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  Monday with the Editor: Coping with chicken pox

      Part 1      (cont'd)

     Back to FrontPage of article


This article gives a first-hand account of someone who has suffered from chicken pox and may be helpful to you in dealing with chicken pox.


I thought it would be of more help to you if I gave a day-by-day account of the whole happening, so here it is:

Wed 11 Jul 2001  (Day 1)

  Discovered some watery lesions on my back, near the shoulder, and a lone lesion on the lower right arm.

  Saw the doctor in the evening; obtained some medicine, a bottle of calamine lotion and a two-week medical certificate. Picture on left shows, from left of page, Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C) 100mg, Buclizine 25mg (for the itch), and Setamol 500 mg (fever).

  Ate dinner consisting of plain steamed rice and AAA brand pickled lettuce. (at such short notice, this was all we could do).

  My wife had got some pearl powder from a nearby medical hall and she applied it on the lesions. This, I was told, was to help soothe the skin and protect it when the lesions ripen.

  That first night, I had to down glass after glass of water (room temperature) to let the heat escape from the body.

Thu 12 Jul 2001  (Day 2)

  When I woke up, I found that as many as twenty lesions had sprouted on my back and chest area, as well as on my arms.

  Nobody was around to get breakfast for me, so I had buttered buns and my staple - coffee. But, the coffee didn't quite taste right. I gathered the disease had affected my sense of taste somehow.

  For lunch, I cooked some rice porridge (yes! I did that by myself) and some luncheon meat (which I learnt later I shouldn't have eaten!).

  Later that afternoon, my mother-in-law brought over some water-chestnut drink which she made from boiling shredded water-chestnut in water. The water-chestnut drink, she told me, would take the heat out of my body. I was to take a lot of these things later that week. You see, it helps greatly to have old people around - they know what to do in such situations.

  For dinner, I had steamed rice (left to cool down first) and chye sim, with pork slices, cooked with garlic, light soya sauce and a pinch of salt.

  My wife helped to apply pearl powder all over my body. As I could not bathe, I had to use talcum powder for my groin.

  Couldn't sleep properly the whole night - woke up every hour or so and went to the toilet to pee. Drank a glass of water after every trip to the toilet. Although the doctor had given tablets for the itch, I found only slight relief from it. At about 4.30pm, I found that my T-shirt had become soiled and I had to change out of it.

Friday 13 Jul 2001 (Day 3) - the worst day!

  When I woke up and had a look at myself, I found my face a disaster area. I was simply hideous looking. Oh God! I was reliving my teenage acne days again. Closer examination of other parts of my body revealed countless lesions, some big, some small. They were all on my face, neck, torso, arms, buttocks, as well as a few on my legs.

  I could not wash my face, so I wet a towel and wiped my eyes. My wife, who took leave that day, came over from her mother's place. She had got me some chee cheong fun, with a dash of light soya sauce. It was simply plain but palatable.

  For lunch, my mother-in-law cooked rice porridge with pickled lettuce and pork slices, which my wife brought over. For the record, my mother-in-law lives two blocks away. I had a whole quarter of a water-melon, cut into slices, to feed my stomach the whole day.

  Here's the difficult part - downing a mug of leng liang, a drink made by boiling scrapings of a deer's antlers in water. The leng liang was totally pungent and I swore no live human being could ever swallow such stuff - yet, I had to relent and drink it. I was to learn that from that day on, at least for the next few days, I would be taking a mugful before dinner and before bedtime. The leng liang, I was told, was to extract the heat from my body.

  At dinner, I took steamed rice and chye sim with pork slices. I also had to down a mug of the pungent leng liang.

  Some barley drink was brought over for me. This was homemade - by boiling barley grains with rock sugar.

  That night was the worst night I had ever encountered in my life. I couldn't sleep the whole night, what with the non-stop itchiness - oops! the old folk said never to mention such a word. The itch-relief tablets were of no help at all. My back itched as if 1,000 mosquitoes had descended on me and punctured my body with 1,000 bites. The itch was totally agonising - words cannot describe the feeling. I kept pacing around the bedroom, the living room, my study and the toilet the whole night. I didn't sleep a wink that night. At about 4am, my T-shirt was totally soiled from sweat so I had to change out of it.

Saturday 14 Jul 2001  (Day 4)

  Things had begun to improve slightly that day. Though I had hardly slept the night before, I found that the itchiness on my back had lessened greatly. Some of the lesions on my face had also ripened. The worst - I thought to myself - was over! I went into the toilet to move my bowels - at long last something did come out! But, the heat that came out was great too! I was left puffed out!

  Had a meal of chee cheong fun for breakfast. The coffee certainly tasted like coffee!  My wife cut another quarter of a whole watermelon and sliced it into smaller pieces - these slices were to last me the whole day. She said a side effect of taking so much watermelon would be that my legs would go soft - weak, that is.

  My wife powdered all the lesions on my body with more pearl powder. My hair had become very oily as I had not bathed the last four days. I couldn't even comb my hair, for you see there were several big lesions on my head too. Being the vain person that I am, I went ahead to give my hair a few strokes of the comb - albeit, very, very lightly, lest I scrape the lesions.

  Lunch time saw me having a bowl of macaroni with pork slices. The intense itching returned, together with the fever. I drank some mugs of boiled water-chestnut (left to cool first). Remember - I can't take hot things!

  Little blisters had appeared in my palm and finger tips. These caused a great deal of inconvenience because I would cringe from pain everytime I held something using my fingers or palm - these things would inadvertently scrape the blisters.

  Dinner time came, and it was steamed rice with chye sim and pork slices again. After this, I had to force myself to drink a mug of the leng liang. I found a way to make the whole affair less of a nightmare for myself - I applied some cologne just below my nose and realised that that make a world of difference. At last I could get through that utterly hateful ordeal easily. Before I slept, I took another mug of leng liang.

  That night, though I slept for an hour or two at a stretch, there was none of the intense itchiness that had struck me the night before. I still got up to go to the toilet to pee every now and then, for each time that I woke up I would drink a glass of water. I woke up again at about 4am to change out of my T-shirt as it had become soiled with sweat.

Sunday 15 Jul 2001  (Day 5)

  I woke up at 8.35am. Yes! I woke up at 8.35am. I had finally been able to sleep a long 4˝ hours.  When I was brushing my teeth, my wife had just come over. She had bought some beehoon (light-coloured) from the stall for my breakfast. I shaved a bit - thank god for the invention of the electric shaver - otherwise I would have accidentally scraped some of the lesions on my face around the stubble. 

  She powdered the lesions for me and noted that the lesions that were coming had already come and no more new ones were noticeable.

  Again the itchiness returned to my back - I notice most of the itchiness always come from the back - not from the front or the arms. Once in a while, my arms would itch.

  That day, for lunch, I had mee tai mak soup (short & thick rice noodles with pork slices). There was also a whole plate of water-melon for me to finish the whole day. In addition, my wife had peeled some water chestnuts for me to crunch on.

  The itchiness on my back was ever-present. I had to try hard to resist all desires to scratch them. Sometimes, I would forget myself and accidentally scratch one - to my agony. 

  Dinner that evening was steamed rice and chye sim with pork slices again. Not to forget - a mug of water chestnut drink - what a relief it wasn't leng liang - was waiting for me by the side of the table.

  The chicken pox had done its worst and things looked to be turning for the better. By now, my eyelids were also sporting some lesions but, the lesions on my chest seemed to be ripening, albeit slowly. The back still itched quite a bit so I do a lot of writing on the computer to keep my mind off the itch.

  I managed to move my bowels later that evening. There certainly wasn't that great expanse of heat trying to get out of the body through the faeces anymore.

  I was left thinking that the healing stage would begin soon. But, that healing process was fraught with difficulty too, for that night I found myself waking up three to four times - it wasn't the itch that I was complaining of anymore. This time, it was the severe headache and backache - Ya! There'd always something new to keep you on your toes alright. So, here I was at 4.20am Singapore time typing away at the keyboard whilst most people were having their full forty winks.

Part 2 will be published on Monday 23 Jul 2001.

Coping with chicken pox after 40 Part 2


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