The King of the Fat Lip

About a year and a half ago, one night for no apparent reason, my upper lip swelled to the size of my thumb. I think I was riding in the car when I felt the first tingling. By the time I got home for dinner, I looked downright scary.

I wasn’t in pain, but I certainly couldn’t go on the air. People would be calling the TV station wondering what had happened to me. Children would lose sleep or get nightmares. It was that bad – this is no exaggeration.

I spoke to my doctor, Steve.

Let’s stop here for a second. It drives Helaine a little nuts when I refer to a doctor by his/her first name. Doctors should be doctors – not Steve’s. I understand the logic. But, I’ve known him for nearly 20 years. He’s a great guy and recognized as a great doctor. He’s Steve.

The lip subsided. Still, Steve ran me through every test known to man. Nothing.

Meanwhile, since the major swell-up, I found myself getting itchy on my palms and the soles of my feet. My fingers would swell. Sometimes my toes would itch. Of more concern, there was, what I surmised, was constriction in my wind pipe. Would this condition block my flow of oxygen?

I tried going to Google to see if there was medical knowledge that would help me. Without going into too much detail, you’re not going to get a lot of medical help by searching for “swollen lips and fingers.”

Helaine and I went on vacation to Las Vegas. While taking golf lessons I started inflating and deflating – fingers and lips swelling and subsiding. It was scaring the living daylights out of me.

There was no apparent reason for this internal body change after 50+ years. I was eating different foods in a different climate, drinking and bathing in different water. My total environment had changed but not my symptoms.

Steve spoke with a colleague, the head of the Allergy Department (it has a much more complex name, but you get the idea) at our local, major teaching hospital. If this was an allergic reaction, there would be no one more qualified to find it. I went to visit him.

I remember our first meeting. It might have been in his first paragraph to me when he said he probably wouldn’t be able to tell me what was causing my troubles… but he’d be able to control it. And, he did.

Religiously, I have been taking antihistamines every day. Amazingly (except one day, months ago, when I missed my pill), I have been symptom free.

I know I will be on this, or a similar medication, for the rest of my life. And, I will also be going to visit this doctor… forever. Truth is, I need the prescription and he’s entitled to get paid for keeping me swell free. So, we go through this medical charade where I go to his clinic at the hospital, tell him I’m symptom free, and get a prescription. He’s a smart guy… fun to chat with, though I assume there are others, sicker than me, waiting for his expertise.

Today was my day to visit. I’ll be back in June.

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