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Taking On Poison Sumac

Abstain from every form of evil.  ~1 Theassalonians 5:22

Nicole, me and Roxanne in mom & dad's yard

Last weekend I helped dad in the yard.  While he mowed I weed whacked all around the house, the orchard and part of the bank.  First, I will admit I’m not the most graceful with the equipment, but I get the job done, sometimes down to the dirt.  It was a hot one and the weeds were pretty considerable, not being done for a couple weeks.  I’m pretty good about protecting myself when I do yard work, wearing pants, tennis shoes, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.  It never fells, I always hit a rock or some object that goes flying at my face or legs, and I won’t even go into what the sun would do to my skin if left unprotected.

As I moved around the yard, Seven stayed within the same vicinity and was pretty much by my side, until he would get hot and move toward the shade.  He was never far from me, unless I was making objects fly.  He didn’t seem to mind the noise of the weed whacker like Scooby.  When I fired up, Scooby took off to sit with my mom or hide in the house.  I was kind of glad, I didn’t want to hurt the dogs, but Seven seemed to know when to lay near me while I worked, and when to keep his distance.  Of course he made his appearance when I needed a break or needed to fuel up. In fact, that was Scooby’s cue to join in on the party and make up some lost attention.

PoisonSumac Aunt Heather Piper.JPG
Poison Sumac... take a good look at those poisonous leaves

As I proceeded up the bank, working my way around the blueberry bushes, I hit a hornets nest up under the bush.  Yikes!  I know, just because I’m allergic to yellow jackets, doesn’t necessarily mean I’m allergic to hornets.  But I wasn’t about to find out.  Seven and I ran, aborting the area and informing dad while he was mowing, so the surprise didn’t come in the form of a dozen, armed angry hornets.  I figured weeding that area will have to wait until the hornet’s where given their official eviction notice.

Later, I saw a huge black snake that took off down the bank before dad could catch up to it on the lawn mower. Ya, I hate snakes!  That geeked me out a bit.  Enough that dad thought it might have gone in the one set of weeds, so he sat there and watched me knock down the brush. And me being me, I fell down the yard while I was cautiously watching for the two and half foot slimy threat.  I got a good look at the snake and it was a black snake, not poisonous, but regardless, a two and a half foot snake!  I’m sure dad rolled his eyes at me especially when I fell a second time, slipping on the grass.  But it wouldn’t be a day without a minor accident.

After I was done with the yard, thinking I had avoided all the threats out in the jungle, I found out the next day I was wrong.  Sadly, I will admit we were working on Sunday, which I don’t like to do.  I try to honor the Sabbath day, but alas dad was feeling better and I wanted to help him out.  Come Monday, I noticed my arm was itchy and I started to see small blisters.  Yikes!  Not poison ivy?  Nope, I later found out that I had a case of poison sumac.  My left arm had a patch nearly the size of the palm of my hand and it was swollen!  Then by the end of Monday and moving into the next day, small patches started to show up and down my right arm, stomach, and neck.  I can handle the small patches.  Not too terrible.  They were itchy, but the cream I put on the irritated skin helped relieve some the itching and they didn’t consume much real estate.  Now, the patch on my left arm was a different story.  It was hard, like I get when stung by a bee, hot, red, and it hurt.  It felt as if I burned my arm on the oven rack.  It never itched just burned.  Then, by mid week it was oozing.  Yes, draining!  Not just a little moisture, I mean dripping down my arm.  I had to wrap it up for work and change my bandage half way through the day.  It was nasty!

Nicole, me, & dad holding Kyle... day out fishing with the family

Wednesday night, I thought I’m going to win this battle and actually take something.  I went home after work, took two Benadryl’s, which I NEVER take medicine and laid on the couch ready for the drowsy effects to kick in.  It was strange, I never felt tired or drugged.  So I decided, I was going to help the medicine out by kicking back a shot of vodka.  I thought that should do it. Nope!  Finally I just went to bed, tossing and turning all night.  Sometimes I would bump my left arm and it would wake me up.  Not only did the Benadryl not work, but I awoke up Thursday morning to find a large pool of ooze in my 800 thread count sheets.  I was not happy and totally grossed out at the same time.  Well, by then there seemed to be a thousand blisters of various sizes anchored to that area of my arm and spreading.  By mid-day most of my forearm was noticeably swollen, seeping and in pain.

Not being a big fan of going to doctors, especially when I don’t think they can do anything, I was torn.  I am also not a big fan of taking medicine, I would much rather eat the right foods and use nature as my medicine.  So I began to read articles and forums online.  I know most of the information is not medically approved, but sometimes I trust someone who has gone through the same situation over taking a drug prescribed for everyone.  Reading through all the horror stories, I realized my case was not a sever as others, and everyone had their own method for dealing with the situation.  That makes sense, everyone’s allergic reaction is different and so must be the treatment.  I must say, I didn’t know what to do.  But right after work on Thursday, I had Kyle’s baseball game and then I had to take him to my parents house.  Dad was taking Kyle fishing all day Friday.

Yep the color is about right... it was actually dripping like a faucet

What to do? What to do?  I went to the game and sat there holding my ooze soaked paper towels, trying to be as discreet as possible.  As I sat there, I started to feel nauseous.  I don’t know if it was from the allergic reaction or from watching my arm drain like a leaky sink.  At one point, I started to get into the game and I leaned forward, elbows on knees, teetering my umbrella over my shoulder to keep the sun off of me, and I saw drips of ooze landing on the bleacher in front of me!  I was mortified!  I started to text my friend Holly, I like to think of her as my running partner and personal nurse.  She was yelling at me through text messages, telling me to get my butt to the doctors.  She wanted me to go to the ER.  That seemed a bit extreme for me.  What probably made it worse, I texted her a picture of my oozing, raw, swollen arm.  This was when my way of thinking did start to shift.  On a side note, I sent my sister the same picture just to gross her out.  I do find humor in the little things in life.

Kyle’s team lost, again, but he had a few great assists and he participated.  His batting swings were strong, just never made good contact with the ball.  He ran his heart out though and I was proud!  Sometimes sitting there for two hours watching a kids baseball game is painful, since I can’t sit for too long, being a hyperactive person, and I’m not a fan of sports.  But I do it week over week to watch my little man.  He seems to enjoy it and I support and encourage anything that benefits him, whether I like it or not.

As we made our way home, I really started to deliberate my situation, especially while I had a bunch of completely soaked paper towels resting between my thigh and forearm as I drove.  Kyle called mom and was talking to her and I had him ask mom how late Med Express stayed open.  They were open till 9:00 pm and our current time was 8:10 pm.  This was going to be a close one, but I thought if I could get to there before they closed then God was saying go see a doctor.  If we didn’t make it in time, then I was planning on taking a Benadryl and calling it a night.

Alas, God had spoken, because we got there in great time and they took me in right away.  Kyle was such a trooper.  He kept my wallet and my iphone so I didn’t have to worry about them.  I even offered to call mom and have her pick him up so he didn’t have to wait with me.  He said, “No it’s ok, I have my ipod I’ll be good.  I’ll wait with you.”  That kid has such a heart.  As we sat there talking, Kyle bragged, as I always have, that he doesn’t get poison ivy.  I corrected him saying, “Don’t ever chance it, you don’t know when the tables will be turned.”  He kind of shrugged.  I hope he heeds my warning.  Then he turns to me and says, “I hope they don’t give you a shot.  I don’t like shots!”  With complete fear in his eyes.  I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and he went back to playing his ipod.

poison ivy Aunt Heather Piper
Another one of my nemesis... poison ivy

While they took me back to get my vitals they have to go through the serious of questions, ‘How long have you had this?’ and ‘Have you had surgery before?’.  I really have been pretty healthy all my life, I am blessed in that respect.  I answered as best I could until the nurse asked me if I was in the hospital for anything and Kyle perked up and said, “Ya Aunt Heather you broke your arm.”  I said, “She doesn’t mean that and how do you remember that anyway?”  Actually, I’ve broken both of my wrists, my right one twice.  But all of those were pre-Kyle, yet he must have remembered us talking about it.  The nurse commented that it must have made an impression on him.  I guess so.

Once they took me back to the patient room, the minute the doctor saw me he said, “Yep, poison sumac!  It’s a good thing you came in ’cause it would continue to spread all over your body.”  Yikes!  He was right, as we sat there I noticed more patches of it showing up.  Here, I thought it was going to start to go away.  The doctor then asked me, “Do you have it elsewhere?” and I started to point out other patches.  Then, Kyle jumped up to point out every place that was infected.  Love my buddy, he keeps me in line and gets straight to business.  Next thing out the doctor’s mouth was, “Ok, I’ll you a shot and you will need to take these pills for two weeks.”  Just then I saw the horror in Kyle’s eyes as he stopped playing and slowly moved his head up to meet my eyes.  I just gave him an encouraging smile.  When the nurse came in and prepped the needle I thought Kyle turned green.  Then right before she shot my arm, he completely turned around and stood with his back to me.  My little man!  The nurse was too sweet, she said, “I hurried up and did it.”  It was for Kyle’s sake not mine and I’m glad.  The nurse said, “It’s ok, I’m done, your aunt’s fine.”  He slowly and reluctantly turned to face me with such an upset demeanor.  I said, “I’m fine buddy. No worries.”  He said, “You are?  I don’t like needles.”  Just then the burn of the shot started to shoot through my muscle, as I tried to keep a smile on my face and not show Kyle it was burning.

poison_sumac Aunt Heather Piper
Yep this is poison sumac too! Yikes! It looks harmless and pretty

Well the little adventure to the doctor’s we certainly eventful.  They are really great in there, unfortunately it wasn’t my first trip to that office.  In fact, as I sat in waiting room I 4 Squared my location from my phone, and I became the Mayor of Med Express Latrobe.  Yikes!  How sad, I’m not the mayor of a restaurant, not the mayor of a park or a store, but I am the mayor of Med Express.  That is too funny!  As we got home dad asked me where I encountered the poison sumac, and I honestly have no idea. I apparently don’t know what it looks like.  Then, as dad examined my arms he said, “Why didn’t you just dump gasoline on it?” and I retorted with, “Ya and you should just light a match too.”  He snickered, dad doesn’t know what it’s like to have sensitive skin.  He was and will always be a mountain man, a true woods man.  Then I go from that extreme to another.  Holly called me and started to ask me thirty thousand questions, ‘What shot did they give you?’ What medicine do you have to take?’ all the standard nurse questions that I can’t answer.  She scalded me saying, “What if you get an allergic reaction to the meds?  You will need to let them know what you took! Look we have to work on your medical knowledge.”  O my Holsters!    What cracks me up is her husband is a nurse too, so I sometimes get it from both of them, but they know I don’t really give a crap.  I just go through life on faith.  That’s why I have my friends and my family.  They keep me going in the right direction.  It’s not like I’m going to stop what I’m doing out of fear.  I’m still going to use the weed whacker, still going to continue to do yard work, and I’m never going to give up my walks through the woods, but with just a little bit more awareness and understanding for the consequence and the dangers that I may face.

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