RA is such a handy little villain. So easy to blame for whatever feels wrong. If I’m tired, I blame RA. If I’m fatigued, I definitely blame RA. If my joints ache for any reason, it’s RA’s fault. If my hands are stiff, sore and swollen, well, we know why, don’t we?
But the next day, there was no improvement, rather it felt infinitesimally worse. How could that be? I downed another 20 mg. And what struck me as strange was that it did not hurt to walk. That did not jibe with bursitis, but I pushed that to the back of my mind and concentrated on the exquisite pain I felt just touching the skin around the right side of my pelvis.
I added the heating pad to my regimen, sleeping on it, exactly like you’re not supposed to do. I depended on its automatic shut-off. And anyhow, who was sleeping? 10 mg of Flexeril afforded me three hours tops. The pain was King!
Soon there were bags under my eyes from sleep deprivation and a funny little trail of pink dots over my hip. “I don’t like the looks of that,” said my husband. “Stop using that heating pad.”
But of course, I didn’t. It was palliative; it was a placebo for my pain. The dots got bigger and redder. But still I could walk without the slightest limp. How could it be bursitis?
Yesterday I caved. Went to the Urgent Care. My heart rate was 108, my BP was 160 over what I don’t remember. My systolic BP usually runs between 110 and 120, my heart rate 80 something. Yep, I was in pain. In so much pain, I couldn’t even multiply 2.5 times 6 to tell the nurse what my weekly Methotrexate dose is. Me, who could calculate IV drips in my head couldn’t multiply simple numbers.
Later in the exam room, my husband verified that 2.5 x 6 was 15; I was on 15 mg of MTX. The doctor came in, did the normal drive-by history, then took one look at my hip and said, “Aha, you have shingles.”
Shingles!! (Insert four- letter word here!)
Well, blow me down. I’d never even seen a case of shingles in all my years of nursing, though I have read about it. Read about how painful it can be. And ironically, I just finished a course on pain management for my license renewal. How providential.
I was given a shot of Toradol along with some sympathy. The Toradol is for pain and inflammation, the sympathy was a bonus from the nurse. And then, I was sent home with a long list of prescriptions. The Percocet makes me sleepy and dizzy, so I’ve been catching up on my sleep.
But the Lidocaine patches, mercy me, what a blessing. They suck away the peripheral pain from all over my right side. I can touch now without causing that electrifying agony, and paradoxically, my sensation is returning. My skin had felt numb, yet on fire. Neuralgia is a funny thing. So funny, it almost made me cry.
Now, I have to concede that RA is only indirectly involved in this little incident. The meds I take for it leave me immunosuppressed. But this taught me something. To not let RA mask what might be truly going on. I suffered for four days needlessly. I should have sought treatment sooner. I shouldn’t have waited and self-treated. This lesson was driven home quite piercingly.
Meanwhile, the nurse said I am contagious so I had to tell everybody to stay away for a week. I won’t have my little ray of sunshine this weekend.