My friend is refusing medical care for a possibly serious condition. What do I do?

I’m not sure what forum is most appropriate for this question, but after much consideration I decided to put it here.

First of all, I need to make a disclaimer: I am not trying to imply that my friend is incompetent, stupid, or incapable of making decisions. He is a full-fledged adult who gets my utmost respect. However in this situation I am very concerned about the decisions he is making and the way he is talking about them.

Some background: About a week ago, my friend got a rather deep cut on the elbow while working on a construction job. It probably could’ve used stitches, but he is the macho type that decided, “Nah.” All well and good, and I guess it was healing nicely until recently. When I saw him today, his entire elbow joint (next to the cut) was swelled up to the size of a golf ball. It’s red and hot to the touch. I commented on it, and he said it was painful when touched, and that it’s been this way for a couple of days now.

This friend of mine is self-employed and has no health insurance. He goes to the doctor for emergencies, and that’s it. I suggested to him that this situation may be an emergency. He disagreed. (I’m not a doctor so I’m not sure.) When I pressed and said it may be a life-threatening thing going on, he said, “I don’t care if I die anyway, I’m pretty sick of living.” I’m pretty sure he’s serious. Business has been very bad lately and he’s had a run of bad luck this year. I truly think he may be indirectly trying to commit suicide. I even offered to pay for the doctor visit and he said no. At that point, I laid off.

I know I can’t force another adult to get help, but this is a true friend and I’m afraid he’s depressed and/or not making good decisions at the moment. Short of being supportive, is there anything I can do? I keep thinking and thinking for a way to handle this as a good, caring friend and I can’t come up with anything productive.

Anybody have any suggestions for me? Any alternative remedies to offer, or other strategies? The infection may get better on its own, but I’ve seen these things get out of control before and it’s not a good thing. Part of me feels like just letting it go, not because I don’t care, but because he’s grown and it’s not my job to worry. But I still do care and worry. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

Sounds like he’s got a good friend in you - but you can’t make him get help. I think maybe teatree oil applied to the exterior of the wound might help fight infection, but I’m not 100% sure - hopefully someone with either advice in how to knock him out and carry him to a doc or advice on how to treat it your/himself will stop in.

If he got injured on the job he’s entitled to workman’s compensation, isn’t he? That should cover any medical expenses should he be inclined to visit.

You may get him to go on the excuse of milking the gummint for all he can get—maybe he’ll get up the motivation out of a sense of selfish vindictiveness?

But, if he’s self-employed, then he doesn’t necessarily have workers comp, does he? (I don’t get it that well. I know the basic idea of what it is, but that’s it.)

He’s got a friend in you. Maybe if you suggest that what could happen is that he ends up less one arm - and that could make it near impossible to do his job at all. If it’s something that a simple treatment can fix…I’d rather have the arm than not.

Or (and I’m only half joking), you could get some hard liquor, and accidentally spill it on the wound while you are drinking with him. It’ll hurt like hell though, and he could hit you for it.

If it was on the job and was documented, then workman’s comp should cover any and all medical bills associated with it. If he didn’t report the incident to his supervisor, he may be out of luck, but I really don’t know about that. I know that it covered all my considerable medical bills when I got bitten last fall and the wound abcessed, requiring hand surgery. It also paid me (at a reduced rate) for the time I was off work recovering.

It sounds to me like he may have a septic joint, which is very much not a happy thing. A septic joint capsule is also very much not a treat-at-home condition. My bite wound was right next to a joint, and when it abcessed, the area around the joint was very swollen and tender. They thought the joint might be septic, so they popped a dose of IV antibiotic into me right then and started calling hand surgeons to find me a work-in consult for that morning. That afternoon, they knocked me out and explored the whole mess. If there had been joint involvement, I probably would have spent a day or two in the hospital getting more IV antibiotics.

Oooh, I didn’t see the self-employed part. Still, this is something he really ought to have checked out.

Tell him:

  1. Workman’s comp should pay for it.
  2. He’s not going to die from it before he loses the arm.
  3. Ask him how he’s going to work with only one arm.

Then take him to the ER.

Which arm is it? You might ask him if he uses it for anything important.

Yes, I didn’t see the “self-employed” bit either.

It’s possible that some local hospital has facilities for charity care. (Though even with charity care, there are some loopholes, especially when the hospital subcontracts out for certain specialists: radiology, anaesthesiology, lab work, and so on).

Failing that there’s local Medicaid (or other state-run medical benefits program) if he qualifies.

Of course, if he doesn’t want to go, there’s not much you can do.

Tea tree oil at this point wouldn’t be enough to help with an infection like that AFAIK. IANAD, but have had a deep wound go septic. It was no fun, and took quite a while to kill off the infection.

It possibly needs to be drained, and probably treated with anti-biotics, it needs a professional’s care. Aren’t there clinics that could look at him? Doesn’t the hospital have to take in a certain amount of charity cases for free or reduced cost? He may not even lose time off work if he gets it treated now. (No promises on that.)

Are there any red lines going up his arm, or is the redness spreading? I believe that’s known by the old fashioned term “blood poisoning” and it’s life threatening. I hope you can persuade him to get medical attention, it sounds like he needs immediate care. Keep us updated.

Here’s a cite to show what I mean. Blood Poisoning Septicemia I had a nasty wound on my shin, which got a strep infection in it. It just didn’t want to heal. This is a serious illness, and you are right to be so concerned.

Thanks for your replies!

Update… I looked up “septic joint” online and thought it was pretty scary, with the loss of use of the joint and all. I took this information to my friend when I checked on him today, and found him so lethargic he could hardly get up. When I told him he could possibly lose the use of his arm, and coupled with how horrible he felt, he agreed to seek treatment.

At the ER, the doctor found the situation to be serious! My friend wound up getting intravenous antibiotics, a tetanus shot, and needly aspiration of his elbow. They sent him home with a course of antibiotics and painkillers.

Thanks, Dopers, for pointing me to information that scared my friend into getting much-needed help!! :):):):):):slight_smile:

Oops. I meant needle aspiration!!

Being self employed and Worker’s Comp…
Depends on exactly how self employed he is. Here in Oklahoma, for me to work on another contractor’s job and not have him cover me, I have to supply him with the number of my Certificate of Non Coverage before going on the job site. I have to renew the Cert every two years. I carry my own health and injury ins which is damned expensive. Just one of the perks of being your own boss. :dubious:

Check your state’s local laws. Here’s a place to start.

Yay to you for being such a good friend and caring! :slight_smile:
Hope he’s feeling better soon.

BTW, good job on getting him the needed med help. May good things come to you.

Good for you, getting your friend to finally seek medical attention! He well owes saving his arm to you :slight_smile:

…and his life.

You’re a good friend :slight_smile:

Why is it guys don’t want to go to the doctor, anyway?

Because they are big babies…I had to threaten **mr_smartini ** that if he did not go for his procto he was going to wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of me snapping on a latex glove!

Make sure he takes all the antibiotics, and takes them on time. It’s important that he keep the medicine levels consistent. Also make sure he follows the directions on how to take them. Some antibiotics require that you take them with food, or avoid taking iron supplements, or avoid taking them with milk etc. It’s especially important that he kill this infection off completely, that kind of infection is NASTY if it is allowed to live and become immune to antibiotics. (I believe there is something about that in the cite I provided if you need to convine him.) Kill it all off. Very glad he got the medical care he needed. :slight_smile: