Yes….you read it right – it was me. Me, the big fellow, felled by the unseen enemy and had pink little dots covering my hands and feet one fine October month last year.
I was reminded of my experience when I heard fellow Daddies catching the dreaded children’s disease too. Needless to say, I’m sure it caught them by surprise as much as it did me. Here’s how it started and how I survived it – without infecting my family.
Pink Polka Dots all over me
I had been feeling lethargic for about a week with flu-like symptoms. I thought nothing about it as I have taken the flu jab and it’s fairly normal that I feel this way whenever flu hits. Only difference was, this time the lethargy never did go away.
Then, on Sunday, it appeared.
I was driving the family to church when I felt a tiny bump on my left index finger.” Strange” I thought but I was hoping it would be just one of those things that would just go away. It didn’t. In fact, after church another tiny bump appeared , this time on my right index finger. And both these tiny ‘bumps’ stayed there as I continued to feel under the weather.
On Tuesday, my stomach was churning and I felt even more lethargic. I decided to take medical leave to rest but it didn’t quite help. When the stomach upset stabilized on Wednesday, I returned to work, still not quite myself.
On Thursday morning, it happened…
I discovered that the tiny bumps from Sunday had got flatter but redder and faint traces of more bumps are starting to appear. It didn’t struck me that it could be HFMD (I thought it might be an allergy response from something I ate, since I’ve just recovered from a stomach upset). However since I was still unwell, I decided to visit the family the doctor again. In fact, so careless was my attitude that I even sent my daughter to school and wife to work in the same car en-route to seeing the Dr.
There he confirmed it – HFMD. I was diagnosed with the dreaded HFMD! He explained to me the following:
- It is a variant of the flu virus.
- There is no known cure (like the flu) except to treat symptomatically the blisters that will be appearing. My body has to rest and fight it out.
- It is contagious, and spreads from the secretion of the blisters, water droplets and bodily fluids like sweat and sneezes.
- Days 7 to 12 when the blisters dry up would be the highly contagious stage as the blisters break and water droplets are spread into the air.
- It can be fatal especially for very young children.
- Adults, generally, get the brunt of the symptoms.
He gave me Nivea cream and told me to go home and rest. Yes, just Nivea Cream.
The moment I reached home, I immediately quarantined myself fearing that my family members (especially Dana) may contract it from me.
The “self-exile” regime I set for myself were as follows:
1. I isolated and slept in our guests room.
2. I wore plastic gloves (those disposable ones used by hawkers) and socks. Gloves and socks were changed and disposed daily.
3. I wore N95 masks throughout.
4. No one was to come into my room unannounced – this was tough for the daughter.
5. I ate and drank (and basically functioned alone) inside the room – the water jug and dedicated cups were placed in my room. I minimized going into the living areas where my family was.
6. Our helper cleaned and disinfected my room daily. She don N95 masks, gloves and bedroom slippers.
From that Thursday afternoon till the evening, the polka dots appeared – slowly but surely. By the time I was ready for bed, my hands and feet were feeling quite itchy. The next day, I was struck by the full force of the disease. I woke up with searing, burning and throbbing pain from all my hands and legs. It was as if there were simmering coals strapped to my hands and soles of my feet. When night came, it got more intense. Sleep became a luxury the next few nights as I tossed and turned into the night. Walking became very painful even with the cushion of hotel bedroom slippers. Most times, I would be gliding my feet. During the day, I would be sleeping most of the time, part lethargy, part discomfort and not being able to do anything else like a normal human being.
Few days later, blisters started to form in the throat. Swallowing one’s own saliva felt like running a blade through my throat. It was a very different and more intense pain compared to having sore throat or throat infection. When the wife saw how torturous it was, she concocted a ‘morphine bomb‘ (a natural pain-reliever) for me using the stash of Young Living Essential Oils which she has amassed. The skeptical me dutifully popped the ‘morphine bomb’ capsules (after all, there were no other medications for HFMD!) and strangely, it eased some of the pain and helped me sleep better. The wife also went into ‘combat’ mode, diffusing Thieves and Purification round the clock.
Source. P.S. Capsules can be bought at Chinese Medicinal Halls.
By Day 7, the blisters started drying up. I still insisted on keeping to my ‘self-imposed’ quarantine because I remembered that it is at this stage that the virus would be more prone to spreading (as the blisters started to burst one by one).
Fortunately, there were no complications and my ordeal ended a good 14 days from the time it started. I was particularly glad my family was not infected (whew!) The dried dots on my hands and feet took another week to clear off after which I was given the all clear by the Dr. Needless to say, I was very happy to be able to hug and kiss my wife and daughter again after the ordeal.
Overall, surviving HFMD was a humbling experience which had given me some other insights as well such as:
1. Cherish every moment – no one can predict what will happen to us the next second.
2. Quarantine is not for you, it’s for your family.
3. Never share utensils and straws…even with the kids – We do this some times as the daughter would always request to have a sip of what we are drinking but I shudder to think what would the consequences be if we had shared a drink during that Sunday morning when I first saw the tiny bump.
Instead of Pink Polka Dots, may I wish all of our readers, the pink of health always.