Shingle Hells

I thought I was so smart! Before getting a kidney transplant I researched vaccines that I needed. I discovered that the shingles vaccine recommended for everyone over age 60 is a live vaccine and not allowed after transplant. It took some convincing, but my insurance agreed to pay for the vaccine for a 48 year old. Woohoo! I got the shingles vaccine and proceeded to transplant feeling both safer and smarter.

Fast forward 10 months…. Turns out I don’t know everything. The shingles vaccine (known as zoster) while important is still only 51% effective and less so in immune compromised people such as organ transplant recipients – like me. After 4 days of brutal rib and back pain I woke up Monday morning with a garish rash wrapping in a wide swath around my ribs on the right side from spine to sternum. 24 hours later the tell-tale blisters were forming.

Fortunately I had a doctors appointment scheduled anyway – because I always have a doctors appointment scheduled somewhere – and I got started on antiviral medication, extra pain pills and lidocaine patches. My bedroom looks like a pharmacy! But I’ve got it under control and once again I felt smart. For a brief period.

After 24 hours of aggressively managing pain with pharmaceuticals and chocolate, I finally read the directions on the prescription lidocaine patches out of curiosity. I mean, how complicated could it be? Peel off the backing and stick the patch to your skin….’Do not use for more than 12 hours in a 24 hour period.’ Huh.

Husband: “How long have you been wearing the patches?”

Me: “24 hours. I’ve been in hellish pain!”

Husband: “Yeah, getting too much lidocaine in your system is bad.”

Me: “Why? Does it make you go numb inside?”

Husband stares blankly…..

It turns out that too much lidocaine absorbed through the skin can be fatal. I can just see the obituary now – she died from a sticker. I’m seriously rethinking feeling smart.

Maybe you’ve felt pretty smart sometimes. Maybe you’ve had your pride knocked down a peg or two. Much like shingles, it hurts. How we react makes all the difference. As long as we don’t get angry and defensive, these humbling lessons provide opportunities to add useful knowledge and humorous anecdotes to our toolkit. You never know when those tools could be a lifesaver for someone else. Wishing you many lessons and a full toolkit!

Autumn (1)

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