A 104.5-degree fever had the boxer in the Cleveland Clinic for five days.
By JOE SCALZO
Vindicator sports staff
YOUNGSTOWN — Kelly Pavlik spent five days in the Cleveland Clinic last month due to an allergic reaction to the antibiotics he was taking for the staph infection in his left hand.
The hospital visit, which was kept under wraps by the Pavlik camp, came on Sept. 8.
Weakened by a 102-degree fever, Pavlik nonetheless traveled to the Clinic for an appointment with a hand doctor. By the time he saw the doctor, the fever had progressed to 104.5 with a heart rate of 145.
“When we finally saw the doctor, he said, ‘You’re not going home tonight,’” recalled Pavlik’s father, Mike Pavlik Sr. “He wasn’t white. He was dark purple.
“I’m not a medical man, but he was very close to the edge that night. He was completely dehydrated, his electrolytes were off the charts, his blood pressure was low. ...
“I didn’t sleep a wink that night.”
Added trainer Jack Loew, “From what I understand, if he hadn’t gone to the hospital that night and changed his meds, it could have been fatal.”
The admission comes at the end of what has been an eight-month recovery from a staph infection in Pavlik’s left hand, which he first noticed two weeks after defeating Marco Antonio Rubio in February.
Pavlik’s camp has been tight-lipped about the hand, mainly because members didn’t want the media to know how bad the hand was.
Pavlik had been on antibiotics for five weeks before he had the reaction. Twice a day, at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., Pavlik inserted an IV known as a PICC line, which stands for peripherally inserted central catheter. Each application required between 21‚Ñ2 and 3 hours, Pavlik said.
The reaction to the antibiotics caused Pavlik’s skin to break out in small rashes, which eventually spread. His whole body itched — Pavlik Sr. said his son looked like he had a terrible sunburn — and eventually “peel like a snake,” his father said.
Fortunately, Pavlik’s hand is now almost 100 percent — all the splints have been removed and he is hoping to resume punching this week — and he has made huge strides over the past few days, his father said. He can almost close his fist completely and Loew expects him to make a fist by the middle of this week.
“He has no choice,” Loew said. “If he can’t bend it, I will.”
Other than a New York press conference last month, Pavlik’s camp has been quiet for weeks. Pavlik decided to finally reveal the hospital visit because he’s confident his hand has recovered. He started training more than a week ago and training camp for his December bout with Paul Williams officially begins Monday.
“It’s been a really, really long road,” said Pavlik. “The staph infection really kicked my butt.
“Let’s put it this way: It almost ended me. It almost ended everything. We wanted to make sure we got everything cleared up before we moved on.”
The trouble actually began in late 2008 when Pavlik got a cortisone shot in the index finger of his left hand, near the knuckle. Pavlik has had issues with his hands throughout his career and the cortisone shots allow him to train and fight.
His hand was bandaged throughout the training camp for February’s Marco Antonio Rubio fight, but it didn’t start giving him trouble until about two weeks after the fight.
“We just thought it was a little cut, no big deal,” said his trainer, Jack Loew. “Kids get scrapes and cuts on their knuckles all the time.”
The cut, however, refused to heal. Pavlik was playing a pick-up basketball game two weeks after the fight when he felt a pinch in his left hand. He looked down and noticed there was no blood coming from the cut, only pus. He was diagnosed with a staph infection and the problem persisted throughout the spring, postponing and eventually canceling a fight against Sergio Mora.
Throughout this stretch, Pavlik was dogged by a series of rumors about his personal life — all of which he has denied — and conflicting reports about his health. He tried to forge ahead with his career, balancing those demands with the expectations of his fans and the city, along with plans to open a new restaurant (which opened last month).
He eventually had surgery in mid-July with a local doctor, then had another operation six weeks ago at the Cleveland Clinic when the infection hadn’t cleared. By that time, Pavlik’s camp had already arranged a fight with Williams, which was originally scheduled for Oct. 3, then postponed to December.
Pavlik credits his father for averting disaster by insisting he go to the Clinic on Sept. 8.
“If it wasn’t for my dad, I don’t know what would have happened,” he said.
Members of Pavlik’s camp vowed he will be ready for Williams, and Loew reiterated what he has said since last year’s loss to Bernard Hopkins: If he’s not healthy, he won’t fight.
“I can tell you if he’s not 120 percent ready to fight Paul Williams, Kelly will not step in the ring,” Loew said. “We cannot beat Paul Williams unless we’re 120 percent ready for the fight.”