Sunday, July 24, 2011
At the After Hours Clinic Yesterday
Yesterday, I went to Kaiser for the first time since this spring when I was being treated for pneumonia (that had been suspected erroneously to be tuberculosis, which was repeatedly tested for and never found. Oh. Whell.)
I had to go because I'd developed an annoying and painful rash, much of which had appeared suddenly, overnight. Good gott, what was it? When I called up the advice nurse, she went through the flow chart routine, "Does it hurt?" Yes. "Is it blistery?" Yes? "Is it on one side of the body?" Yes. Etc. She said there were no appointments available, but she could have a doctor call me in half an hour or so. Ok.
Doctor called, went through the symptoms again. She said, "Have you ever had shingles?" No. "Chicken pox?" Yes. "How far away are you?" A few miles. "Get over here, quick." She told me where the clinic was, and she said she'd expect me within fifteen minutes.
Sure enough, she took one look, said, "Shingles." Oh fine. Said it was going to get a LOT worse -- it has -- and there wasn't a lot they could do, but she would prescribe ointments, anti-viral drugs, and Vicodin. If it got way worse, come back, otherwise, endure it.
How long? I asked. She said, "You don't want to know." I repeated, how long? She said, first time outbreak like this, could be months. And it can get very painful. If the pain gets out of control, call back, she'll prescribe something stronger.
It was a quick evaluation, to say the least, but I had realized that it was shingles when the flowchart of the advice nurse pointed there. Actually, the earliest symptom was a sharp burning pain deep in my leg that I attributed to a recurrence of the sciatica that had cropped up a few years ago. When I saw a small skin eruption on my leg, I did not relate it to sciatica. Instead, I thought it might be incipient melanoma -- what my father died of. But it didn't really fit any sort of melanoma symptom set I could find. It was something else, I was sure. When a few days later, the eruption spread suddenly, I still didn't connect it with shingles, though I was trying to figure out some connection with the nerve irritation and pain of sciatica.
When I talked to the nurse, the "ah ha!" moment arrived. Sure. That's what it is.
It is painful, annoying, interferes with sleep. I hate taking codeine. But it seems to control the pain (and scramble my brain!), so... one does what one must.
I asked the doctor what could have caused it. She said it was probably just my age and the fact I had had chicken pox when I was younger.
Grr. Talk about poison. Well, there you are.