Austin monkeypox patient shares challenges health care system faces to get diagnosis and medication

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

AUSTIN, Texas — An Austin man is sharing his experience with monkeypox in hopes that it will lead the health care system to better care for the needs of monkeypox patients and encourage others who are infected to advocate for their own how are you?

The man asked that his name not be included.

“Worst pain of my entire life so far,” he explained during a Zoom call as he was still in quarantine.

This Travis County resident first developed a fever on Aug. 9. He thought they were side effects from the monkeypox vaccine he had received just days before.

“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 go.”

But the symptoms progressed and he developed swollen lymph nodes and tenderness. A few days later, he developed lesions in multiple areas and was in severe pain.

Because 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 never did a monkeypox test, but they would do one for him.

While there, he received a message that he may have been potentially exposed, but the nurses didn’t seem to take it too seriously.

“She said, ‘Oh, I really don’t think it’s monkey pox,’ as she was taking a swab from me,” he said of the nurse. “‘If that was the case, I should have been in full PPE,’ which she wasn’t.” So I was like, well, this is disappointing. But it’s like they’re testing me.”

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

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

While he doesn’t recommend doing your own research, he said he feels he has no choice but to do his own research to find out how other people are treating their symptoms.

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

He went to the emergency room 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, wasn’t I? I was in tremendous pain. And ideally, you expect, especially when you go to the emergency room, 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.”

“Fair to them,” he added. “I don’t think there’s a lot of information available.”

After four days of intense pain, taking prescription painkillers that didn’t work well, and finding out that his potential exposure tested positive for monkeypox, he received a telehealth visit with an infectious disease doctor at an Austin clinic who prescribed him TPOXX.

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

He said he hopes the health care system learns 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 defend 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 are following CDC guidelines and right now have enough TPOXX medication to meet demand.

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

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

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