It was Saturday afternoon. I had a wonderfully planned party at my house for 6pm. I diligently cleaned all day. I had let my house go, so a deep clean was in order. I was saving all my cooking for the last hour of the party so everything would be warm. It was 5pm and I was ready to cook. Being 6 months pregnant, the breaking back work of cleaning had almost done me in, but it was worth it. The house looked great. I planned to make a few dishes, but my star dish was 'Jalapeno Poppers'. I had them in restaurants in the past, but never made them. I got the recipe off a Facebook page. She hand typed it (no blog or star winning website) so it was simple instructions.
I destemmed, cut them length wise and deseeded 15-20 jalapenos. Followed the rest of the instructions and into the oven they went. I decided to shower while they baked. As I was showering, my hands started to, ever so slightly, burn. I knew it was from the jalapenos. I washed [carefully] as normal, cause I noticed that whatever I touched burned, too, ie... my face, neck, scalp.
I got ready. Poppers were done and looked delicious. Guest started to arrive at 6pm. Throughout the evening I noticed, and even commented often, that my hands burned. It would come and go but nothing I couldn't handle. The last guest left at close to midnight. My hands were a little more on fire and I wasn't feeling sleepy (although my body was completely exhausted from cleaning all day and then hosting all night). It could have been a combo of my hands burning and just a long fun night, making it hard to unwind.
My husband agreed to sit with me and watch one of our favorite shows and then head to bed. Halfway through the show my hands went from a heated 6 to a 12, on a scale. Completely doubling in pain. It took me by surprise and I started to panic. Husband got on the internet and we quickly found I wasn't alone and many remedies were listed. I never thought for a minute that I was in any sort of trouble. I believe in home remedies and just knew something would work.
From the coarse of mid-midnight till 6am I went past my high level of pain tolerance. I screamed and cried. I yelled. I shook my hands uncontrollably. Needless to say... I lost it. The only way to descriptively explain the pain is fire. Have you ever gone camping and sat next to a roaring fire? As you noticed, you may have gotten too close, because your skin starts to heat up and you feel terribly hot. My hands had surpassed that. My hands felt like they were buried in the burning coals of the hottest of fires and I could not get them out.
Through the night my hands were soaked in:
hot water and soap
pulverize Tums in water
bug sting relief-ammonia
aloe burn relief spray
poison ivy remover
make up remover
Essential oils of all kinds
My husband had to drive to an all night CVS, twice! Close to about 5am, I was very, very exhausted. My eyes were red and almost swollen shut from crying. My body was worn thin from, first, the day of cleaning and parting, but also the night of up and down torment of the pain. What seemed to be the only relief was temperature change. It had to be rapid, though. We notice that when my hands heated up and I put them in anything cold, I got instant relief. But when the cold product started to get to room temperature the pain was immediately back. I remember for a solid hour of just holding and squeezing ice. It was when I had my hands soaking in ice cold milk that I felt the tips of my fingers start to damage. But, the cold was a double edged sword. It gave relief, but removal from the cold the pain intensified worse than letting them air dry and enduring 'dry' pain.
At 6am I made the final call to head to the ER. I was running my hand at the sink and saw a knife. I had thought so taking the knife and scrapping a layer of skin off my hand. I then knew it was time to go get medical help. Unfortunately, I also knew the ER was full of nonsense and people riding out their Medicaid. I worked in one for years. I know all about sitting there for hours. This is how bad I needed the pain to just.... STOP. We had to wake all five of our children, load them in the car and speed down to Lexington Medical Center. I was without anything cold, cause I didn't want to spill it in my lap. My hands were useless and could hold or do anything with them. I had to endure the pain at its full capacity for a car ride that seemed to go on forever.
When we got to the ER, the only thing that got me back immediately was being pregnant. But unfortunately, as you'll learn later, it was also the pregnancy that caused me to not have any medication. They put me in a room. Randy had to stay in the van with all the sleepy kids. I didn't want them in hospital.
I sat in the back room for an hour, by myself. I learned a lot about myself. It's almost too hard to explain. I started to hyperventilate from breathing so fast. I had to talk myself into not passing out. I did little pep talks that this would not be forever. Someone would come. I prayed. A lot! I talked to my mom up in heaven. I even started just counting. I chanted words of encouragement over and over. Anything to busy my mind. There was sink in the room. I wanted to run them under the water so bad. I also had to pee very bad. I knew I wouldn't be able to stand by the sink, while having to 'go'. Also, the cold scared me because of the intense pain it gave when I knew I had to remove them.
*****A male nurse came in and gave me the preliminaries. He was okay. Then 30 minutes later the entrance of the long awaited doctor came in. His name was Paul Shahbahrami. I want his name to circulate. As he walked in I was right in the middle of a sobbing, bawling fit. My nose was running and couldn't hold any tissue to wipe, so I just rubbed from side so side on my gown. My hair was stuck to my face with my tears but, again, couldn't do anything because I my hands. He sat and asked what happened. I gave my story. He started tapping my wrist and said to me “Sometimes pregnant woman have pain from carpel tunnel!” I was so angry. I became enraged. Did he not hear me? He looked at my hands, next. Ironically, my hand looked completely normal. While they felt like they should have been bright fire red, shooting flames and cartoon-type throbbing, they were just peachy and actually kinda soft from the 6 hour manicure of a various products. Next, you just can't imagine what happened. The doctor looked straight at me. I was hanging on his every word, just waiting for his perfect recommendation. He...laughed. A great big chuckle. Like I had just told the funniest joke of the day. He put his hand over his mouth, looked down from embarrassment from his behavior and said “....Ah-hem...I'm sorry...I don't mean to laugh...” I'm sorry, but I wasn't intending to be a sideshow that night and that is exactly how he made me feel. He did some more minimal examining. Asked how far along I was and then.....laughed right in my face, AGAIN. No apology followed this time. He told me with being pregnant that I could have small amount of Lidocain jelly mumbled some other stuff and walked out. I was devastated. I came completely unglued. He broke me. I can't imagine how I must have looked from a fly on the wall as I sat there, alone, and heard that news AND was laughed at.
Right in the middle of my dumbfounded behavior, the registration lady came in and just looked at me. I said “He laughed. He laughed at me.” I told her my story, in a nut shell and she felt horrible for me. She was the first and only deeply concerned person I came into contact with that night. The original male nurse, came back in with the Lidocain Jelly and squeezed what looked like ½ teaspoon on the palm of my hand and walked out. The pain was in my fingers, so by the time I rubbed up my hand, it ran thin. I grabbed that jelly off the counter and squeezed the whole tube in my hands. It felt so good. The pain when from a 50 to a 30. Much improvement. It still hurt. But that's it. Hurt. Like I smashed all my fingers in a door. Not like they were set on fire and my skin was melting to the bone. The nurse came in and saw I used more and took it from me and said I couldn't have anymore. He also told me that it was standard to take a fetal heart rate. I lifted my shirt (hey, I could use my hands!) and laid there. He stood right over me and said “Now....where do “they” usually find the heartbeat?” I looked right at him and said “MY STOMACH!”
I arrived home around 9am. My hands were ever so slightly burning and they had a thick layer of clear shine from the jelly. I wasn't home for more than 20 minuets when the pain intensified and I was headed down a familiar road. My precious and sweet children saw me crying and trying to blow my fingers at the same time. They ran to make the most amazing paper fans. All of them standing over me fanning my hands. They started to tape fans together and make giant fans to cover more surface. Wind! Air! It was amazing. What an amazing discovery. Husband found a fan in the garage. It was broken. He fixed it while the children's tired arms fanned. They went in shifts. Finally, I draped my hands over the couch 2 inches from a fan and felt the cool air blow away the pain. It was tolerable and I was finally, after 15 hours.....content. I [finally] took a nap. I think I slept about 3 hours. I was golden! My hands and especially fingers were tender and I couldn't squeeze anything too long or they would get hot. But other than that, I was excited to be cured... or so I thought.
I wanted to wash the traumatizing experience off of me. I decided to shower. When I got out, my hands started to tingle...then burn...then go back to being on fire. It wasn't like before but you can imagine my panic mode? Husband got some hospital grade lidocain spray and sprayed my hands. I laid in bed with my arms draped over the side and the wonderful fan blowing right on them. Score!
It is 10am on Monday morning and this experience has now lasted 65 hours. Just to give you and indication of how intense these peppers are. Now some people can touch them with no problems at all. After some heavy reading, I do believe that I had an allergic reaction to them. Even now, days later, as I type my fingers are still sensitive, tingle. My fingers are swollen with puffy knuckles and I won't be getting my wedding rings back on today.
I have written this long description of my experience out and plan on blogging it to get the awareness out about the results of cutting jalapenos without gloves. Also, I plan on mailing this letter along with a many phone calls about my experience with the ER and the very bad bedside manner of a doctor. I found out in my heavy reading that poison control recommends washing hands in very, VERY hot water. Hot as you can stand without burning yourself. I had tried this in the beginning and it intensified the pain and I stopped. Now I have found out that the capsaicin oil in the pepper, which causes the hot, was trapped in my pores. Hot water opens the skin pores. While it is painful for about 10 minutes, the capsaicin will drain from the skin giving instant relief. Now!!! Why didn't my ER Dr take 20 minutes to find this, like I did? Lord knows, I sat long enough in that room for him to write a book. He could have taken the time to find a remedy, but he SHOULD have taken the time to be more compassionate and understanding.
****** The web has many remedies listed for relieving the pain from hot peppers. A fatty milk based product like milk, sour cream or yogurt seems to be the most popular. My reaction was so great that, that did not help. Poison Control recommends washing hands in very, VERY hot water. Hot as you can stand without burning yourself. I had tried this in the beginning and it intensified the pain and I stopped. I have discovered that the capsaicin oil in the pepper, which causes the hot, was trapped in my pores. Hot water opens the skin pores. While it is VERY painful for about 10-20 minutes, the capsaicin will drain from the skin, giving instant relief. Good Luck to you. If you are not pregnant you can go to the ER for pain relieving narcotics.*******