Thursday, May 12, 2011

The fire coral experience: Day 17

"Uh oh, you're going to have that for weeks, maybe a month. And it's gonna itch, then it'll hurt, then..." 
"I had mine for six months!" 
"That left me with scars for a long time." 

I surfaced from the first boat dive in Cozumel last month with a rash on my hand. As I pondered it, a buddy saw and proclaimed a fire coral contact, and delivered a gloom and doom forecast of weeks of pain, itching and generalized suffering. Looking at the light pink rash on my left hand that spanned a large triangle from thumb to index finger to wrist which wasn't much bother, it seemed to be a little drama meant to toy with me. But I should have known: he was right.

Skimming closely along the reef, distraction caused me to turn and dip. My hand ran into a Christmas-tree like underwater citizen called a stinging hydroid who delivered a sharp and intense (but brief) jolt of pain, like a shock. These things are EVERYWHERE down there, and gloves aren't allowed as it's a sanctuary. 

That day it was just a pink scatter of rash, without pain or even much itch. Pretty much the same for the next day, and it even seemed to be fading on the third. I awoke on the 4th day, however, with an angry, raging red rash that was raised and swollen... and itched like mad. By this point I was heeding warnings and not itching it, a herculean task that, over the course of the following week, led to nail biting and stress snacking. The urge to itch was maddening, but to touch it gave only a moment of relief and then pain. After a few more days the itch went away and it was just pain: random sharp stabs of pain. The swelling was very localized, but what was swollen was REALLY swollen, as if the skin would burst.

Now, on day 17, it's clear that the affected tissue will scar as its essentially been destroyed from the inside. Now the rash is flat, but with a strange purple hue and cracks of dryness. Lovely.

But thankfully... no itching. Perhaps the worst is over.

What can be done? Not much, according to DAN. Happened to be at my doctor the next week and we discussed; any topical was out of the question because moistening the skin made it itch more; steroids during allergy/cold season wasn't an idea I liked. That coupled with a belief that dealing with a little ouchie now and then is a character builder meant there wasn't much to do but leave it alone. (Aside from a little boasting and whining.)

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