Monkeypox patient Austin shares challenges facing healthcare system to get diagnosis, treatment

He went to the ER three times because of “excruciating pain” and was finally able to get medication that helped his symptoms from an Austin clinic.

AUSTIN, Texas – An Austin man is sharing his experience with monkeypox in hopes that it will make the health care system better care for the needs of monkeypox patients and encourage others who are infected to protect their health.

The man asked that his name not be included.

“By far the worst pain of my entire life,” he explained during a zoom call while still in quarantine.

This Travis County resident first developed a fever on August 9th. He thought it was side effects from the monkeypox vaccine he received just a few days ago.

“You know, you think you’re taking the right steps,” he said. “Of course, there’s always something, you can always be more careful, right? Okay, here we are.”

But the symptoms progressed and he had swollen lymph nodes and pain. A few days after that, he developed lesions in multiple areas and was in extreme pain.

Since he thought he might have monkeypox based on what he had heard and read online and was in pain, he went to the emergency room. There he said the doctor told him they had never done a monkeypox test, but they would do one for him.

While there, he received a text that could have potentially exposed him, but the nurses didn’t seem to take it too seriously.

“She said, ‘Oh, I really don’t think it’s monkeypox’ as she swabbed me,” he said of the nurse. “If it was, I’d have to be like full PPE,” which she wasn’t. So I was like, okay, this is disappointing.

RELATED: Texas to get 12,550 more doses of monkeypox vaccine

They said the test results would take five days, but now after eight days, he still hasn’t seen them on the patient portal or received a call. He also tried calling. His STD panel that he did while there came back with the results, and they were all negative.

Although he doesn’t recommend doing your own research, he said he felt like he had no choice but to do his own research to find out how other people were dealing with their symptoms.

“I was on Reddit, I was on TikTok, reading people’s first-hand accounts,” he shared.

He went to the ER two more times, saying the symptoms were unbearable. He was hoping to get Tecovirimat, known as TPOXX, an antiviral drug used to treat some cases of monkeypox.

“I was sick, right? I was in a lot of pain. And ideally, you expect, especially going to the ER, you expect them to have at least some knowledge of what they can do to help you,” he said. I felt like they just didn’t know what they could do to help me.”

“In fairness to them,” he added. “I don’t think there’s much information available.”

After four days of severe pain, taking prescription pain medication that didn’t work well, and discovering that his possible exposure tested positive for monkeypox, he received a telehealth visit with an infectious disease doctor at a clinic Austin, who gave him TPOXX.

“As soon as he said he would be able to get it to me that afternoon, I lost it,” he said of the relief he felt.

He said he hopes the health care system will learn to take better care of patients and encourages patients to advocate for themselves.

“Don’t be afraid to be resourceful, fight back, find information and try to advocate for yourself when you can,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said patients may be eligible for TPOXX if they have certain severe symptoms or are at risk of severe disease. Austin Public Health said they follow CDC guidelines and at the moment, they have enough TPOXX medication to meet the demand.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said that once a person has been diagnosed with monkeypox, their health care provider can prescribe the antiviral drug TPOXX if their patient meets the criteria. DSHS added that the provider works through the local health department to obtain courses of antiviral medication for their patient.

For more information on monkeypox testing and vaccines, click here. You can also check out options through CommUnity Care and Kind Clinic.

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