Muffy Wahl slipped backwards on her icy porch and landed on her right hip. Bruised and sore, she took it easy for a few days but she still went to her exercise class the following Thursday. The petite sixty-three year old was determined not to let a silly little fall set her back, and she did her jumping jacks to the loud, fast music with more determination than usual. She could barely drive herself home afterwards.
After dinner Thursday night she didn’t know what to do with herself; she shifted her weight back and forth, but the pain was just as bad no matter how she positioned herself. Getting ready for bed she noticed the bruises were bigger and now reached around to her groin.
Even flat on her back she was in pain. It was a constant, relentless, nauseating pain unlike anything she had experienced before.
Friday morning she got a call from her twin sister, Mary, who had just been admitted to the hospital with a hip fracture. Muffy promised to go and see her, even though it meant a twenty-mile drive. She took some ibuprofen and drove off to see her sister.
After the two women had visited for a while, Mary noticed Muffy’s pained expression as she shifted her weight in her chair. Mary suggested that Muffy get herself checked out downstairs in the emergency room. Muffy hesitated, still thinking it was just a bad bruise. Besides, she had never had any dealings with St Bartholomew’s Hospital; she always went to Cityside.
Mary insisted, and soon Muffy was downstairs, wearing a hospital gown and being wheeled into x-ray.
“The x-rays were normal and they said it was just a bad bruise”, Muffy told me Monday afternoon in the office “Then they gave me a shot for pain that wouldn’t make me tired. I drove myself home later on.”
“And then…” I asked.
“I noticed the welts Saturday morning. I’ve been in agony all weekend.”
“Yes, I thought it might have been an allergic reaction to the shot they gave me, but they were only around my right hip.”
“Let me see”, I said.
She exposed the skin around her right hip. There were bruises, red blotches, and the unmistakable blisters of Herpes Zoster – shingles.
“This is shingles. Did anyone look at your skin?” I asked.
“No, they checked how my hip moved and took the x-rays through the hospital gown”, she answered.