Where did we leave off? Oh yeah, Spring in the south. Except that’s not exactly how it all worked out.
We arrived in Chattanooga on Sunday, April 25th and they were beginning the work on the bus on Monday. Jim has detailed the bus work here. We knew we would be there for several days and I had a whole list of projects that I aimed to complete. New hangers for the bedroom closet that actually fit in the closet width, straighten up the closets and drawers, laundry, catch up on work for the NAOC, deep clean the bus, read, cook, walk the kitties. Take some pictures. The usual.
At least we are good at multi-tasking. Ha!
After we had been there a couple of days, my scratchy eye had gotten worse and I was pretty sure I had conjunctivitis. So we found an Urgent Care Center and I got looked at by a Physician’s Assistant. She looked in my eye and made sure there was nothing actually in there, even though it felt like a sandy rock had settled behind my eye. She gave me a script for an antibiotic eye drop. I also had her look at a couple of tiny blisters on my forehead to make sure it wasn’t poison ivy. I am deadly allergic to that and wanted to rule it out. We had also been meaning to get the shingles vaccine so she wrote us both a prescription for that too.
When she looked at the blisters she mentioned shingles but mostly in passing since I also wanted to get the vaccine. My friend Andrea had shingles when we were in Austin and she said it was the very worst, sickest she had ever been. This from a girl who has survived metastatic breast cancer, a bone marrow transplant, various surgeries and thyroid cancer. Worse that that? So yeah, we had the shot on the list.
We went to CVS and stocked up on eye drops and allergy medicines and got the shingles shot. Cross that off the list. The eye drops seemed to be helping so I figured in a day or so I would be good to go.
The next morning I woke up with my eye glued shut and angry bumps on half my forehead and all around my eye. My good eye. I knew right away I needed to see a doctor so we borrowed Don’s car again and headed to a clinic where they had a real MD; we checked before we went this time. Diagnosis? Shingles!
The doctor said as soon as he came in the room and saw my face that he knew it was shingles. He prescribed an anti-viral medicine to take for a week and said that since shingles follows a nerve it was affecting the area around my eye but not the eye itself. That can get really bad. I was glad for that info but was severely pissed that the PA at the other place didn’t catch it the previous day, especially when Doctor #2 said it would have been better to start the anti-viral a day earlier.
On the way back to the bus, we stopped at the first clinic and asked for my money back and to see the PA so she could see what a difference a day made. Of course she wouldn’t see me. Exasperated, we left. No wonder their waiting room was empty.
That evening, I emailed our friend, Elizabeth and she said to get to an ophthalmologist STAT! She is a retired MD and psychiatrist and always has good advice for us. She said shingles with eye involvement can escalate rapidly and not to fool around. Of course the next day was Saturday but when I woke up I knew we had to go to the ER and get my eye checked out. Third day in a row to the doctor. And my basic philosophy is to stay as far away from doctors as possible!
The Erlanger East Health System hospital and staff were very professional and accommodating. It was a much faster, more confident experience than either of the other two clinic visits. They got me right in, numbed my eye and stained it so they could see if there was any shingles on my eyeball itself. Thank the Lord Baby Jesus there was none! I wept with relief.
Many years ago I had another eye incident. I worked in a photo lab and a coworker was mixing up chemistry while I was standing there talking to her. She dropped the cube of concentrated chemical and it flew into my eyes. We were right by the sink and rinsed it out and sped to the ER, cube in tow so they would know what it was. Man, did my eye hurt! It was so sensitive to light that I really couldn’t tell if I could see or not. When I was rushed into the ER, the doctor squirted some drops in my eyes and immediately I could see again! He held up the little bottle and said, “People think they know all about good drugs, but this stuff is the real deal.” I knew then I was going to be OK. I had burned off my cornea and he said it would regenerate and just go home and rest. And see the doctor everyday.
At that time I was a bike commuter with no car and there was no way I could ride to the hospital every day. Friends helped with that. One friend brought over some high dosage Valium and basically I just slept for the next several days when I wasn’t at the doctor getting checked out. It worked! They were amazed at how fast my cornea regenerated itself and said keep up whatever I was doing. So I did. When the photosensitivity finally settled down, I knew I was getting better.
Back to the current episode.
The next several days were a blur, literally. Reading up on shingles is scary but I wanted to nip it in the bud as much as possible. I took the anti-viral, mixed up a daily paste of baking soda, apple cider vinegar and castor oil and slobbed it on my swollen face and eye. Took lots of Lysine and vitamin C and started drinking the ACV in water so it could work from the inside out to prevent scarring.
They didn’t give me any pain medicine but when Jim broke his wrist, he got a treasure trove of pain meds that he still had plenty of. I adopted the dose-and-sleep approach again. For the next several days I mixed up my daily paste, took a pain pill and slept all day. Although I never have, I felt like I had been punched in the eye and my whole face was sore. Eyebone soreness is a strange and horrible thing.
My arsenal of treatment included aloe vera gel, baking soda, castor oil, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil and Glyco-Thymoline. The anti-viral medicine seemed to be working and the sandy rock in my eye started to recede. My eye was still draining and swollen but no longer glued shut in the morning. The light sensitivity got better. I started to get my appetite back. The blisters have started to heal and there is actual light at the end of the tunnel. And I can see!
We ended up staying at the garage an extra day just to be sure that my eye was getting better. We are now at a lovely state park in Georgia just taking it easy. From here we will go to spend a few days with Howard and Ellen Best, then on to Atlanta to see Elizabeth, mentioned above and my childhood friend, Pat Downs.
Once again, we have been so very fortunate through all this. I am filled with gratitude. Don, the Choo Choo Express Garage owner told us to take his car anytime. We were stuck in one place anyway and Don said we could stay in their yard as long as we needed to. We were there about 10 days. The anti-viral medicine worked and the vaccine lessened the effects of the shingles. The kitties kept me company on the bed during my naps. Joel worked on the bus tirelessly while Jim completed his list of projects, including installing a freezer in the bay. Jim did all this while hauling me to the doctors and doing everything else besides.
So again, we know we are BIG BIG Lucky! Get the shingles shot! Today! Don’t delay!