As the weeks wore on before the big move into the house, I tried my very best to amp up my excitement. Just a few months before, I would have screamed with joy at moving into our home on our land. But I was having trouble mustering emotions. I am still having trouble finding any emotions; a sure sign the the dark cloud is slowly lifting. Depression strikes me with waves of emotional outbursts followed by complete apathy before it subsides. So I have been biding my time and riding the storm out. The transition began; I sent a letter to our landlord giving our thirty days notice. And then I promptly broke out in a rash.
A rash for my immune-compromised self is nothing new. Nothing at all. But then, a week later, it was still growing.
I saw a nurse practioner on one of those hospital apps. Received a diagnosis. Was given a topical medicine and had to wash all clothing, bedding and towels in very hot water. The fella even had to use the medicine. Two weeks later, it was still growing. And it started to hurt.
I called my primary doctor. I hadn’t visited her in two years because she is always booked, causing me to rely on urgent care. She was booked again through the end of the week. I asked the receptionist if I could see any available doctor, as my skin was getting worse. Nope. No one available. I could call the next morning for the on-call doctor if no one else with priority needed to be seen. (Side rant-I live in a town of less than three thousand-not being able to get an appointment with any available doctor in the clinic is ridiculous. I’ve fired so many doctors and clinics here I’m running out of options people…)
The next day I go to the urgent care facility, who are slowly becoming my primary care facility. They run some tests. “Yes,” the doctor says, “something is very obviously going on. But I’m not sure what exactly. I’m sending you to a dermatologist right away.”
I hop in my Prius and drive down the road. The dermatologist says I have excema. We go over my skin care regime and lotions. I already use all the lotions on her list of required excema calming lotions. She wants to put me on prednisone immediately because my skin is so inflamed.
I’m not sold. “I’ve been on prednisone,” I tell her, “I’m an asthmatic, I know how it works. I don’t want to take it unless it’s the only option.” I push her for a skin biopsy against her advice. The biopsy is too expensive, she says. It will take a whole week, she says. Don’t I want relief now, she asks? I get the feeling she doesn’t often work with such opinionated patients. This realization makes me smile for the first time in weeks.
She sends the skin biopsy to Des Moines and I purchase the most ultra-healing thick creams and lotions that exist in the Walmart.
Five days later, there’s a message on my voicemail to call the office back, my biopsy results are in.
“Good thing we did the biopsy,” the doctor starts off, “it’s not excema.”
Good thing we did the biopsy indeed.
It’s a virus. It’s a virus that would only worsen had I taken prednisone. There is no way to prevent the virus. I could have the rash for up to four months. I’m not contagious. The virus causes miscarriages up to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. In later weeks it causes severe birth defects and stillbirth. “But you aren’t pregnant, right?” The dermatologist asks.
“No…” I say much too slowly. “So what do I do now?”
“Nothing.” She replies. “You’ll likely be immune to the virus after this episode is done and there is no treatment. Just don’t get pregnant while you still have signs of the rash. It is dangerous.”
I pushed end on my iPhone and sat looking out over my steering wheel. I felt as though I could float into the sky at any moment. Semis whirled passed me, as they do on Iowa blacktops and highways in the rural back country.
“It is dangerous.” I repeat to myself. “It would have been dangerous.”
I un-muted the radio and started driving again, Lennon’s words shouting through my head.