Adventures of chipmunk face
|April 29, 2010||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
Note: This post has been edited for length and brevity from the version I posted last night. It’s better this way – trust me.
I am going make a leap of faith here and assume that encountering poisonous plants is adventure that all e-riders will have at some point.
For sure entertainment value, I’ll post mine here. We could call it – “Adventure of Chipmunk Face”. Of course I could call it (more accurately) “In which Melinda resembles a pus-encrusted chipmunk”, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it, do you agree?
For the first 20 years of my life I wasn’t allergic to poison oak (clinical signs are identical to poison ivy and poison sumac for those of you in other parts of the country). I (smartly) still avoided it like the plague and black death, sure my reprieve would end at any moment.
I had good reason to believemy good fortune was temporary. I am the person, that in grade school had to carry “special” soap to class because I broke out in painful blisters between my fingers to the school soap. I’ve used the same sunscreen for the last 15 years because I’m afraid of breaking out in hives (tried switching….once). I don’t wear makeup except for 1-2x a year for special occasions. I don’t use lotion. I use ONE brand of laundry detergent. I use Dove soap. Get the picture? It’s a rashy, hivey, itchy picture.
When I was 20, I was exposed one too many times. No body around me knew what it was because it was so inflamed. I had one person suggest chiggers……
At some point (another 3 days) I started finding it on other parts of my body – like on my cheeks. I panicked and to make a long story short I found a ride to a clinic (many hours away) where they patted me on the head and said “here, take this cream….”.
My leg made grown men feel light headed to look at. No joke. My mother (NOT a squeamish person) announces that it looks like my leg is going to fall off and to this day reminds me of that fact whenever I bring up the subject. Some friends who were docs and nurses took one look at my leg and agreed that the cream made it look worse. I discontinued it and it was the official turning point…quickly it returned to normal.
With that kind of introduction, I was very careful to stay away from poison oak for the next 3 years.
Then I discovered endurance.
I was either very lucky or an expert in technu application because I didn’t get it again for 2 more years.
Last year at some endurance race (?) I got it on my face. I either didn’t notice it so didn’t use technu OR I missed a spot.
It wasn’t too bad – some itching, some “liquid draining”, and cracked lips so bad I couldn’t eat.
I made it to Thursday before giving in and going to the doctor. Of course by then I think I was probably over the worst of it.
The doc looked at my face, clucked a few times and said “oh you poor dear” and was NOT convinced it was poison oak (after all, her exact words were “how do you get it on your FACE”, and seem unconvinced by my explanation of endurance….), gave me some cream and said “Good luck!”. I told her that the cream seemed to have made it worse in the past, but was was pretty much patted on the head and told to go on my way…..
I used the cream a couple of times and I don’t know whether it did anything at all – for worse or better. Everything cleared up in a couple of days and I went back to being able to get a spoon in my mouth (important for eating icecream!)
I tucked away in the back of my memory that having poison oak on the face sucked and moved on with my life.
Which brings us to 2010, and the American River ride.
I rode through huge bushes of it. I was aware of it’s presence on the trail. This is why I wear long sleeves and gloves. I have technu staged at vet checks to slather on.
I probably could have been a bit more detail oriented when applying – I only applied it ONCE during the ride (30 miles), yet wore the same set of clothes for the entire ride. I also apparently missed the area in front of my ears, near the jaw line on either side of my face…..
Sunday (24 later)….I noticed some itchy spots. Doesn’t look too bad. So far in line with what I had experienced before – right now to it being on my lips/side of mouth.
Monday….itchy, definitely a rash, pus starting, but nothing out of the ordinary. Oh well, this isn’t so bad….I find the ointment from last year (not expired!) and start applying. See! Old age brings wisdom – in this case the wisdom of being proactive after not being quite proactive enough with the Technu. Maybe you need to be ancient before learning that lesson?
Tuesday…..I’m flying to Alabama. Pus starts to run down my left cheek. a LOT of runny yellow stuff. By the end of the first flight I’m ready to go to the bathroom and clean up. Imagine my surprise when I finally see myself in the mirror and see….chipmunk half face. Mmmmm…..This is different…..I didn’t have swelling last time….By the end of the trip (12 hours in all) I defintly live up to the moniker “pus-encrusted chipmunk face“. People are pretending not to notice my deformity. I find that cold washcloth compresses feel WONDERFUL and I go around town and work with a washcloth glued (literally) to my face. I double check the day my ointment prescription was filled last year and find out it was a Thursday. Great, I just need to make it ’til Thursday and everything will be fine since that’s the traditional turn around point….
Wednesday…..I walk in the plant and the plant nurse takes one look at me and says “I’m making you an appointment at the doctor’s. I just nod – or least try to nod. The swelling has now extended to one side of my neck and it’s a bit difficult. What’s interesting is that although the rash IS spreading on my face and I HAVE discovered over areas (like my stomach) that it’s popping up, the swelling goes far beyond the rash on my face. By the time my afternoon appointment rolls around, my ear canal is busy trying to swell shut and now I look like a pus encrusted chipmunk with a tooth infection.
The doctor’s appointment.
Rural Alabama doctor offices are different from California. I’ll leave it at that 🙂
My 75 1/2 year old (he announced….) doctor walked in and asked me how many counties were in California (I guessed 30?), Alabama (5?), and Texas (5? – I was done playing the game). He then informed me that he hadn’t seen a case of poison oak that was so…interesting….before.
This, as he was also telling me that he wished he could drop a bomb in the San Adreas fault and just have California float off into the Pacific and no one would cry – no siree – especially him…..
I told him what cream I was using (perscriped last year and the first time I got it) and he immediately poo pooed it as entirely worthless at best for this circumstance and most likely making it worse. He then announced that California docs just didn’t see enough of this stuff to properly treat it and promptly told me I would be getting a shot AND a prescription for an ointment in which “usually the dosing is once a day, but in cases like your face that look like THAT (hesitates….) feel free to use it 2-3 times…”
The nurse walked in with the preloaded syringe and let me know that “this is REALLY going to burn”. I let her know (as revenge) that since we were being so honest…the last time I got an injection in my hip I had passed out…..
Then off to the one drug store in town that took my insurance and attempted to fill my prescription without my prescription card…..all while looking like a pus encrusted chipmunk with a tooth ache AND a thyroid problem.
Now, 7 hours after the injection, the swelling has started to go down. The pus has finally stopped (thanks to the new cream) and I actually felt well enough to sit in a restaurant and eat dinner (I’ve only been able to manage fast food up until this point – trust me, NO one wanted to look at my face and eat).
Several people (including the doctor) have said that although the pus/etc is obviously a reaction to the poison oak oils, the other secondary reactions such as the swelling look like an allergic reaction in ADDITION to the primary irritation….which means I may be developing (most likely infact…..) a severe allergy to the poison oil, in ADDITION to being sensitive.
This reaction featured the never before experienced (by me) symptom of swelling. What might the next bring? I think it’s time to see if I can track down that poison oak vaccine I was told was available at some point…..
I could always take the docs advice to prevent poison oak (after telling me if I thought Technu worked, he had a bridge for sale….) and soap up my face and arms, then ride, then rinse the soap off afterwards. At least that allergic reaction (from the long-exposure to soap) might not feature swelling……
On the other hand, Doc gave me SEVEN refills on this magical (and no doubt, high toxic cream, which I currently could not care less as long as it allows me to sleep tonight NOT glued to my pillow) cream. That might last me as long as a year with careful rationing….