The Puffy Red Face Epidemic of 2005

There are some things that are better left to the imagination or at the very least only used as scare tactics and threats by frustrated parents in the hopes of keeping their kids off drugs or forever celibate. Yet when one of these mythical ailments actually arises and comes on over to your house for a prolonged visit it is quite demoralizing in nature and in the long run leaves you questioning your existence in ways that would even make a pedophile priest blush!

Yet once again here I am cursed by, I’m not sure what, but none the less I find myself suffering from another “white person’s disorder” with my face flushed and covered in small welt-like zits. Only I didn’t know any of this until I got home from work and looked in the mirror and almost keeled over while doing a righteous double-take and apparently all day long and definitely without my consent there had been three lines of welt like zits emerging in bright red bands across my face! One large wide one on my forehead, another like a red raccoon mask right below my eyes and the last was running haphazardly across my chin like a thick chinstrap from some old motorcycle helmet! And yeah, my face felt a little flushed or a bit hot even on the ride home. But nothing, and I do mean nothing could have prepared me for something of the caliber that has descended on my face!

And it’s really not anything that you want to go out and parade around with while being all social and making with the polite chit chat at one’s usual get-togethers and such. Because, well, to be honest, I look like shit! I look like I’ve been on a three week speed binge and I’ve picked every inch of my face in a fit of spastic amphetamine induced nervous energy. I look like someone shoved my face into an industrial cheese grater and then put it under the lights at a tanning salon for a fast bake. And just to drive the point home a little further; I look like I’ve got the chicken pox, the measles and the worst case of acne known to mankind all mixed into one hell of a mess and it’s all over my face!

So obviously as vain as I am I freaked out a bit, hell, I totally lost it convincing myself that this is how I was gonna permanently look for the rest of my life. And by the time I calmed down a bit and evaluated my options it had gotten to be 11pm and other than rushing over to the emergency room to try and vie for gurney space amongst the night’s drug OD’s and gunshot victims I decided to just go to sleep in hopes that if and when I did arise that it will all have been a bad dream and gone away. Only as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling I found myself chanting this mantra over and over and over again – “Ok, so like what in hell did I do to deserve this?”

Yet in the morning after I awoke, a little stiff though somewhat refreshed, the first thing that I did was head on over to the mirror and Oh My Fuckin’ God! Elephant Man’s cousin Red Face Boy is looking out at me through these narrow slits for eyes and I’m starting to think that for the first time in my life I may have an allergy or two and it could quite possibly be time to call up my primary care physician for a wee bit of consultation and some immediate care!

Only that’s a lot harder to do than you’d think.

Because the only way for me to gain access to actually see my doctor is to call up my health care provider, which by the way, is a major medical conglomerate located just across town not more than a fifteen minute drive away, only I couldn’t call a local number I had to dial the prerequisite 800 number. Yet every time I tried to call I could never seem to get through to talk with an actual human being!

First off there’s this automated voice that directs me to punch in my medical coverage number, which once I complete, ushers me into another menu of services offered with various selections and choices that make it seem a lot more complex then it is. And in the midst of listening to all these other different options I hear: “Press five if you would like to schedule an appointment” Ok, so I press five, which enacts a series of further inquires: my daytime telephone number, my date of birth, the last four digits of my social security number, the fifth word in the first stanza of the Declaration of Independence and the last name of the all time highest scoring base stealer in the history of baseball. Then after all that and without first consulting me it confirms the next available appointment, which unfortunately for my tortured face is three weeks from now and totally unacceptable. Only how do you complain to an automated voice on the other end of a phone line?

So, you can see where I’m going with this, and it didn’t get any better until I was able to actually talk with a triage technician who’s extension I stumbled upon through an emergency number provided in case someone had inadvertently taken the wrong medication and it wasn’t a life threatening 911 situation. And thankfully she very patiently listened to my endless litany of ailments and even though she had warned me that it wasn’t in her range of expertise she still did her best to console me by all the time telling me not to worry that it’d be all right and that she’d forward her report on to my doctor as soon as she could.

Ok, so now we’re getting somewhere! I was finally in the loop with naught to do but wait until help arrived! So I sat back and relaxed secure in the knowledge that soon I’d be talking with my doctor and all of this unpleasantness would be but a faint and distant memory.

Yet there I was stressing out at 5:45 pm at night and even though I’d fitfully slept on and off all day while waiting for my doctor to call me I guess its just wasn’t in the cards for me to actually speak with him. Though I’ve got to admit that I didn’t just give up after talking with the triage technician; because I had continued to get through by calling whenever I awoke from napping and I did finally speak with a nurse practitioner and someone else who said that they were the triage assessor and supposedly one of my doctor’s actual assistants (I think that it was the one that called me fat last time I was there) and some obscure and vague gentleman that was probably the janitor or at the very least some poor bastard that speaks very little English that my health care provider perhaps uses to get persistent clients like me to stop and desist with their incessant inquires!

Though as frustrating as all that was, what did came out of all of these conversations was that we all readily agreed, with the possible exception of the janitor, and I say possible because he may have said something along those lines in Portuguese, but how in hell would I know, anyway what I was saying is that we all agreed that I should talk with the doctor. Yet apparently they’ve got him so surrounded by security that breaking through to actually speak with him is like getting a little face time with Bin Laden! So now still no doctor and I really don’t think that he’s gonna call me at 6 pm at night anyway!

So do you think I’d be out of line if I was to declare that it’s starting to look like no one, well, at least no one over at my doctor’s office, gives a shit if my face falls off?

Meanwhile I do believe that I’m paying out like large dollars for this health plan of mine and like what’s the use? And sure even sitting at home in the comfort of my bed is preferable to say hanging out at General Hospital’s Emergency Room waiting to be seen as you usually sit there for hours with some really bad TV show blaring across the waiting room as the maintenance-man mops up blood and candy wrappers from under your feet while some homeless junkie snores away his nod in the next seat over. And truthfully its not what someone would consider a pleasant experience! But sitting at home knowing that at any minute your face is going to explode is no picnic either! So with no other alternative in sight I did what I always do when left to deal with a debilitating dilemma—I went back to sleep.

That is until the next morning at 7 am when the phone rings and the ensuing conversation plays out like some clandestine drug deal: Mister Merde? Yes. Can you come in today to see the doctor? Yes I can! CLICK and the phone hangs up! A dream? Hardly, and I then pinch myself to make sure that I’m awake and immediately regret doing so! Ouch—Not on the face stupid!

Day 3 – Of the Puffy Red Face Death Watch.

“You’ve got an aggravated case of Rosacea.” Says my doctor and he says that with only one look at me after having just entered the examination room while casually sitting down in the chair behind the computer console. This of course after I’ve waited for him like a nervous wreck for like a half an hour and though momentarily put off by what I consider his somewhat flippant attitude I still manage to mutter “and this Rosacea that you talk of, it is…?”

It’s a common, but often overlooked, skin condition that can lead to significant facial disfigurement, emotional suffering, and serious ocular complications if left untreated.”

“Oh is that all. I thought you were going to say that I had something like SARS! So, like what’s a serious ocular complication mean?”

“Lose your sight, go blind that kind of thing. Not to mention that a lot of patients with Rosacea tend to suffer from a variety of emotional and social stigmas. Like some people with extremely severe cases of Rosacea often have feelings of low self-esteem when their facial features change and papules, pustules, and other ‘unsightly’ features associated with the disorder appear and progress to gigantic proportions. They may also have feelings of embarrassment or anxiety about these facial flushing, and this anxiety tends to resemble panic disorder. I’ve also known it to cause some people to become rather reclusive as well, because they tend to think that their facial disfigurement lessens their sexual desirability or negates any possibility of a career advancement.”

“Wow, is that all? So like what’s the cure doc?”

“You know, I’m really sorry to have to tell you this, but at the moment there is no cure for Rosacea, though with antibiotics and topical ointments it can be held in check while it runs its course.”

“Runs its course?”

“The average duration is 13 years.”

So, I am to be a disfigured leper for the next thirteen years. I can not begin to tell you how overjoyed I am to find all this out, and silly me, I had thought it to be some weird allergic reaction to say eating peanuts or baba ganoush. Yet here was my doctor imperturbably discussing how I was going to be sprouting pustules like errant growths all over my face and just possibly how at the same time I was gonna maybe have some low self esteem issues due to looking like a friggin’ zombie! No! Do ya really think so?

“You know I usually tend to only see cases like yours in women.”

Ok, now I’m just going to go ahead and ignore that last remark, at least for the moment anyway and instead I think I’ll go out on a limb here and ask “so, how do you suppose I contracted this, ah, shit?”

“Well, to tell you the truth no one knows how it’s acquired although some experts believe that rosacea is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Of course we can’t rule out stress or exposure to too much sunlight and even exercise and your diet may play in as a mitigating factor.”

Well first off, at least for me personally, we can rule out the too much sunlight deal, as all those UV rays are greatly overrated and I hardly ever partake in lolling around naked at the beach or for that matter even going outside in the day light hours. But exercise, stress and born a white person! Hmmmm, so what part of my life didn’t he just describe? Like maybe he could of just said “It comes from not smoking cigarettes or when you stop shooting dope.” And you know I wouldn’t have been in the least bit surprised. Because when you’re shooting dope you just don’t tend to get a really severe case of things like Rosacea. Why? Because when you’re shooting dope nothing like Rosacea can live on your body as you yourself can barely live off of what energy your body’s producing!

Yet here I am with something new to deal with as I try and go about my life. And it’s right about now that I think that I can safely say that I truly need a break, not a vacation, not a little time out in the corner away from the rest of the kids. But a total reevaluation of what it is that I am doing. Because if pieces of me are to be enlarging with puss or falling off due to stress from my planned vocation then I’ll have to change something here and I doubt that its gonna be my hair color or my socks.

Obviously I gotta get out of here, take some time and really think about all this!

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