Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Dangerous Blister


I used up yet another of my nine lives last night. I really believe that without my very basic knowledge of wilderness medicine the night may have ended much differently than it did.

The day started off well enough. It was clear and warm and the temperatures on the plains were forecast to be in the high fifties. That was good news since we were signed up to join the Park County Nordic Ski Club on their annual end-of-year ski trip from Sylvan Pass to Pahaska Teepee. Sylvan Pass sits about 12 miles inside the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and is high enough that the snow is still cold and deep even on these spring like days. For the last five years the Nordic group has hired a snowcoach to haul members up to the Pass on the last day the Park is open in the winter season and then they ski the mostly downhill route back to their vehicles. We were on the last coach of the day which put us at the Pass just after noon. Ken and I are not members of the Nordic Ski Club but we have friends who are and this seemed like a perfect way to get a few more miles on our new cross country gear before we put it all away for the season. The ski was wonderful. It took us about 3 1/2 hours to do the almost thirteen miles, including a break to enjoy a nice leisurely lunch. We only saw three or four other people the whole time as the group was pretty spread out over the trail. I started feeling a hot spot on my right heel at about the 8 mile mark and knew I was going to have a pretty good blister before the day was over. I have had blisters on that foot from these boots every time I've worn them so I had started the day with a large bandaid over the vulnerable spot but it obviously wasn't enough, especially with the heat we were experiencing causing even more sweating than normal.

After limping into the finish I removed my boot and could see a huge circle of blood seeping through my sock. It was obvious the blister had progressed to the raw meat stage but I've been there before and wasn't too worried.

On the way home - a two hour drive from Pahaska - Ken and I stopped by our friends place to have a cup of tea. Then we decided to grab a quick dinner in Cody so didn't roll in the driveway until dusk. Once home we did a few chores and then Ken headed to bed while I stayed up to watch a little TV. When I made my way into the bedroom an hour or so later Ken mumbled that he had set out some medical supplies in the bathroom for me to take care of my heel. Sure enough, there on the counter was a virtual pharmacy of blister care products. I wiped the injured area with an alcohol wipe, put on a dab of antibiotic cream and then covered it all with a space-age looking bandage that claimed to have some magic formula embedded into the gelled surface.

A little while later I woke up and realized I was in trouble. I couldn't breathe. My chest felt like a truck was sitting on top of it. I started sneezing violently and couldn't stop. I couldn't believe it. In my fogged state I thought I had come down with the worst cold in history and wondered how it could have come on so quickly. Then I looked at the clock and realized I had been in bed less than an hour. I got up to get a drink of water and when I came back to bed I discovered my lips and tongue felt funny; they were tingling and felt like they were swelling. And suddenly I knew - these were the signs and symptoms of anaphylactic shock. I was having a severe allergic reaction. But to what? Then I realized the only thing it could possibly be was the magic blister pad. I tore it off my foot and threw it away. I downed two antihistamines and prayed for my heart rate to slow down. I debated telling Ken he needed to get me to the hospital - fast. Within minutes my breathing eased and the pressure in my chest lessened. Within a half hour I couldn't tell there was anything wrong. I didn't sleep much after that and Ken couldn't believe I didn't wake him when I recounted my story this morning. Now I feel like my chest is bruised and I am tired but I think I will be back to normal by tomorrow. Who knew a blister could be so dangerous?!

1 comment:

Tomme said...

OMG, Kathy, how terrifying! I have so many allergies (including very ordinary things like Bacitracin) that I can relate to allergic reactions. I'm so glad you figured it out, as well, and got it under control. Better figure out what it was in the medication that caused the reaction.