I thought shingles were supposed to hurt.
My back and hip are still giving me the yips, but I’ve been doing my exercises and trying to keep moving. Some days are better than others and Monday was one of those better days. So I decided to help Young Ken with some yard work. This was mostly a matter of me feeding Ken the cord as he moved along with the hedge trimmer and dragging the cuttings out to the curb for bagging later by Ken and Oliver. Tuesday morning I woke up with a strange bumpy rash on my forehead.
Poison ivy? I thought. Poison oak? Poison sumac? I assumed I must have touched something like that in the yard. I slathered on the calamine lotion and didn’t worry about it.
Wednesday afternoon my right eyelid puffed up.
By yesterday morning my eye was swollen shut.
“I’d like to see the other guy,” said the cashier at the supermarket.
“I don’t think this is poison ivy,” I said to the blonde.
Last night she drove me up to see the doctor.
Who sent me to the emergency room.
The good news is the doctors there found no ophthalmic dendrites.
That means that the herpes zoster hadn’t infected my eye. Yet. It could still happen. That’s why my doctor sent me to the emergency room where they confirmed his diagnosis.
“Shingles!” I yelped. “Good gravy, man,” I said to the physician’s assistant examining me, or words to that effect. “Am I that old?”
Well, yes I am. But not that that old.
Shingles aren’t just an old person’s affliction.
They can pop out on you at any age after you’ve had chicken pox when your immune system is weakened. Old age will do that to you. But so will other things, including stress.
“Have you been under a lot of stress lately?”
Pop Mannion refused to believe I had shingles when I called the old homestead later to tell the folks that, good news, no poison ivy.
Everyone Pop knows who’s had shingles hurts like hell. And the hurt continues for months. Not only didn’t I hurt, but the big purple pill they gave me in the ER was already at work. By they time we got out to the car the swelling had gone down and my eye was half-open.
Another thing I learned about shingles. The pain most people who get them suffer is usually from a secondary infection and not from the shingles themselves. And that infection---which, according the flyer the nurse gave us as we were checking out, is properly called post-herpetic neuralgia. Aren’t you glad you read this blog? You learn stuff!---occurs because most people don’t realize they have shingles and get treated right away. The shingles appear on their backs and don’t get noticed until they start to hurt, which means until an infection is already underway. If you get treated within the first 72 hours you can head off the infection. I was lucky. Having your eye swell shut is hard to ignore.
The takeaway: If you had chicken pox, watch your back!
And here’s something else. Another reason most people Pop knows who’ve had shingles develop post-herpetic neuralgia is they are that old.
I could still develop an infection. Those ophthalmic dendrites might yet appear. “An infection of the cornea…can be very serious and lead to blindness,” the flyer informs me. So I’m supposed to see the ophthalmologist today. An eye patch is a possibility. Probably won’t look as cool as I’m imagining it. Anyway, I’ll update.
My eye’s closed again this morning. I’d better get the prescription filled as soon as the drug store opens. The other good news, though, is that I can blog with one-eye, as I’m proving here.
Aren’t you impressed?
So…that’s the medical news from Mannionville as of Friday, August 23. I probably shouldn’t post this. Every time something happens to me to make me feel sorry for myself, something worse happens to somebody I know.
By the way, the folks at the Vassar Brothers Medical Center ER are very nice. But emergency rooms are full of strange and disconcerting electronic sounds, which I probably only noticed because there weren’t any sounds of human suffering drowning them out.
“Quiet here tonight,” I said to one of the nurses, a young woman in a purple print smock and matching purple pants who for some odd reason wouldn’t enter the examination room. She stood in the doorway eaning on the jamb with her hands folded at her waist and questioned me from there.
“Very,” she said, sounding relieved.
“Is that because it’s a weeknight?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “It’s because we’re past the full moon.”