Face-off With The “Snake” In The Metal Year Of The Rat!
What started out for me as suspicion of an over-stretched muscle during my early-morning calisthenics routine, quickly turned into something that I was not familiar with nor was I prepared for, just before CNY (the Metal Year of the Rat) – face-to-face with the “snake” (within the Chinese community) or shingles.
One fine day, I felt a mild tingling pain on the left side of my body – where? If you use the palm of your right hand to cover the entire lower left portion of your ribcage with the bottom of the palm at the same level with the bottom edge of ribcage, there. Not knowing any better, and thinking it was a stretched muscle, I just applied a warm plaster relief patch for an entire 2 nights (3 days) but to no avail. In fact, the pain became more intense and fearing the worse (since it is very close to the heart area), I went to see my good family doctor on the eve of CNY.
Once I mentioned these – one-sided tingling and gradually-increasing pain over the last few days, and with no apparent blue-black bruises that would otherwise lead to suspicion of a muscle pull or exercise-sustained injuries, she quickly mentioned her suspicion – shingles. One quick ECG to rule out any heart-related situation, she sent me off, preparing me for the worse – usually between 7-10 days period. Don’t put any ointment on it or put any plaster was her parting advice.
From the 4th day (eve of CNY, 24th Jan) to 6th day of the pain (2nd day of CNY, 26th Jan), nothing developed though the pain lingers and continued.
Now let me describe the pain during this period of time. During the day, the pain can range from mild but recurring tinge of electric shocks occurring on the left side to sometimes jabbing pain that runs from the upper to the lower side of the same area. The stubborn pain would not go away even when I was asleep and many a times, got even worse and I was rudely awakened! Lying flat on my back seemed to be my best position. Through it all, I was just bordering between overdosing myself with Panadols as painkillers to just gritting my teeth and bearing through the pain. At some point here, seeing that I was in pain, my family members also tried to coax me into using counterpain or muscle spray but I decided to heed the doctor’s advice.
On the 6th day evening, my “routine sweep” of the area finally unearthed a rough patch of smallish rash dots. I didn’t know whether I was happier that it was indeed shingles and not something else! At the doctors, she prescribed me anti-viral medications for the next 7 days, 5 times a day for a total of 35 doses altogether and the dosage pattern was 7-11-3-7-11. Hence, from 3rd day of CNY onwards, I literally quarantined myself, waking up early to have my food and then my medications and sleeping again. The pain then was unbearable and sleeping helped me to forget the pain (if I can sleep at all). Correspondingly, during this period of time, I almost totally forgotten about the rashes as it was not bothering me at all.
Once I finished my 7-day dosage of medicines, went back to see the doctor on 3rd Feb, happily reporting that the scabs seemed to be healing but posed this question: how come the pain was still there, if not even worse at times. She said that it may stick around for a bit more, some folks like a month or so?! L
Hence, in the last 10 days, without anti-viral medications and the scabs getting visually better and the pain coming and going at its own whims and fancies, I went about my daily life as best as I could.
Now during this period of time, the recovering rashes decide to “rear its other head” – itchiness! It became especially worse at night when my back is between the pajamas and the bed sheets; you just wished you can reach in there and scratch your hearts away. Yours truly decided not to, thankfully, but sad to say that the pain peaked during this same period.
Guido R. Zanni, PhD has this to say about this period:
The second, or acute, phase is characterized by a dermatomal rash, often accompanied by unbearable itching, pain, and allodynia (site pain in response to innocuous stimuli such as clothing or wind). The rash typically lasts 7 to 10 days, with the majority of patients healing within 4 weeks.
The 2nd part – site pain, was really heightened for me; imagine this – here you are, driving…with your seat belt across your body and the car going over a bump…that friction alone on your body from the seat belt and shirt caused super excruciating pain/numbness/highly sensitive sensation – I could no longer differentiate which was which! I just held the seat beat away from my body. And when times got bad, I just popped my good ole painkillers.
Lo and behold, today is the 10th day since my last dosage, and thankfully, at the time of writing, I can say that it was no longer due the effects of my previous-night painkiller that the recurring pain for the last 3 weeks has gone away; the pain has indeed subsided! A full 3 weeks of nearly 24×7 pain and self-quarantine and confining to the home! Looking back, thankful that I had this over CNY, as I can have the rest, but bad that CNY 2020 just passed by like that! Positively, I see this as a timely reset for me and my body…
So much about that, and my “journey”, let’s mull over some facts on shingles:
· Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
· After recovering from chicken pox, the virus would lie inactive in nerve tissues near the spinal cord and brain. Years later (if ever), the virus may reactivate as shingles.
· So, anyone who has had chicken pox may develop shingles.
· A person with shingles can pass the virus to anyone who has not had the chicken pox, which is through direct contact with the shingles rash.
· If infected, that person will develop chicken pox, but not shingles.
· Hence, it is contagious for:
o Anyone who has not had chicken pox or the its vaccine
o Pregnant women and
o People with weaker immune systems such as elderly folks who are 60 or older.
Here is what this means for you – I would strongly urge for our parents to be administered the shingles vaccinations as the 24×7 more-than-jabbing-pain can be very daunting for them to handle for such a prolonged period of time, at their age!