Last time, we were busily engaged in scratching a noxious little beast called Scabies, or The Seven Year Itch --- or, simply, The Itch.
Scabies is an invisible mite that we get from what doctors refer to as "intimate contact." The beastly little mite gambols about, willy-nilly, just under the skin, munching idly on fast-food hot sandwiches made up of one's flesh. While not eating, which is most of the time, the mite is laying eggs and other disgusting objects in its tracks. The result of this activity is an uproar, making one scratch everywhere and endlessly and all night long, too.
I felt that there should be more to life than this, itching my way to work in the car in the morning, scratching my way through the line at the supermarket, or sitting in a movie theatre or a restaurant with my right arm bent around at a 45 degree angle, trying best as I could to get to that wretched spot on my back, the one that Mr. (or Ms.) Mite savors the most. Since, among my other troubles, I've arthritis of the shoulder, you can guess what my contortionist's act felt like.
Several doctors had assured me that I didn't have scabies because they couldn't see any of the tell-tale marks that usually show up. They told me that, instead, I had nervous ezcema, which is, they told me, a lifetime curse. One even said, "You might as well get used to it: it's never going to go away."
After six months of this, I decided that anything would be better than the eternal itch. I planned at one point to fly to Singapore, have them work over my poor old body with the cat o'nine tails: which would either kill me, or the beast. Either of those options would be just dandy with me.
But I decided to give Western Medicine one more shot, going to a skin clinic in the fancy-dan part of town. My theory was that the best doctors hang out where the money is, so instead of visiting the dermatological flunk-outs in Centre City where I live, I headed for the Elysian Clinic on Paradise Parkway, to the office of Doctor Barbara Luxor. She breezed in my cubicle, had me strip off my shirt, took one look at my arms, and said: "You have scabies." She then gave me some cream and within three days, all my itches were gone.
I have devoted quite a few words to my adventure with the Big Itch for several reasons. The first has to do with the way that scabies is transmitted: it usually gloms onto a new host when its original owner is engaged in what the doctors call venereal contact. In other words, the mite emigrates to new and more tasty territory during times of Hanky & Panky.
This wouldn't be so important to our tale except for the fact that I realized, after all was said and done, something new about the medical profession.
One of the reasons my first doctors didn't spot the culprit may have been because of my orthopaedic equipment. Until I returned to the wheelchair in the early 1980's, I always walked with upper-arm Canadian crutches. Thirty-five years of walking using these had worn away the most stable part of my skin on my upper arms, so that when scabies attacked, it headed to that part of the body: it always goes for the weakest part of the derma. Now that's the kind of error I could forgive: after all, there are not many people that have had the history I have had in survival.
I have more trouble with my other conclusion. I now believe that the doctors did not spot my scabies was because I'm sixty-two years old, and in a wheelchair. To them, the thought that I would be having a love affair, exchanging bugs with my honey, is simply beyond their ken.
Geezers like me --- especially disabled geezers --- just don't have sex.
My physicians were doing simple-minded doctoring. They may have used their training, but they didn't use their imagination, nor their creativity. The last physician, Dr. Luxor, had better sense than this. She looked everywhere, asked pertinent questions, and spotted the problem almost immediately.
It reaffirms what me and my disabled friends have learned over the years. To a great degree, we have to be our own doctors. And unless we luck across a very sharp medical professional, we'll even have to teach ourselves how to cure ourselves.
Six months of excruciating itch can seem sort of silly to get worked up about, but I want to assure you that it was a bore of the first water. These earlier doctors couldn't or wouldn't believe --- or even ask --- if I were sexually active. They assumed I was too disabled in mind and body to have a contact disease.
They missed the boat, not only with what ailed me, but with the reality of our world.--- L. W. Milam