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Transcript: "My Experience with Shingles"

Host: Good afternoon, Mrs. Spicer, happy to have you here.

Sue Spicer: Thank you.

Host: What caused you to be interested in participating in a study on shingles?

Sue Spicer: We had recently moved to Maryland and my previous physician sent me a postcard, forgetting that I had moved, asking me if I would like to be in a shingles study so I called back and said, "Sorry, I've moved to Maryland." And she said, "Oh, you should immediately get a hold of NIH." And I did and both my husband and I were in the study.

Host: And you did get shingles but you didn't have a typical case.

Sue Spicer: That's right.

Host: Could you first describe your early symptoms?

Sue Spicer: The first symptom I had was pain in my right leg and it sort of started in my upper leg and it went in both directions. It went down and it went up and I had been very active the day before and decided, "Oh, I bet I've pulled something," so I called my doctor and she said, "We better look into it," and made an arrangement for me to have an x-ray the next day. It was that severe. And I did not have the x-ray the next day because the next morning I had a rash on the instep of my foot and with the shingles study you are supposed to call them immediately if you have a rash. So I called them and they made an appointment for me to come in to see the rash.

Host: And when they saw the rash what did they think?

Sue Spicer: It wasn't shingles.

Host: They didn't think it was shingles?

Sue Spicer: No, but since I was there and they had found another spot of rash that I did not know about on my upper buttocks they decided they would do a scraping which they did and it was shingles.

Host: How soon after the first symptoms did you get treatment?

Sue Spicer: The pain started on Wednesday. I called them on Thursday and I came on Friday. The question was whether I was going to be able to drive here because of the pain in my leg and whether it would be safe to do and I did drive in and they then gave me some pills and I was much more comfortable driving home than I was driving to the NIH office.

Host: So did the medicine help immediately?

Sue Spicer: Immediately. I took a pill and they waited to see if I was going to have any allergic reaction and I didn't and then I took another pill. It was about two hours later. And then I started taking it on a regular hourly basis.

Host: So how long after you started taking the medicine did your symptoms go away completely?

Sue Spicer: Completely-- a couple days was all. I mean I was quite amazed. By symptoms I'm referring to pain. The rash stayed. It didn't get any worse but it stayed and went through, I guess, a shingles cycle. It was little eruptions and they oozed and then they dried and then they went away.

Host: Was the pain that you experienced excruciating pain?

Sue Spicer: It was getting there. It was getting there. By Friday it was very, very uncomfortable.

Host: What was your perception of shingles growing up?

Sue Spicer: It was old lady's disease. [laughs] It was sort of on that list of things you did not want to get. People had terrible eruptions and terrible scars afterwards and I remember one woman who had it on her face and she lost the sight in her eye.

Host: You mentioned earlier that a family member had gotten shingles, your mother-in-law I believe?

Sue Spicer: Yes, yes.

Host: Could you describe her experience with shingles?

Sue Spicer: I would say that on her back she did have the dinner-plate-size eruption and it was extremely painful, her back. She could not recline on her back. She did not want anything touching it. I took an undershirt of my husband's, cut a hole in it so that she could receive guests. She was given calamine lotion to take care of the shingles and they suggested also a salve that looked like Vaseline.

Host: So she had long-term effects but you had no long-term effects at all?

Sue Spicer: None, none, oh no.

Host: What would you say to someone who might think they have shingles?

Sue Spicer: Immediately consult your doctor so that you can start treating it immediately and not with calamine lotion. That's great for other things but you need to have today's treatment, today's medicines to take care of it immediately. It should not be something that is lingering and affects your lifestyle.

Host: Thank you very much, Mrs. Spicer.

Sue Spicer: Thank you.

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