Many people don’t know that about one in three people in the US will develop shingles during their lifetime, and older people are at the greatest risk for developing shingles. In fact, half of all people who live to age 85 will develop shingles at some point.
A Deaconess patient, Donna, is encouraging everyone to learn about shingles and, if they’re a good candidate, to get their shingles vaccine. Here is Donna’s story.
How shingles started, and how my life was affected.
I am telling my story for one reason: I want to spare you the same experience I had.
I have been suffering from shingles since early September 2013. On September 11, I felt a painful sensation in my left hand. About three days later I had a breakout on my left hand that was very, very painful. I was in such devastating pain that I thought about going to the emergency room.
On Monday, September 16, my family physician worked me in and quickly diagnosed me with shingles. I was given two prescriptions, one for a pepper cream and another for oral antiviral and an over-the-counter amino acid pill. Over the next month, neither prescription seemed to have any real effect on my pain, so in mid-October I called my physician. I was given a prescription to treat neuro-related pain, while continuing the prior medication.
After two more weeks, the pain in my left hand was still significant. My only relief came from wrapping my hand in a heating pad and I think the burning heat just overwhelmed my shingles pain. At that point, I had not been able to leave my home for almost two months to go to my usual events such as UE basketball, dinners with friends, and birthday celebrations with my family.
I actually spent a lot of time sitting in the dark with the heating pad wrapped around my hand. For some reason, this was the best way to feel even a little comfortable. What made it even worse is that I’m a life-long lefty! I had to learn to do even the most basic things with my right hand, so I was in constant pain, clumsy and depressed. I was also sleep deprived from the pain. I don’t wish this on anyone, which is why I’m sharing my story.
Help from the Deaconess Comprehensive Pain Center
A friend suggested I visit the Deaconess Pain Clinic (Deaconess Comprehensive Pain Center). On October 30, I was given an urgent visit at the Deaconess (Gateway) Pain Clinic where I had a lengthy consultation with nurse Mary Ann and Dr. William Roberts. I was with them almost two hours, and it was determined that on a scale of one to ten, my pain was a ten.
Dr. Roberts scheduled an epidural steroid injection procedure for November 4. He informed me that it would take about two weeks for the procedure to take effect. During the procedure I received a local anesthetic for the pain, and didn’t even know when he performed it. Almost two weeks to the day my pain began to lessen.
I recently had my follow up visit, and it was determined that my pain level is now between a two and three. It’s annoying and sometimes distracting, but I’m going on with life now. We have scheduled another epidural steroid injection in a month with the hope that it will continue to help me regain full use of my left hand. I am able to return to most of my normal activities although I still can’t write or eat with my left hand.
I wish I had gone to the doctor sooner, and had known about the Deaconess Comprehensive Pain Center. I honestly felt better immediately because of how the doctors and nurses treated me. They were so empathetic, and seemed to really understand how much I was suffering. When I left, I realized the end of the pain was within sight, and the treatment started working exactly when the doctor said it would.
I’ve heard many people discuss the cost of the shingles vaccine, which I’ve heard can range from $95 (Medicare Part D cost) all the way up to $300 (if the shot isn’t covered by insurance).
It’s an expensive shot, but I have spent more than $500 on medication to treat my shingles! I have Medicare, plus an excellent supplement. (I had breast cancer 5 years ago, and didn’t pay a nickel on any of that treatment, yet this shingles outbreak cost me several hundred dollars to treat.)
But aside from just the cost of treating shingles, I can’t begin to tell you what I would’ve been willing to spend to not be in the kind of pain I’ve experienced. It’s been awful. I feel like a few months of my life are just missing, and I’ve never been more miserable—mentally and physically—than I have been while dealing with shingles.
This is my advice to you: Talk to your doctor and get the shingles vaccine as soon as you can! For the cost of eating out a few times, or maybe going on a short trip, you can avoid the horrible experience I’ve had.