Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Rash I Thought was Stretch Marks.

Sometime last October-ish, I was on the phone with my mom and noticed that I was scratching the same place on my back quite often. So, I got up off of my usual place on the couch (yes, the fabric does show signs of increased wear) to check it out in the mirror and saw very distinct line-y red spots. And there I stood: a woman in the early stages of pregnancy staring down the first bit of visible damage. I think I might have said a few cuss words to my mother. ("Holy S***!!! Are those stretch marks?? WTF??")

Except... I was only 2-3 months pregnant with the boy, and I had probably lost weight, if anything, since finding out he was on board... not because I was exercising (heh), but because I was no longer consuming what had apparently been a fair bit of calories in liquid form, ifyouknowwhatimean. The point I'm trying to get across here is that it would be extremely unlikely for my skin to show signs of stretching, because there wasn't anything extra for them to stretch over. (ew.) But, pregnancy-related paranoia does not yield to reason.

On a somewhat related note, I have what I consider to be a meaningful and not-regretable tattoo on my back. It's not in the lower back area (I hate the term "tramp stamp," so I will refrain from using it here), but off to the side... more kidney/hip area. Anyway, it's the outline of a praying guy and he sits/kneels right above my pant waistband. Some people have erroneously said that he looks like a frog.... If I were more flexible and/or motivated, I would take a picture and post it, because I obviously cannot describe it.

Anyway, the redness was right above the praying guy. Here's what it reminded me of:

Yes. This is absolutely sacrilegious, but it looked exactly like Pentecostal "tongues of flame" on top of my praying tattoo's head. 

So. Over the next few days, the reddish area just seemed to get bigger. It was also became more and more uncomfortable, pretty much every hour. I had a suspicion that it was an allergic reaction to a prescription that I take, but wasn't quite sure, so I hopped on webmd, since apparently I didn't learn from last time. Well, as if the webmd gods were just waiting for some soul like me in need of fuel for the fire of health-related terror, there is a slideshow with pictures and descriptions of the most common skin issues. I studied each of them, rejoiced that I didn't suffer from "morning" sickness, and eventually came to the conclusion that I had some crazy skin disorder which encompassed the most miserable symptoms of all skin disorders known to humankind. 

I don't really remember the timing of all of this, but we ended up at the ER on the Sunday of a holiday weekend. I have told the husband many times since this several-hour trip that I think that I would rather wait with a toddler in the ER than with him. I mean, yeah - it was pretty horrible that we were in a small room waiting room with about 20 other people (plus their ill children) and were forced to listen to Hawaiian cartoons blaring from the blown-out TV speakers. But, seriously, the last thing that "helps" the time go by is looking at your watch every three seconds and updating your itchy pregnant wife on the number of hours and minutes what you've been waiting there. Also, the 3rd or 4th time he "needed to take a walk" and wanted to know if I had any more change for him to get a snack from the vending machine, I heard my mother's exasperated voice come out of me: "No - I don't have any more change. I already gave you all the change I had." (Thankfully I/she stopped before the normal "go ask your dad" portion.)

Fast forward 3 hours: we were taken back to an area with curtained-off exam areas. The beauty of this setup versus actual rooms is that you can eavesdrop. The down side is that you have no choice but to eavesdrop. For instance, neither the husband nor myself wanted to hear a doctor explain to a grown woman and her father (!!) that she has a particularly feminine-related infection. I have nothing else to say about that situation. I tried to think of something snarky, but even a year later, I have no words. 

Anyway. Finally, the doctor came in, examined my mutant skin disease of death and told me that I actually had shingles. The husband's first response: "hahaha - You mean that disease that old people get??" Needless to say, that was not exactly helpful... especially when my first thought was, "Hey! I wonder if this virus that is currently attacking my body will do any damage to this tiny helpless zygote that I just found out that I'm carrying."

At this point, there was a rather emotionally traumatic scene (unlike the rest of the experience...?) wherein a furious and pregnant me told the husband to go call my mom (a nurse) and he said that he didn't know what I wanted him to tell her and I cried some.

The good part: they have an antiviral that is safe to use during pregnancy and it both stopped the rash from spreading and significantly cut down on recovery time.

The bad part: Seriously? All of it. Aside from postpartum recovery, it was the most miserable I have been for a sustained period. The virus attacks the nerves, not just an area of skin, so it often felt like someone was plucking guitar strings that ran from my hip all the way up my back. Oh, and ice packs and calamine lotion. Oh, and I couldn't hang out with my friends who had pre-chicken-pox-vaccine babies. All in all, a fairly unhappy experience.

Oh. And, two more things to make matters worse: Apparently, if you get shingles once, there's a higher chance that you'll get it again. Second, now Big Pharma is making a shingles vaccine - I've seen the commercials. It's all old people. Damn. The husband was right all along.

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