Typically when the wife and I are on vacation we purchase souvenirs for ourselves and the rest of the family. Even as young adults our children still want to know what we bought them from our vacation--the answer is t-shirts. As for the wife and I, well, we did not do too much shopping for souvenirs on this trip. Neither one of needed more t-shirts and the stuff that the wife wanted would not fit into our suitcases--a semi-truck, maybe, but not a suitcase. Outside of two baseballs I got at the two games I attended in Hagerstown (Suns0 and Asheville (Tourists) all I got were shingles. Not the ones pictured above, but the medical kind.
A couple of days before we returned to Montana I had an itchy spot on my back. Being an itchy spot I did what comes naturally--I scratched it. I scratched it over and over again thinking that the little spot on my back was nothing more than some sort of exotic bug bite that would eventually disappear. A couple of days later another itchy spot appeared near the first one--persistent bugs, I thought. Because it itched I scratched. Guess what? They are still there on my back eight days later. In my mind I was thinking that those were some industrial strength mosquitoes!
Dr. Anthony Komaroff of Havard Medical School describes shingles as such: "Shingles, also called "zoster," is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Usually, this virus enters our bodies in childhood, when it is the cause of chickenpox. Then the virus stays inside our bodies for the rest of our lives. (Our immune system cannot kill it, so it just tries to keep it quiet.) The virus lives inside nerves that lead to our skin. In most of us, it remains "asleep" inside the nerves, causing no problems. But sometimes, it "wakes up" and begins making copies of itself, and that's when it can cause trouble.
When the virus wakes up, it can cause pain, itching, or a strange unpleasant sensation in a patch of skin. A few days later, that patch of skin starts to develop a rash. The skin turns red. Little blisters form. That's the condition called shingles or zoster. The rash usually lasts just a few days, but sometimes the pain and discomfort can persist."
Varicella-zoster virus! Just the sort of souvenir one wants to return from vacation with! I can picture myself whipping my shirt up and flashing my back to show all my friends and co-workers my "souvenir" from my vacation. There are laws about indecent exposure and that would be close.
Thankfully (and luckily) I do not have a terrible case of the dreaded shingles all over my body as some people can get. Basically I have four little spots--kind of like mosquito bites--with red shadows that surround them. They still itch a little (I have disciplined myself not to scratch), they hurt every so often, and always feel funny brushing up against my clothing. At times it is uncomfortable especially with the warm temperatures we have been experiencing here in Montana. I have learned I am not contagious--unless you have never had Chicken Pox. If you have never had Chicken Pox you might want to avoid me for a little while. For the most part it is just an uncomfortable reminder of the vacation that I will have for a couple of more weeks--plus it was free! Cheaper than a t-shirt, but I would not recommend it as a souvenir.
Now, you have been forewarned! Do not ask me what I brought back from my recent vacation because you might not like what you see--shingles! We are not talking about roofing material here! But, if you insist . . .
. . . oh no! Indecent exposure! What a souvenir!