Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Defeets part 2: Eight Doctors Running

On my flight home from Lima, my feet were still smooth but my scalp began to itch. It felt so good to graze my fingernails across it. This is something new; my head never itches. I asked the flight attendant who had also had a massage with the blind women on our Lima layover to take a look. Did I have lice? What's going on up there?

She quickly inspected my balding, graying head of very short-cut hair and informed me that I had a sun burn. It was red. I did walk for about an hour in the overcast weather blanketing Lima that day and had failed to wear my hat until the walk back to the hotel. Damn. After my bout with melanoma, I really try to avoid being in the sun, or even under cloud cover, knowing it, too, can cause sun burn. I was relieved to hear the cause of the itch was not lice.

Red, splotchy face and scalp.
So I thought nothing of the fact that my scalp was still itchy the following day. I had only 31 hours off before another trip to Lima. I returned to the airport not only with my scalp still itchy, but now my chin, sides and neck itched as well. It wasn't very bad, although I did think it peculiar. The thought of calling in sick crossed my mind, but I wound up dismissing it as being overly cautious.

Flash forward to the airplane- halfway to Lima. The service was done and I enjoyed a conversation in the aft galley with one of my flying partners. My feet felt itchy and taking my shoes off to rub them felt like bliss. My head itched, my underarms itched and now I was feeling like my lips were twice as thick as normal, and a bit numb. I was very much aware of the fact that my face was possibly growing red as we continued talking. When the conversation came to a conclusion, I eased into the lavatory to take a look.

Shock and horror.

On my arms were these large, raised welts. They itched so badly, at times I thought I'd go insane. OK, something was very wrong. I returned to the aft galley and found another flying partner filling cups with water. I asked if she had any medical training. She didn't, but casually said that our purser was a nurse, as she continued filling the plastic cups.

The welts I found under my arms.
When I approached the purser in the forward galley and asked for a moment of her time, I had a quick flashback to being a general manager and asking such a question and realizing that they were freaking out; not knowing why the hell I was asking to speak with them privately. She walked with me to a well-lit part of the galley and I shared my new-found illness. It's always something with me, it seems.

Step one: contact the pilots so they can get in touch with the in-flight medical department.
Step two: take a brief medical history of the patient. Oh, my gods, that's ME!
Step three: make an announcement asking if there are any medical professionals on board.

I've been the one to make such announcements numerous times. I've seen the reactions of the patents, which range from complete acceptance that medical help is needed, to complete denial, and a feeling that there is no reason to alarm anyone. I knew exactly how these patients felt. As the doctors began to assemble in the forward galley, I felt the redness in my face was no longer a result of this illness, but for the embarrassment. The first doctor seemed to arrive before she finished making the announcement. The second doctor was right on his heals. The third approached from the right aisle. The fourth followed back on the left aisle. Within one minute, there were no fewer than 8 doctors gathered in the small space.

I was both a patient and a working flight attendant. My first reaction was to inform the still arriving doctors that we had enough volunteers, but asking if anyone had any specialization in dermatology. No one indicated such. One of the doctors present was a man I had spoken with before we left Houston. He informed me that I was in good hands, and that the doctors present were all going to a medical conference in Lima!

After all was said and done, I was given Benadryl from the medical kit, followed by a shot. This did the trick and my itchiness was alleviated. My crew demanded that I sit out the service, but I did do some work while they were in the aisle, cleaning the galley and closing out the liquor cart. The Benedryl made me quite drowsy and I finally crashed in the van on the way to the layover hotel.

Many culprits were recommended to me; shellfish, fabric softener, fruit cake. The only thing I could think of was the massage by the blind woman. She had massaged my head, which is where the whole thing started. She had her hand everywhere I was itching, and it all started only a few hours later. Thank goodness I didn't get a happy ending!

The view from my Lima hotel
Upon returning to Houston from this trip, I saw a doctor immediately when the office opened. He gave me another shot and some pills that wiped me out, but helped control the itching. My palms were red; I called it my stigmata. My arms itched as well as my scalp. Twenty-four hours later, it was all gone; crisis averted. I have never had such a reaction in my life, and I hope to never have one again.

I don't know what this means for the future of my getting layover massages. I likes me some good massage, and the blind woman did a really great job. I don't know what type of oil she used on me, and it would be difficult to find out. This experience has me thinking I won't be returning to the blind women after all. Such a shame, too. But oil's well that ends well, as they say.


  1. You may want to bring your own massage oil for the next time. That way you can still enjoy the massage, but be safe from any allergic reactions.

  2. OMG, I had not even thought of doing that! Thank you, Bettina! : )