Sunday, December 11, 2011

Am I Dying?

That was my first thought when I woke up last Friday morning with this meth user staring back at me.   The good news is that  I can't look any worse if I happen to get pulled over and arrested for beating my wife with a crack pipe while slamming a Pabst Blue ribbon and then fleeing in my 1976 black Trans-Am.  I"ll just hand the arresting office my model release form allowing him use of the photograph for my mugshot.  If only I still had my mullet.

The rash had been building for about two weeks, starting on my right temple as a bright red splotch that was slightly bumpy.  I didn't think much of until I noticed that my eye began to itch and I found myself scratching it obsessively.  In addition, right side of my neck began to turn red and splotchy.  Damn, it sort of felt like it was on fire.  The swelling began shortly thereafter, resulting in the Rocky Marciano look alike you see above a few days later.  By that time, my arms had begun to turn red and the rash grew slowly each day, snaking down my arm incrementally by the hour.   Only then did I have an ingenious idea, one that occurs to most men only after the symptoms and pain have become overwhelmingly ridiculous and death seems imminent:  I should go to the doctor!   Before I went, however, I asked Nikki if it looked bad. I just needed to be sure.  I was hoping I could convince her and myself that it wasn't really bad.  She laughed.  I went.

I have found that as I get older, every pain, in my mind, seems to be pointing towards certain death.  Lower back pain: degenerative disks.  Stomach ache: cancer.  Itchy rash: AIDS.   None of it is rational, and I can convince myself either way depending on the time of day and my mood.  Either way, I typically don't want to go to the doctor because it will certainly be bad news. With my frame of mind in the right place, I left for the doctor to see how long I had to live.

The nurse checked my vital signs, all seemed normal,  but I knew differently.  The doctor came in, asked my questions, I showed him the rashes and watched him type intently on the computer in the room.  He looked serious, this can't be good I thought.  This guy has been through 10 years of schooling, he's seen it all, he knows the gravity of my situation.  I kind of feel sorry for the guy that he must break the news to me.  Slowly he turned back to me.  I looked at the floor and quietly asked, "How long do I have doc"?  "Nobody can answer that question with any certainty", he said, "but go to the grocery store and get some Benadryl and this rash should clear up in about a week or so".   "That's it?", I asked.  "Yep, you have a skin irriation, that's all".  Sufficiently humiliated, I quickly walked out and left.

I knew there had to more to it than this, so I set about doing my own research.  Nikki and I tried to pinpoint all the things that were different in our household over the last several weeks.  All we could come up with was as a possible option was the scented dryer sheets.   It made sense, I had a rash on my neck from my shirt collars and and the rash on my arms started about the same point where short sleeves end.  Although that didn't turn out to be the case, I encourage you to google "scented dryer sheets" and look at the nastiness of the ingredients contained therein.   I think it might surprise you.

The real answer came during Nikki's holiday party for work.   I was sitting at the poker table (casino night) after dinner, and ran my right hand down my left forearm and I could feel the blisters through my long sleeve shirt.  I pressed slightly harder and I could see some fluid on my shirt.  There it was, the answer I had been searching for:  Weeping blisters, a classic case of poison oak.

It should have been obvious, I take Bella walking through the hills nearly every day and there is plenty of shrubbery and tall weeds and grass.  Either I touched it directly or it transmitted from her fur to my hands.   According to my research, I can look forward to the rashes being with me for another 3-6 weeks or so.

At least I'm not dying, but I can confirm one thing without a doubt: Poison Oak is some bad shit and the itching at 2 AM may make you wish you were dead.

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