Archive for September, 2009

Rash Talking

Cold and flu season is right around the corner, and once it’s upon us, you’re more than welcome to come over to our house—but remember—you’re doing so at your own risk. Because we live with an eight-year-old and three twenty-three-month old toddlers, which means that breaking our threshold is pretty much the viral equivalent of Russian roulette.

We actually weathered last season pretty well, though. Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t like we didn’t get sick—we did. But the illnesses that made their way through our household merely hopped from one person to the next until they had infected everyone, at which point they would either fizzle out or start all over again. And if they started all over again, by the second or third time around, they ended up losing most of their punch—much like “the wave” at a football stadium finally wearing out its welcome and trickling down to an annoying conclusion. Still, minor ailments are a constant at our house from the onset of autumn through mid-May.

It wasn’t until halfway through the summer when it finally dawned on me one day while changing a diaper—Hey, it’s been quite a while since anyone’s had a stuffy nose around here. Glad I don’t have to worry about catching anything for a while. My epiphany was short lived, however, taking an immediate backseat to my concern at the rash I saw on Jack’s bottom. Holy Cow… that’s pretty gnarly. Thank goodness that thing’s not contagious, I thought as I applied a generous amount of Cortizone to the affected area.

Two days later, I noticed a series of small red bumps near my right armpit but thought little of it. Within a week, it had spread to both sides of my body, covering a significant area of my torso. It had also started to itch. Badly. My wife begged me to see a dermatologist, but I was so slammed at work, I refused to take the time, instead choosing to throw every type of over-the-counter ointment imaginable at my red enemy. But all that my various OTC solutions seemed to do was make the damn thing spread like kudzu.

Finally, the itching got so bad that I could no longer stand the sensation of anything touching any portion of the sensitive areas, which by that point was pretty much everywhere—the tops of my feet, my ankles, my calves, behind my knees, the inside of my thighs, my waistband, up and down the left sides of my torso, under each of my arms, on the backs of my arms, in the folds of my elbows, and on the tops of my fingers.

So at night I resorted to sleeping completely nude and on top of the covers. During the day I turned to baggy clothes, like loose-fitting shorts and knit shirts that were a size too big. But such garb still brushed against my rash causing uncontrollable itching. So I turned up the legs of my shorts to minimize the contact, exposing most of my thighs and giving me the appearance of a grape smuggler in the process. I also rolled up the sleeves of my shirt, ala Schneider from “One Day at a Time,” only it wasn’t because I needed a place to park my smokes. It was because if I didn’t, I’d scratch my arms until they bled.

Once discomfort (and humiliating fashion statements) became my twenty-four-hour-a-day companion, there was no sense in denying it any longer—I was a man with full body rash who was in desperate need of medical attention. Though I tried to blame it on Jack and his rash—could it have been contagious?—I had no one to blame but myself. If I had just gone to the dermatologist when the rash first appeared, it wouldn’t have turned into such a big deal. But it had turned into a big deal, and in so doing, it had also turned me into a walking raspberry.

“I’m embarrassed,” I admitted to my wife on the morning of the dermatologist appointment I had finally broken down and made.

“Of what?” she asked.

“Showing the doctor my rash,” I replied. “You yourself said you’ve never seen anything so gross.”

“I know I did,” she admitted while trying to swallow a smile that turned into a chuckle. “I don’t mean to laugh, but you gotta admit—it is pretty gross.”

A quick glance in a mirror that reflected the image of colossal red bumps covering over an eighth of a man’s upper body provided confirmation. Mackenzie Phillips thought that thing was gross. (Multiple “One Day” reference in same blog. Unprecedented!) “And you ask me what I’m embarrassed of,” I lamented.

“Honey, relax,” reassured Caroline. “I guarantee that this guy has seen it all.”

That may have been true, but later that day I still fidgeted nervously as I described the situation to the dermatologist. “It’s pretty disgusting,” I warned after he asked me to remove my shirt.

“You don’t have anything to worry about. Trust me—I’ve seen it all.”

“Okay,” I said as I began to pull my shirt off, “I just wanted to give you a heads up because…”

“Good God, that’s horrible,” he interrupted, recoiling in shock once I was completely shirtless.

Tried to tell ya’…

“I’ll be right back,” he said, leaving the room abruptly. I sat in silence wondering if he’d return with a photographer to conduct an impromptu, rash-inspired photo shoot that would forever immortalize me as the subject of one of those disturbing, skin-condition brochures that were shamelessly displayed on the counter to my left. Instead he returned with only a two-inch needle which he used to inject me with a double dose of steroids before handing me a prescription for some ointment they had originally tried on the Elephant Man.

“By the way, John, that shot has been known to cause some minor side effects, though they are very unlikely.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Acne, but again, it hardly ever happens. Just something to be aware of.”

Guess who went on to get back acne, or “bacne” as my wife liked to call it? It turned out that my rash was an extreme case of eczema, which, coincidentally, is exactly what Jack’s rash was. Medical experts will tell you that eczema cannot be spread from one person to another, and while I’m in no position to dispute such assessments, my harrowing rash experience has left me with but one thing to say.

Bring on cold and flu season.

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