a few weeks off, but after two weeks I couldn’t hold on any longer and have been doing some upper body work, just being very careful how I stretch and bend, etc. Having just finished months of strict dieting and cardio to being totally inactive was a real nightmare. And I have to admit to a bit of overeating, I certainly don’t look quite pre-contest anymore!
I also tapered off my gear cycle while in hospital. I had just started a post contest rebound of oxy and test prop five days before I went into hospital, hoping to capitalise on the long diet phase, so i didn’t want to cold turkey the gear. Hence I was injecting while sitting in a hospital bed having had an abscess removed from a bad injection – kind of ironic really! As mad as that may sound I timed it so that the day I came home from hospital I was ready for my first round of HCG / PCT.
I ran 4IU of GH on waking each day even when in hospital, I’m sure this can do nothing but help the healing process. The doctors cannot explain why the abscess developed; their only advice is don’t use steroids; thanks but no thanks!
Now I’m back home and indulging in some training. I’m using 2IU of GH first thing and 6IU post workout. I will start a new course in a few months after a proper clean out, in the mean time I will run PCT and cycle IGF in 4 week bursts with a base of GH daily until my next course. Next course will depend wholly on when I’m back to 100% full bore training.
I am now having the dressing changed three times a week and the tissue viability nurse came to see me and commented that there was loads of granulation occurring. This is crucial to the healing process; it’s also nice and clean and healing nicely. I took a photo last Friday (24th October) showing how it’s healing:
The reason I wanted to write this article was to make people aware that no matter how careful you are, and how clean you think your injection technique is, you are at risk. I would never have believed this could happen to me. I have preached to people about clean technique so many times; I always aspirate, clean the area and equipment, etc.
The other crucial point I want you all to come away with after reading this is that if you have had a shot and it doesn’t feel right many days later, and it hurts, then get help ASAP. And, if you’re not happy, go back for 2nd, 3rd and 4th opinions until you get taken seriously. Sometimes we get fobbed off because we bring these things upon ourselves in the eyes of the medical world (although it’s okay to smoke, drink and be obese!).
I knew my body well enough that even after three lots of medical professionals had told me it was okay, I still knew it wasn’t. The surgeon did tell me that had it been dealt with eight days earlier when I first went for medical help it would have been a lot, lot smaller and easier to treat and not made anywhere near such a mess. Also rather frighteningly, he told me left any longer I could have had serious bone / joint infection (arthritis in later years, loss of function, etc) and I was only days away from life threatening levels of blood poisoning!
Sobering thoughts! Please be careful out there, and remember to take this side of body building very seriously – it’s not a game!