Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm very sorry to leave you with this one

Something bit me the other day. On the inside of my arm.

I felt a little pinch as I was walking up 16th street. It's not like there's dense foliage, so I had to imagine it was a random flying insect. But there's a little trail of spots, and then one larger one. So maybe a spider?

I've ruled out Botfly, in any case. And Guinea Worm. Something far more prosaic seems likely.

But what concerns me is the itch.

This bite was several days ago. And it didn't start itching till this morning. And now it really itches.

So I'm adding Benadryl cream to my stupid little clear plastic bag of three-ounces one can take on the plane. Those three ounce limits sure make me feel safe.

But what this brings me to is not fear of flying (she says, with a brownie on one plate, and bacon on another) but a newly acquired fear of itching.

Because I don't know if you read the New Yorker, but one of the recent issues contains one of the most horrifying things I've ever read. Have any of you read this article on itching?

If not, let me just say this. It's fascinating. It's about itching, and how doctors haven't quite figured out how itching works, neurologically speaking.

I recommend it, but with reservations. Because also? It will make you do a squeamy little ooogy twitchy dance. When you get to this one particular part.

The part where this woman, who had shingles on her head, which killed a lot of the surface nerves, scratches too much. Because, while her doctors think she shouldn't be so itchy, she itches. And she scratches. She tries to stop herself, but at night she scratches.

So much that one night, she scratches clear through her skull.

To her brain.

Seriously. She wakes up in the morning with a weird fluid on her hands. And goes to her doctor. Who calls an ambulance immediately.

Honest to god. Scratched through to her brain.

If that doesn't make you do a squeamy little ooogy twitchy dance, I don't know what will.

And now, I'm off to Chicago. Great weekend, all!


  1. Ewwww! Not exactly the feel good post of the week, L-Glo!

  2. i didnt' even read the article but your synopsis made me squirm enough.

    and i thought dr's knew that it was histamines rising to the surface that cause itching? have i been lied to all these years? maybe i should read the article

    safe travels!

  3. And a happy Friday to you, too ;)

    Safe travels to Chicago!

  4. Have fun in Chicago! Great city.

    This post had me squirmming in my chair, but I've had shingles so I understand. Itch is an understatement.

  5. yes! i read that article! unbelievable - even after spending two years in a ward with her arms strapped down to her sides while she slept, the itching continued, and, as she put it:“I don’t normally tell people this,” she said, “but I have a fantasy of shaving off my eyebrow and taking a metal-wire grill brush and scratching away.”

    hope your itch subsides so you can have a great weekend!

  6. Um, WHAT?!

    That's so, I just, I don't know. GROSS.

  7. Hate to bust the bubble, but to scratch through to her brain, she'd have to scratch through her SKULL. And that? Is not likely at all. More probably is she just scratched through a lot of the skin. Dunno if that makes you feel better, but her brains were not likely to come falling out.

  8. UM........I HAVE THE WILLIES. That. is awful.

  9. great. so now, every single itch I have is suspicious. i'm going to start sleeping with oven mitts on my hands.

  10. oh thank you sarah. seriously. thank. you.

  11. Hey all! I'm back! I have so missed the blog, personal email, the works.

    As for those of you who said, "How gross" - I'm absolutely in your camp. And notsojenny - I think the mystery here was that they figured since her nerve endings were dead, she should have an itch - because she shouldn't be able to feel, regardless of what caused it.

    And Sarah and Betty, I dunno. Here's a paragraph from the article. Maybe the New Yorker is exaggerating, but they were pretty unambiguous about it:

    "One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, “this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid.” She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.’s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night—and all the way into her brain."


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