Monday, September 29, 2008

Poison Oak

Melting of the face
Terror, unanswered questions
Unfriendly itch-bush

I'm probably going to get the whole story all messed up, so if you want the truth minus the drug influence then go over to MotherHoodwink and read the real scoop.

If this mess doesn't get me posting again, then I don't know what else will.

WARNING: The following may contain descriptive language, but because I like you I am keeping all of the graphic pictures to myself.

I started feeling the effects on Tuesday, just a bit of itching around my chin. I remember going to town in my sleep, scratching it all up. Since it was a normal day of work I did my normal morning routine. I washed my face with cetaphil, shaved with some foamy shaving cream, and then used a splash of Old Spice to give me that "Fresh Pirate" feeling. Burned like a fuck! Looking back I'm retarded. If something burns your face that much and never really has before, then look into it. Seriously, give it some thought.

The day ran it's course with more itching and much more redness. It got so bad that I decided to go to Navy Medical to get things checked out. I figured it had something to do with my bicycle helmet (the itch and redness sat EXACTLY where my helmet's neck strap sits on my face), and sadly I could only think that someone, some sneaky someone, was out to get me and somehow managed to put some sort of itching powder in my helmet. Yes, I did leave the helmet unattended while I was in class for a few hours, but 1) Why the hell would anyone touch MY stuff? I'm not that important and 2) Itching powder? How 7th grade. What else could it have been? I haven't done anything new or anything.

The guys at medical told me that I was having an allergic reaction to my helmet strap. I've had the damn helmet for over 2 years, so that was pretty confusing to me. I asked the P-A who was helping me and he said that the strap could wear over time, causing me to have an allergic reaction to a lower layer of the strap. It's made of nylon and plastic! I asked him if maybe somebody put something on my helmet and he fed my fears by informing me that it was highly plausible. Again, who am I to be targeted by this random act of immature terrorism?

The P-A kindly gave me some prescription ointment and told me to keep using my Benadryl. I went home and started using the meds. At this time my face began to bloat. Not just swell, but bloat, like an old codfish. I looked like a skinny (well skinny-ish) freak in a fat suit. Lots of jokes, lots of fun by all, but seriously started to freak me out. It somehow seemed that every time I put the cream on, my face would burn more, bloat more, itch and pain more. I knew the cream was the culprit, or maybe it was the other cream that I used, or the Benadryl, or the benadryl itch stick that I tried... What was it!!!

I went back to the P-A the next day, who had an unforgettable facial expression when he saw me. It was like defeated confusion all wrapped up in doubtful fear of incompetence. He said he would get the head Doc to look at it as soon as possible. I got the pleasure of answering "Whatja do to your face?!" a whole lot, my new favorite question. The Doc looked at me and asked me all the right questions. He was a man of action, a man of answers. He poked and peered at my puss-drawn face, sliding his finger across my skin, nodding to himself. "Yes, I would call that dissecting cellulitis", "wait, possible... definitely possible dissecting cellulitis." Now to the benefit of all involved, I had already ruled out the obvious and correct diagnosis through the initial questions* that I had answered, and his diagnosis seems as plausible as any I had heard. What the fuck is dissecting cellulitis? I KNEW that it was like some microbe that was about to eat its way to my brain. These were my sad last days on earth. Overwhelming fear. The doc did the right thing, saved my life by sending me to the Hospital.

I checked into the ER that evening. Know what? I think I could have just gone to the ACTUAL hospital and checked in, seeing as nobody from the ER ever got the paperwork that was forwarded from the clinic. Next time? I'm skipping the ER with those medical papers in my hand, right into a comfy room with a sleep-able bed.

In the ER I was given lots of IVs and no answers. It seemed for the next 12 hours that everything was a guessing game, and the only way to guess was to inject my body with some cool new drug. My absolute favorite of the night was something a nurse gave me as she was asking me a few questions. Right as she pushed the hammer down on the seringe, all the hair stood up on my head and my taint exploded with a roaring flame. Shocking, I know. Crazy allergic reaction to some wonky drug and now I was going to have to deal with THIS?! Fuck. I very quietly asked the nurse if this drug might somehow make my scalp tingle. She looked up quickly and was like, "Oh!! I forgot to mention, this stuff has been known to make your hair tingle and in some patients, mainly female, make their bottoms burn. It only lasts for a second and nobody really knows why it happens." Fwew!, and Oh great my bottom reacts to this medicine like a female's bottom. I have chick-taint! How unmanly. "YES" I blurted out at the nurse, "I didn't know how to ask about the bottom-thing, but that's exactly it." "Kinda scary not knowing first."

Burning aside, whatever it was did the trick. I don't know if it was this stuff or the IV of Benadryl, but everything cooled off, stopped itching and seemed to mellow out. I remember this being the turning point where I knew that if anything else they can just keep pumping me full of taint-burn and I would eventually get better. I love modern medicine. At this point I began to relax and was able to enjoy THE DEBATE. I'm so glad I got to see that, GoBama! I also know that by the time the debate was over I was hungry. I hadn't eaten since my loving and worrying and praying and caring, and pretty wife dropped me off with a sammach. HUNGRY. I also knew that the docs wanted to admit me into the hospital for the night and have a Dermatologist see me in the morning. All fine news, nobody knows what actually happened to me yet, no food, comfy room, and dermy in the morning. I do remember getting a snack (turkey sammach, diet sprite and some pretzels). I squeezed out every little bit of mayo and mustard onto that damn sandwich, figuring that every calorie counted at that point. Sprite Zero? Disgusting! Drank every drop and ate ALL the ice. Oh, and I damn near choked on my pretzels. Well, maybe I'm not that dumb(W). Snack totally hit the spot and I was off to sleep. Sleep = contorting into a position that keeps your sticky puss-face off your pillow while keeping your right IV-arm straight and somehow gets you off your aching back (you've been on it for 12 hours).

Alright, the story is getting way out of control, so for the benefit of those who haven't quit reading I'll cut to the chase.

The Dermy took one look at my face and was like, "What have you gotten into? That's pretty bad poison oak." >CLICK< Poison Oak?! How?! I'm very fuzzy on the details, but it was my wife who remembered that we had just taken family photos on Sunday near some lightly wooded area. She hunted through the photos and sure enough, a giant fucking branch of poison oak was basically wrapped around my face. Now, we rode bikes/skateboard to the family-photo-op, so I naturally slapped my helmet on and rode home. I then used that helmet later the next day when I took the kids for a long bike-ride. Then again the next day when I rode to school for the first time (40~ min on the bike and in the helmet). All of which without having washed the fucker. All of which reapplying poison oak oils onto my neck. Suck.

A few fun facts:

- Once you wash poison oak oils off of your skin or clothes, you and your items are no longer contagious. The seeping puss pores are NOT contagious! Dermatologist was very specific about this. He says that once you've broken out, you can have random spots on your body break out as well, thus making one believe that they are re-infecting themselves. Interesting.

- The severity of an allergic reaction to poison ivy, poison oak, or sumac are all directly effected by your susceptibility (duh), the amount of poison that you come into contact with (duh), how often you come into contact (oh crap), and how long it stays on your skin (shit). Dermy also said that it didn't help that the neck strap was rubbing the stuff into my skin, digging it in deep.

- Staph infection + Incredibly stupid allergic overreaction to poison oak is like a slow dance with death.

- *When a medical dude asks you if you have been in the woods or done any lawn work recently. Stop and think. They don't ask questions because it's fun. Eliminating the right answer early on in diagnosis only leads to mass confusion and patient hysteria.


I would like to personally thank the incredible Nursing staff at Baptist Memorial Hospital, who once again have reaffirmed my desire to become a nurse, a true medical professional. They have all been a shining example of the power of professionalism and kindness. To the doctors who gave me all the great drugs and made me feel so much better. To the Dermatologist who was AWESOME and proves why dermatology is such a specialized and important field of study. Thank you all. Thanks to all my friends who gave me phone calls and texts, it was really really nice to have the support. And a very special, gold-plated thank you to my family. My wife who worried herself sick, quietly asking me as she sadly dropped me off at the hospital, "please don't die." and all-the-while keeping the babies from worrying about daddy's crazy boo-boo. Honey, I couldn't ask to have someone better than you at my side. If I didn't know any better, your sheer power of will turned the whole fiasco into nothing more than a case of poison oak. You rock, thank you. Thank you.