Friday, September 1, 2017

Throwing the Babies Out with the Bath Water

I'm back already. I'm on a mission. This was meant to be a rant. I say a rant because I'm tired of pleading, cajoling, declaring, cussing in private, and . . . I am simply tired. So why not simply close OWM? Walk away while I still have enough dignity to hold my head up in the blogosphere. Right? Well, I came to shut it down. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. Shut it down, girl. Just go. And the countdown began.

Then it occurred to me that going black makes no sense. I'd be losing contact with people who do respect me, and care enough to write to me, and still try to relate to me after all these years. Hurt and anger make a person do strange things, right?

Did I ever tell you about how instead of going to work every day I went to a specialist's office because the building, the medical clinic where I slaved away was killing me? The last straw was the day they wheeled out on a stretcher after a severe allergic reaction to the adhesives used while our facility was being remodeled. The formaldehyde in the new carpeting was so toxic . . . How toxic was it? It darn near killed me.

But anyway. I kept going to work, and I kept getting sick. And sicker. The administrators linked arms in a determined effort to prove that I was faking, because I was the only African American in the entire three story clinic, and everyone knows we only want Worker's Comp, welfare, or disability. So yep, I went to work every single day. The day they wheeled me out was the day I was sick unto death --  so sick my body swelled so badly my throat, eyes, and my mouth were barely recognizable. I was barely recognizable. I drooled because I could not swallow my saliva. 

I had the presence of mind to drift in the direction of colleagues who took one look at me and automatically worked as a well oiled unit to save my life. May you never need an IV when no one can find a vein. May you have a nurse as good as Martha was because she did find one after way too many sticks and much prodding. The tourniquet was tight enough that to cut off all feeling below my elbow, but she found a vein. May you always have a team of really great co-workers who are some of the best doctors recruited from across the country, amazing RNs, LVNs, and support staff who'll call for all the backup a dying you could ever need. I think I know how it feels to be on the dying side of living. Honest to God, I do. The nuclear stress test is as close as I've come to it recently, and although it's peaceful, when it happens you really are just along for the experience. You don't care about anything else at all. You concentrate on the experience. You're taking notes to carry with you into the after-this-here life. It's peaceful and quiet and painless.

After all the hard work and dissociative pleasure of experiencing how good it feels to leave all the shit behind, EMS wheeled me through two waiting areas of patients and fellow employees who stared at the half naked woman no one thought enough of to cover. There was a beige blanket on the gurney yet I lay fully exposed to the construction workers and everyone in the parking lot too. The construction boss liked me, and he walked over to tell me how sorry he was to see that the person in distress had to be me. He really was a decent guy. Gary, his name was Gary, talked to me every day on the job. He'd tell me how our new work space would look, and he took me behind the scenes to see what was happening, and he even showed me the blueprints. I'll never forget him. Gary even pretended not to see how close I was to being naked. His eyes never went below my chin.

So. So. So. I spent days sitting in a glass room where techs piped in disguised scents to test and observe my reactions. I had blood drawn so often my veins tightened on cue every time the tech came near me. I was given antihistamines when I had a reaction, sent home, and told to return the next day. And each day I was hooked up to all sorts of leads, answered the same questions every day, sat in the glass cage, and was treated too poorly. Skin tests caused major reactions that landed me back in ER. Oh. And I was forced to sign waivers releasing any and everyone from liability in case they couldn't save me during a reaction. Just think. I could be dead and you'd have never gotten to be my pen friends. *grin*

The practice of medicine at the clinic continued. My allergist was there but I had to see another doctor way off in Denver. Dr. First Allergist's receptionist had a similar reaction. Administration told the construction company to cease and desist from using XY and Z adhesives, carpeting, and other suspicious materials that might make people ill. Or what ever it was that made the European female employee ill. She was advised to stay home, with pay, until it was safe to return. Some patients came to appointments in special face masks. I was forced to drive to another clinic in another town, and finally had to get an attorney before I was allowed to return to work. I'd run out of sick leave.

I'd never had asthma, never had hives, never had an allergic reaction to anything before the reconstruction started. My immune system took a hit that my body's never fully recovered from. Having to get four allergy injections each week was like playing roulette. I often needed emergency care to get me through the reactions set off by the injections meant to help me. 

Try to imagine how it might feel being homebound because every time you go out you're likely to need an EPIpen. They were $1 when I bought them at the pharmacy in the clinic that made me ill. They cost me $39 when I moved back to Texas. My family had to learn how to "rescue" me if I couldn't rescue myself. I slept a lot because of the antihistamines (more than one) that helped get me through a day. And, to make a long story of how I spent tens of years in Hell, I'll do a little time travel to get us to this place in time. And a link that might help you understand what it's like being me: Sensory Assault.

And a photo to give you a peek at how hell looks for people like me:

Try to imagine these on your eyelids. They're on your ears, your breasts, the palms of your hands, only they're worse than this. Imagine them being the size of saucers and they're on your buttocks too. Can you see your mouth and lips with these? You hide out at home. 

You should see the bruises that take their place after most of the swelling has eased. Best of all? Try imagining what it's like for me when you send scented mail that triggers such reactions. Symptoms include debilitating headaches, a nose that opens like a tap, hoarseness, constant coughing that ends in a full blown asthma attack.

More scented mail came today. So why did I open it? Well. The layers of cellophane tape masked the scent on the paper inside the card in the envelope. I sniffed to make sure I wasn't imagining things. May you never experience the humiliation of being referred to a psychiatrist by the company you work for because nearly dying is psychosomatic. And you have to go if you want your job. It helps that the psychiatrist reports to the administrators that you're perfectly sane, the symptoms are real, and she tells you to cut back on working so much as an aside. So today I'm mad as hell, and I'm not writing to Y O U any more. You know who you are. I won't beg you not to do it ever again either "because I understand that you forget." That dog don't fly! And I like me just that much. There are photographs of a naked me in medical text books. I signed the consent form because Dr. Westley convinced me I'd be helping others like me if I allowed him to use my near-nudies in a paper he was writing. So if you ever see photos of a hot sister with hives the size of saucers, then that's probably me.

Write on. Be kind. You might be next.

And I'm keeping my baby!


  1. Eww. I know that picture. My doc took one of me during a severe psoriasis outbreak after having a skin cancer thing removed from my back. Pissed off my immune system so bad the psoriasis exploded so badly they actually though I had measles. I can completely empathize with you Mrs C. Hope all gets better soon.. D

  2. Dearest Limner, I am sorry for you upset and pain caused by thoughtlessness. I understand how it feels, I have issues with scents too but mine result in migraines that last for three days, even the subtlest of scents send me to bed. Perfumes seem to made so heady these days they are an entity in themselves and the people who wear them don't seem to notice they they stay behind for hours, sometimes days.

  3. Oh Wow. Crazy. Scary. Real.
    I use unscented everything (soap, deodorant, laundry detergent, etc). Since I started that about 5 years ago, I am much more sensitive to perfume and other scents. I cannot tolerate candles, perfume strips, cleaning fluids, plug-in wall scents, etc. If I say something, people just look at me like I am crazy. I had a run-in at work over a plug-in scent thing that was put in the bathroom. I lost. It is only a shadow of your experience but a fragment to extrapolate the pain of your situation.

  4. Oh my dear Limner what an awful experience with chemical poisoning you have had . My son once laid his face on new carpet in a rental and developed hives and we had the dr write the landlord a note telling him to refund my rent deposit and fees because we could not live there . I also have developed roscea from a stay in a hospital once and omg I was in sheer agony but nothing close to yours my dear God bless you and I so know the anger you must have and people who don't get the message . I certainly do and will never ever again send anything scented your way ever again . Please know that my heart and anger are with you in unification of such dastardly deeds that those who love chemicals put upon us . Be well and stay well and so glad you all were spared .

  5. Sorry. I had hives for 4 months last year and it was horrible. (I work at a school so having everybody staring at me wondering what was up with me was just as fun.) That being said, I don't have any life threatening allergies. I hope you feel somewhat back to normal soon and that this doesn't happen again.

  6. This literally made me itch to read and view this photo. I've had reactions to who knows what but for me it was only the unpleasant hives. To not be able to breath ... I've not experienced but I saw a nurse I worked with at hospice suffer from an asthma attack for nearly 30 minutes. Ugh. I'm sorry that happened to you. I thought only lovers sent scented mail. I used to do that when my then-husband was working up on the pipeline in Alaska. I'd write a letter and spray it with my perfume. Now I handle a lot of mail and always wash my hands after opening it. We had a mail scare a couple of years ago where some creeper was mailing toxic power (I can't remember what it was) to judges.

    Anyway, all that aside, I liked the part of this story where your co-worker didn't let his eyes wander. How embarrassing that would be ... for me.

    Glad you're keeping the baby.

  7. Thank you, Derrick, Anna, Cynthia, phone lady, Timdani, and Susan. For once I haven't known what to say in return. Thank you. I appreciate your comments.