It happened years ago, thank goodness. Time has healed the nightmare. It began as an itch on my arm late one day at the office. No big deal, just a slight tickle on the old epidermis that causes the hand to move to the spot where your fingernail brings instant relief. It actually feels kind of nice when you, “Scratch that thing and make it feel good.”
So I scratched and it was gone. Then it was back. Still nothing seemed out of the ordinary as I went through the non-thinking motions again. More relief.
But then my face began to itch and I rubbed my eyes, then my arms again, and my back and hands and, well, pretty much everything.
At last the little guy in my brain said, “Hey man, don’t you think you’re scratching a lot?”
So I walked down the hall to the bathroom, scratching the back of my leg as I went, which I must have been doing for a while because I had broken the skin.
The face in the mirror startled me. Small red bumps had appeared over my left eye and on my cheek. That’s when I checked the back of my leg and saw the blood.
No real panic yet, but I did wonder if it had to do anything with the “Butterfinger Blast,” that editor Susie had brought me back from Sonic.
It was now around four o’clock so I decided to head home and do my scratching in private. My phone rang as I drove down I-630. It was PB (Publisher Boss). I told him what was happening with me and he suggested I drive over to my doctor’s office, which I did. I had called my wife, KM, and she wanted to meet me there.
When I arrived it was 4:17, the doors were locked. If anything, the itching and swelling was getting worse so I called KM and told her to meet me at the closest hospital emergency room. But when I got there I found they had moved to the other side of the interstate. I called KM back to tell her and scratched my way back to my car.
That first ER we tried was packed. What is this, a pandemic? Anthrax in the south, distributed through “Butterfinger Blasts!” How diabolical. And was editor Susie in on it?
The woman at the ER desk indicated without saying it that I was to write my name on a piece of paper and find a seat in the brightly lit room filled with depressed looking souls and sounds of late afternoon television.
The other afflicted looked up at me as I walked past, and why not, I was changing, and not in a good Batman type of way; more like a deformed Penguin.
KM came in, took one look around, and said, “We’re not staying here.” I didn’t argue. We got into her car and she had already talked to my doctor at his home and he said to give me three Benadryl and go to the ER. We got the drug and headed west to the next nearest hospital.
Once inside, we were welcomed to a different world. The friendly and attentive nurses put me on what they called the “fast track,” and in 15 minutes KM and I were in a room and seeing a doctor.
He looked me over and I told him that I was scheduled for a root canal the next week and had been taking antibiotics for about 10 days, specifically Amoxicillin. I told him I had taken penicillin all my life with no problems. He didn’t think that was the cause and was leaning towards something viral.
The staff watched me awhile and the Benadryl had kicked in so I was feeling better and they let me go. He wrote me some prescriptions, one for an Epipen, in case my throat began to close up. He said you jab it into your thigh and “walk back to the ER if you have to.”
“Couldn’t I just have some pain pills instead?” I asked.
Back at my house I lay on my couch, with fears of a swelling throat. About 9:45 I looked in a mirror and my eyes were more swollen, as were my lips. I looked like Jake LaMotta, “The Itching Bull.” My arms and backs of my legs were covered in hives. On the positive side, I could still breathe.
The horror that used to be my face had progressed though and KM took me back to hospital and their “fast track.” The same doctor was still on duty and he seemed a bit embarrassed, saying he was changing his earlier call. The penicillin had to be causing this. Looking back, I’m surprised he didn’t say, “Guess who just got reinstated…well, almost."
They gave me a steroid shot and an anti-histamine shot. The doctor moved to the area next to me with another patient. We were separated by a thin curtain and I was reminded of the Seinfeld “Spongebath” episode.
I overheard the doctor was telling the guy on the other side of the curtain it was time for another pain shot. Some people have all the luck.