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Monday, 27 October - link


Thanks for all the replies to my head-growth picture post. I think the worst part of having some strange thing on my head was not knowing what it was, not being familiar with my little hostile hitchhikers. As they grew and itched and demanded my attention, I needed first a name, a story, a metaphor to attach, and then something I could do about them. I've done a fair amount of research into alternative medicines and spirituality, but I didn't feel competant to diagnose or treat this thing. Especially because along with the painful itching red bumps on my head, there's a swollen aching lump next to my ear. My whole head seems to be freaking out.

The two are related, as it turns out. I hit the phones at 8am when the doctors' offices opened and I had an appointment by 9.15 - my first doctor's visit in seven years. A Doctor R. Huang in Berkeley saw me - she was smiling, full of energy and comforting in her competance. Listening to my symptoms, examining my head, she concluded that I have a kind of herpes of the head. That's a rather uncharitable way to describe it, I think. Like imagining I've been having anal-cranial sex or something. Rather, I prefer to describe it as an adult resurfacing of the Chicken Pox, commonly known as Shingles (as Professor Burke described).

The formal name is the Herpes Zoster Virus. It has infected the first branch of my trigenial nerve, located in my forehead. The bumps I currently see are following the line of a nerve in my head, she explained. And my lymph node near my ear has swollen to compensate. If I wait a while, it might go away. But the risk is that the virus could move into the second branch of my trigeminal nerve, infecting the area around my eyes and causing an eye infection, with possible permanent side-effects. Either way, my swollen node next to my ear and my itching head are bugging me. And the idea of a pox-filled eye doesn't quite delight.

Immediately she prescribed Acyclovir, an anti-viral medication. That's a common prescription for this condition; she decided on IV administration of the drug to speed up the delivery, to keep the illness from reaching my eyes. In about two hours a nurse is coming to my house to show me how to hook myself up to an IV drug-delivery device. Then for the next five days, every eight hours, I have to plug myself into this drug machine for an hour, while the medicine courses through my veins. Anyone got anything good I can toss in with the Acyclovir?

I did get some Neurontin which dulls the pain that comes from my lymph node swelling against my ear. It's supposed to make me quite drowsy, though due to the selective nature of its pain relief, it should be quite useless when this is all over. In addition, I picked up some Clotrimazole and Betamethasone Dipropionate Cream, for an unrelated fungal infection in my scalp. Mmmm, tasty! I'm just falling apart here.

My last drug pickup today was Ambien, a sleeping medication. For the last few days I've been sleeping about five hours a night, from 9pm until 2am or so, and then an hour or two in the day. Jet lag and a restless mind. The Ambien should help me sleep (you bet it should - even with a touch of health insurance 30 pills cost me $75). Doctor Huang said my Herpes/Pox/Shingles problem could be caused by stress - travel and worry slowing my immune system. I landed from Korea Wendesday and I'm leaving for London Sunday. I asked her if I should cancel my trip, she didn't think that was necessarily necessary.

I'm happy that I have some understanding of what's happening, and some drugs - I'm curious to watch the sideeffects, illness and remedies wage war in my flesh. I should learn to relax. That's a separate post. In the meantime, I'll take some breaths, cancel a bunch of appointments, fire up the DVD player and see how I feel after a few days of IV drug use.

Posted on 27 October 2003 : 15:18 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.