Too hot to touch

Sunday, February 7, 2010
D leaned over me and asked in a whisper, "What time do you want me to wake you up?"
"Um, I'm awake right now..."
"Oh, ok. I just didn't want you to be late."

I got to the yoga studio 20 minutes before class starts to make sure I got a good spot. And by good spot, I mean 1) not in the front row next to Pretzel Girl and Iron Man and 2) with a view of the mirror so that I can check my form because I have a tendency to crank my back knee out while in most twist poses. As I was stumbling into the locker room, our friend Belle* was walking out. "Hi! S told me you guys were meeting here so I figured I'd join you." I'm super excited because now instead of just being yoga with my friend S, it's girls yoga.

I slap my mat down next to E and ask her how her wedding planning is coming along. Because I'm soooo sleep-deprived, it takes all my concentration to follow the conversation and not just let words come puking out of my mouth. When it's my turn to talk, I confess to Belle that I had to dry shave up to my knees because the only yoga pants I had were calf-length and now my legs are a little itchy and dry.

"There's lotion over there," Belle says, pointing to a generic bottle of mint green creme.
"Oh, sweeeeeet." I pump a squirt or two into my hands and lather both my legs up at the same time. Snif. Snif snif. It smells like...HOLY SHIT. There was a 20 second lag before my legs began to burn. My eyes watered. I wanted to claw the skin off of my legs but when I looked over at Belle, the look of guilt on her face made me shut up. Obviously, it wasn't her fault and I didn't want her to feel bad and by that time S was walking in the door. When I told her what I'd done, she laughed and said that it wasn't lotion I'd slathered on, but China Gel.

The instructor comes into class, obviously just home from a trip to Jamaica or something, as the theme of class is the ocean and the soundtrack is 90% Bob Marley, including a mix I'd never heard. I'm totally off my game - my shins are ablaze and right before she sets us loose on the self-directed portion of the flow, my milk comes in. Awesome. I briefly wonder if breast-milk, which is great for treating pink-eye amongst other things, would neutralize the acid that is eating the skin off the lower half of my legs.


"Do you think you need to go to the emergency room?!?"
"I need SOMETHING! Google couldn't help me. China Gel's website doesn't say shit. Urgent Care is closed. The yoga studio didn't answer their goddamn phone and Poison Control has no idea what the fuck I'm talking about. I need SOMETHING! Do I need to go to the ER? If they are the only ones who can give me some information or provide me some relief, then YES! I need to go to the ER!"

Now, I am not one prone to melodrama. At least not when it comes to something like this. I can probably count on two hands the times I've taken Advil. I finished out my shift as a waitress in college before going to the hospital to get a couple of stitches put in where I'd sliced my hand. I got a concussion and fought with Ski Patrol, trying to convince them that "riding the sled down the mountain was for pussies," promising them that I wouldn't hit any jumps and that they could follow behind me but that there was no way I was getting on there. The worst pain I've ever been through was while I was pregnant with E and I refused to take pain-killers for it because I was pregnant and there wasn't enough data on the effects of Celebrex during pregnancy. Once they figured out what was happening (degenerating fibroid), the nurse told me that if I could go through that pain drug-free then labor would be nothing. So believe me when I tell you that my legs. fucking. hurt.

"Poison control. What's your poison?" That's not exactly what she said, but can you imagine if that's how they answered their phone?
"Well, it's not quite an emergency but I think I'm having an allergic reaction to China Gel."
"To what?"
"China Gel."
"Spell that, please."
" in China. Gel. G-E-L."
"Oh, like lotion." Yeah, lady. That's what I thought, but it's not like lotion. Unless the lotion is made of molten lava.
I explain to her what happened. She asks if I washed it off immediately and I explained that no, I didn't because yoga was about to start and they lock you out of class if you're late and then my other friend showed up and I was trying really hard to be brave and...
"So let me make sure I've got this down right in my notes. You had shaved about 45 minutes before class. Dry shaved. And then you put on this China Gel. And then you spent an hour in a hot and humid room doing yoga. Did you sweat a lot? I'm sure you did and your pores were probably wide open."
As she's clarifying her notes, I'm thinking that while I knew it was my own fault, I didn't realize just how stupid Poison Control could make it sound. Now not only did my legs burn, but I felt so bad about myself.
"And this was about 12 hours ago? Did you wash it off as soon as you got home?"
"Well, kind of. I took a shower."
"Did you soak your legs? We recommend that you soak for 20-30 minutes."
"No, I didn't soak." And I didn't even take my usual long-ass weekend shower because D wanted to go for a bike ride before heading out to a 3 year old's birthday party. (Happy Birthday, N!)
"Well, I can't find China Gel anywhere in our computer. It comes back as an unknown substance."
Now, this stupid conversation goes on for another 15 minutes or so. This lady must not get a lot of calls. She reiterates what an idiot I am and then suggests that I go soak my legs, warning me that it might not help much 12 hours after the fact but just in case, I should go do it and if it in fact does not help, I should go ahead and go to the ER.


"Call L2!" L2 (not his real name) is a paramedic.

Which reminds me of a really funny story. Quick sidebar? Quick sidebar: When B was born I had a really bad reaction to the anesthesia and I kept passing out. At one point I remember coming to and L2 was there with my brother and S, who is one of my best friends and also my brother's live-in girlfriend. A nurse came in to check on my sutures and she leaned over and asked if the boys needed to leave the room.

"No. They're my brothers."
She looks over at them and I realize that they're not both my brothers, even though L2 has been a part of our family since he and my brother were in middle school.
"No. One is my brother and the other is a paramedic." Realizing that that didn't make much sense either, I tried to clarify to a nurse who probably had stopped listening at 'No' that "One is my brother and the other one is a paramedic who is like a brother." Satisfied with my answer, I passed back out.

"Call L2!"
I hear D out in the hall. I'm soaking my legs in the tub while E is taking a bath. I look down and my shins and calves look like they belong to a fat white guy who applied SPF 8 to his own back before falling asleep on a beach. The strips of white are being swallowed by the inflamed red stripes where my fingers smeared the gel on.
"How bad do they..."
"It feels like jelly fish wrapped around my legs and set themselves aflame!!!"
D hands the phone over and L2 is stifling his laughter. After a series of questions to determine the extent of my injuries, L2 reminds me that I'm a big girl and that I probably just have 1st degree burns. If my skin starts to blister or if it feels hot to the touch, then I need to go to the ER. Otherwise, I need to suck it up and shut it up.

"Why don't you just take some ibuprofen?"
"Because I'm nursing." I say it all shitty, as if to imply that while he might be ok poisoning our baby girl with an OTC drug, I am too tough for that. I'm pissed at D. Here he is, a grown man who is rendered couch-bound and pathetically useless by the sniffles and he's got zero sympathy for me. At least my brother shared a funny story about when he found himself in a similar situation after laughing at me.
D brings me two ibuprofen and I swallow them, grateful for the relief they promise.

As I'm laying in bed, I realize that my legs no longer burn. And I realize that while the pain was intense and I was really, really hurting, more than anything else, I wanted someone to take care of me. I spend all my time taking care of B and E and worrying...about my family (immediate and extended), about the cat, about our finances and my friendships and whether or not D and I are doing a good job as parents. I'm terrified about what Stephanie (the GI specialist) is going to say on Monday when the blood results come back. I realize that every once in a while, all I want is to curl up on someone's lap and be taken care of, to be worried about. I laugh at how pathetic my cry for help was. I take a deep breath and kiss B on her beautiful little head before drifting off to sleep. I don't dream of jelly fish or hot lava. But at some point in the middle of the night, when B wakes up to nurse and grunts these tiny little puppy grunts as she scooches towards me and snuggles in, I do sigh a little sigh, grateful to have so many people I love and so many things to worry about.

*With her permission, I refer to our friend as Belle because she is so pretty that the people who represent Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen head hired her to be the Belle that walks around Main Street in Disney World.

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