February 28, 2018

Just Saying…

Shingles are Better When on the Roof…

A few hundred of my closest Facebook friends already know this, but QC Jones had/has the shingles. Yep, without warning, without prior notice, that little bit of virus that has been in my system since the summer between first and second grade has decided now would be a great time to come back to life.  Allow me to give you a four minute play by play of the disease in action.

Let it be known, I like memorable birthdays. I have referenced this before, but old QC’s birthday falls squarely over the top of National Pie Day. Typically, I skip past the birthday cake, ice cream and candles to have a gigantic slice of pie to celebrate. This year, I skipped the pie; perhaps missing the curative powers of a flaky crust and raisin filling. Shingles took advantage.

Celebrating the day with a friend and neighbor, whose birthday I have celebrated for my entire life, I enjoyed a great night out in LeClaire starting at the brewery and walking our party down the road with food, fun, conversation and a selection of grown-up beverages. It was a great night. The next morning was a different story.

I hate to disappoint those who were thinking hangover, but it was a little pain above my right eye.  Assuming the pain was tied to winter related dry sinus I applied lots of “ocean spray” and continued by day. The next day, however, I noticed a painful bump under my right eyelid. It felt like a seriously ingrown hair follicle and the pain was persistent.  The following day, I had a routine insurance related appointment with my friend Beverly Benmoussa, Nurse Practitioner of the Village of East Davenport’s Weekend Clinic.

Looking over the sore spot and seeing other bumps rising across the nerve path across my forehead, Beverly told me it was more than infection. I had the dreaded shingles. A number of thoughts crossed my mind. Holy cow, how sick would I be? More importantly, how much pain would accompany the disease? Armed with a supply of anti-viral drugs and a healthy dose of prednisone, I braced myself for the worst. What you are about to read is a detail of that journey.

On day two, my forehead began to break out in earnest.  A number of liquid filled bumps followed the outline of the nerve that traces from above my right eye across my face to the hairline. The path was clearly visible and the bumps seemed to be growing before my very eyes.

The pain associated with the bumps was tolerable, except when attempting to sleep. As you know with any illness, sleep is imperative. That night as I laid in bed, I could feel the
pulsing of my heart through each and every one of these spots.  It was more like a dull throb with occasional flare-ups that were quite painful.  I made every effort as humanly possible to not scratch or rub the bumps.  During waking hours this was through sheer force of will.  At night, it was impossible to
control in my sleep.

On day three, the virus spread to my right eye; or at least the eyelid.  In a matter of hours my eye went from nearly
normal to swollen beyond belief.  I looked like Rocky after his fight with the big Russian dude in Rocky IV; eye puffed out well beyond the socket.  The pain was fierce, but the worst part was not being able to open my eye. Reading, watching TV and just going through the motions of daily life brought on headaches.  It was decided that I should visit the eye doctor.  It was eye opening.

During my visit with Dr. Siv Brit Saetre of the Davenport Eye Group, I was told two important points.  First, shingles in the eye is serious mojo and can lead to vision loss and several other complications.  Second, at that point it looked like I was going to be spared the “in the eye” torment.  After a couple of repeat visits, I still don’t have a complete bill of health.  There was a tiny amount of stuff in my eye, but it still looks like I dodged the bullet.

Over the following weeks (it has been three as I write this), the bumps have crusted over and are nearly invisible. The eye swelling is ninety percent gone. It appears as though I am through with this bout with the disease. But, I still get plenty of questions. Here are a few examples.

Are you contagious? The answer is only to people who have not had the chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine.  Further, shingles is not as contagious as chicken pox.  However, there is a risk to those listed above if they come into contact with the still oozing bumps. Once the bumps have crusted over (day 5 for me), there is no chance of contagion.

Why does it seem like so many people are getting shingles?  This is again tied to the vaccination.  Since the 90s, most children are given a chicken pox vaccination. Most adults don’t come in contact with the virus as much as in the “good old days.” Back then, every contact with a child sporting the virus gave our immune system a little natural “booster shot.”  We don’t get it anymore making shingles more prevalent.

Finally, a public service announcement.  Get the vaccination.  Even if the doctor says you are too young. Insist. You don’t want to be like me.

Just saying.

Filed Under: Health & Wellness