March 30, 2016

My March Madness Continues.. with a Case of Shingles.

What a lousy month.

On March 5, I called 911 and ended up in Sibley Hospital's emergency room at 3am. My leg muscles had turned to jelly, and I simply couldn't stand. After all sorts of tests, the medical team there found no cause for what had happened, and they sent me home.

I was pretty sure the problem resulted from my taking a new OTC sleeping pill that contained serotonin-boosting ingredients that -- when added to the serotonin-boosting 5-HTP I've taken for years -- had  me overdosing on the stuff.

I decided to stop taking my beloved 5-HTP. It wasn't easy, and I started experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

While all this was still going on, a rash appeared on my midriff. I was promptly diagnosed with shingles, even though I'd taken the shot for shingles a few years ago. I've since learned that many seniors who've gotten the vaccine still end of with the condition, though usually a milder version.

I vaguely remember having a case of shingles decades ago, but I don't recall the details. I know others who've had it more recently, and with the typical pain and itchiness. I've had little pain and no itchiness... just lots of fatigue.

Close Call on the Timing
I received the diagnosis at my doctor's office on Thursday afternoon, March 24. At virtually the same time, my housemates Nimesh and Bhawana were driving home from Sibley Hospital with their newborn daughter Nivah.
Shingles is transmittable. It's not an airborne contagion, and isn't so easily passed from one person to another. Still, nearly everything I've read warns against exposing pregnant women or babies to anyone with shingles. When I told my doctor a newborn baby was joining our household, he told me to be careful and avoid all contact with the baby.

Since the rash first appeared Wednesday night, I was very lucky to be seen by the doctor the next day and get the shingles diagnosis and the warning about the need to stay away from the baby. Without the diagnosis and the warning, Nivah on arriving home no doubt would have been exposed to "Shingles John."

Nivah has been in residence for almost a week now. She and I have been in the same room together, but only for a few minutes. I'm also keeping my distance from Nimesh, Bhawana and her parents. We'll have lots of opportunities for togetherness later.

For a good summary on managing shingles in older adults, click here. For a photo journal of Nivah's day of birth, click here.

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