New England Interlude

One morning, at college in Montpelier, Vermont, The Kid woke up blindsided by a  ferocious wall of pain. 

It ran from neck to elbow, and felt like fire was pouring down upon my child.  But that was when no one was touching it.  At the slightest touch, The poor Kid’s pain went from a barely tolerable eight out of ten to a sanity-draining fourteen or fifteen.

Obviously, this sudden and debilitating pain needed medical attention.

Somehow, The Kid dressed and made it to the emergency department at the small Central Vermont Medical Center. 

Not actually the hospital.

At the ER, when told them the reason for the visit, and where The Kid studied (New England Culinary Institue), eyes glazed over, and acetaminophen was suggested.  They assumed my child was just one more partier from the cooking school and wanted something stronger than Budweiser and Acapulco Gold.

So, The Kid went back home and took a couple of Tylenol.

But not only did the pain continue, it got worse.  Classes and meals were missed because it just hurt too much to get out of bed.

Finally, a neighbor and good friend had seen enough.  “Get up, get dressed, I’m taking you to Burlington.”  Burlington is a university town about 30 minutes from Montpelier and the largest town in Vermont. 

They went to the emergency room at UVM, the University of Vermont.

There, serendipity occurred.

The doctor that caught my child’s case was one of the most respected teaching doctors in Vermont.

Not only that, he’d made a study that was particularly pertinent to The Kid and The Kid’s hurty arm.  This doctor had made an in-depth study on a disease, and this is the disease he thought was causing all the trouble.

He diagnosed the scourge of middleaged, immuno-compromised post-chicken pox sufferers—shingles.

My mom has had shingles, so The Kid knew from shingles.  “But I’m young, and there’s no rash!  How can I have shingles if I’m young and there’s no rash?”

The doctor asked, “Did you get the chickenpox vaccine?”

The Kid was actually in one of the final chickenpox studies at Duke.  Petey and I had always thought we did right by our child by getting the vaccine before it was approved for wide-spread use.  It had been used in Europe for years and we thought we’d saved the child from the itching that drove you crazy and those weird lumpy oatmeal baths. 

We’d saved the Kid from childhood chickenpox, but it looked like that tiny bit of virus in the vaccine stayed around inside.  And now, like the monster thought dead at the end of the movie, it had resurrected and transformed itself into shingles and risen to wreak havoc within the body of our little scholar.

But this variation had the added twist of an M. Night” Shyamalan feature.  The main identifying feature of this sickness is a rash with blisters.  The shingles The Kid had, and other young people who’d had the chickenpox vaccine produced no skin irritation.

This type of shingles is known as “Ninja Shingles”.  The lack of rash and the youth of The Kid explained the failure of the original ER to diagnose, or even believe my child was in distress.

See, you can barely see him…

The reason I got to thinking about this unpleasant interlude is because The Kid has been tirelessly haranguing me to get the shingles vaccine.  Not wanting to suffer like my child, I got the first of two inoculations last week.

OMG, my shoulder hurt.  But then I thought about The Kid and what shoulder pain could really feel like.  So, I took a couple of Tylenol got on with life.

Thanks for your time.

Contact debbie at

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