Saturday, June 28, 2008

You're Gonna Need an Ocean/ Of Calamine Lotion ...

Fascinating article in this week's The New Yorker. Piece speaks of a woman, educated, married, with kids, whose life took an ugly wrong turn. She and her husband fought and split. She turned into a drunk. Got hooked up with a bad boy who drank and did drugs. They went down the road riding the white horse. She caught HIV from an addict while needle sharing. Lost visitation rights to her kids, her job.

So she decided to clean up her act. Lost the boyfriend, kicked the habit, then developed shingles, a nasty viral infection that produces blisters. When it went away, she had a couple years of relative peace -- but the shingles apparently killed some of the nerves in her scalp and left her with an itch on her head that nothing would touch.

She tried everything. During the day, she could maintain, but at night, she would scratch it while she slept. Would wake up bleeding. Scratched through the bandages, the scab, and nothing helped. Doctors tried the whole pharmacological arsenal; the even treated her for depression, and OCD, which she apparently did not have.

She woke up one morning with some funny-colored goop on the bandage that was left and went to her doctor. He took a look, then ran to call the ambulance.

During the night, she had scratched through her skull and into her brain.

That, friends, is an itch.

After surgery, she scratched the skin graft off, scratched it off a second time. Eventually, they tied her hands to the bed rails. She learned how to sleep wearing a football helmet and padded mittens, and the infection to her brain partially-paralyzed her.

Years later, the itch is still there ...

As the guy writing the article pointed out, itching has a psychological component -- at least some of you, while reading this, almost surely felt the urge to, and probably did, scratch. I did, and I wrote it. (As somebody who suffered horrendously from poison ivy when I was young, I feel for this poor woman.)

As the Coasters said:

"Measles make you bumpy/
And mumps'll make you lumpy/
And chicken pox'll make you jump and twitch/
A common cold'll fool ya/
And whooping cough can cool ya/
But poison ivy, Lord'll make you itch!!

Late at night while you're sleepin'/
poison ivy comes a creepin' arr-rroo-oo-uu-nnn-ddd ..."

Brrrr ....