Posted by: Brenda Kula | October 27, 2008

A Method To Madness

I’ve decided there truly is a method to madness. And it’s something like what Abi is doing right now out in the yard. Scratching. You all gave me great advice, but nothing helped for long. So this morning around 5 a.m. I decided I would wait until the urgent care clinic opened and head over there. Day 8 of the poison ivy saga.

I’ve talked a lot about my neighbor Walli. Here she is over the weekend sitting in my gazebo telling me what new treasure she found at an estate sale. I caught her unaware.

We are across the alley neighbors, fellow gardeners, and a Meals On Wheels team. I shall show you photos from her garden that I took over the weekend as I tell you what happened.

I got at the clinic around 8:15. They opened at 8 a.m. There were a few people ahead of me. But in about an hour a kindly gentleman in a white doctor’s coat knocked on the door and came in. I was instantly reminded of a cartoon from my childhood. I want to say Dagwood. Is that the one with the tufts of hair on either side of his head? Yes, I just looked it up: Blondie & Dagwood. Anyway, this bespectacled doctor reminded me of Dagwood with a paunch around his middle. But today he was my hero.

“Poison ivy. Yep, that’s it,” he said, scrawling things quickly on his clipboard. But can you help me??? “Oh yes,” he says. “I’ll have you back to where you can bear to wear clothing in a couple of days.”

I nearly fell on the floor. I’d sat while I waited and counted all the tiles in this floor over and over again. I wanted to fall at his feet and kiss his shoes. “Bless you,” I said.

He drew a diagram on a paper towel of my enemy. “Yep, stuff is bad. Climbs up trees and walls. Turns red this time of year.” Scrawled some more. “We’ll give you a shot and start you out on six 10 mg. steroids today and you should see some relief by this evening, I would think.”

I thought I was going to cry, so poignant was this precious moment in time…

I told him I’d spent all kinds of money on everything on the market to take care of this myself. Including two $40 tubes of that “miracle” stuff. He told me that was fine for small areas. But folks, this rash is over 25-30% of my body. It is some form of hell for which there should be a far nastier-sounding word.

He leaves the room, and soon (couldn’t have been a moment sooner, as I was tired of counting things and trying not to scratch), a nurse comes in with my shot. I gladly “dropped my drawers” and waited for a miracle of mankind to start shooting through my bloodstream. “Bless you,” I just kept saying. I think I was on the verge of true madness at about that moment. A song from years ago kept repeating itself through my addled head. “I am woman. I am strong. I am invincible…”

She told me I’d have to wait 15 minutes to leave so they could make sure I wouldn’t have a reaction to the shot. I sat and tapped my foot and watched my wristwatch. Trying to ignore the itch that was made worse by the elastic of my clothing. Forget a bra. To hell with a bra. This is serious stuff here. Beyond “gotta put on a bra before you go out” that every woman tries her best to ascribe to. And I’m not a small-chested woman either. A man must have designed the first bra. And the one after that. Torturous things, all of them.

Had I still had a uterus, and not been over 50, I would have borne children for this Dagwood-looking man who gave the nurse her orders and a prescription in my hand. That’s how grateful you are when you have areas of poison ivy that are a foot wide on areas covering your body. Not inches. Feet of solid red rash.

I headed across the street to Petsmart. Got to run all errands when you’re out already, I keep telling myself, trying not to use up the precious commodity that is gasoline these days. Trying to do my part for the environment. Speaking of which…

Did you know that as the environment goes through its perilous global warming, things like poison ivy are only going to get more poisonous? Believe me, I’ve been doing my research. Has to do with the C02 levels. I’m telling ya, we’ve got to pay more attention to this stuff. Stop sending our money to various parts of the world in something men (remember, the ones who likely designed the bra) call war, and start getting on board trying to save the air we breathe.

Then I drive to my pharmacy. As I’m coming through the door I’m already explaining that I need this filled pronto. It’s a small place, so the door is only about six feet from the counter. And they know me well there. They have to call my insurance company to explain why I need still more steroids, when they’ve been filling Prednisone for my asthma for months now. Foot tapping time. Cost: $2.76. Geez, I’d have saved my foot and paid more and bypassed them altogether…

So now of course I am home. The fish have been fed. Abi has had her medication. Per instructions of the pharmacist, I immediately ate something with fat in it (how hard is that to do?) and gulped down my first 6 pills. I shall have to think hard about it before I again weed my sweet neighbor’s front yard for her. I may think twice before I even walk down the street in front of her house. And I shall never pull up an anonymous, harmless-looking plant again without thinking about this torturous experience. Nola, I don’t think you can get it through the phone now that I’ve read what the doctor gave to me, so I think you can stop wiping down the phone after I call.

And I know you’ve probably heard more than you ever wanted to about poison ivy. But the doctor sent some paperwork home with me to educate me on this evil plant. So I feel, as a citizen who tries to live a halfway noble life and regularly votes; and because all of you tried so hard to help me, that I should warn you of the following:

You may get a rash by touching:

Pets that have poison ivy on their fur. They can spread it to your skin and inside your car and house. This is any part of a poison ivy plant. Including leaves, stem, vine, roots, or flowers and berries. Clothing, shoes, camping or sports equipment, or outdoor tools that have the poison ivy oil on them. Touching another person’s skin or clothes that are covered with the plant oil. If you have been exposed, rinse your skin with cool water first. Then wash with soap or a gentle cleansing lotion. Rinse your skin well. Do not use hot water because it may cause the oil to spread on your skin. You may also put rubbing alcohol or a solution of half alcohol and half water on your skin. These may cause your rash to be less severe when it breaks out on your skin.

What to do when you have the rash: Keep it clean. Wash with soap and water. Gently pat dry with a clean towel. Try not to scratch or rub your rash. (Yeah, right.) Scratching may cause your skin to become infected. If your rash covers only a small skin area (and not a quarter of your body), you may be able to treat it at home. Put a compress on your rash to decrease itching. Dip a clean washcloth in cool water or Burrow’s solution. Wring it out and place it on your rash. Leave for 15 minutes. Do at least 3 times per day. Take a bath. If your rash is too large for a compress, bathe in lukewarm water. Hot water may cause itch to increase. Add one pound of cornstarch to a little water to make a paste. Add the paste to a tub full of water and mix well. You may also use colloidal oatmeal in the water to help sooth your skin.

Call your caregiver if your rash is very bad. (Bad Brenda!) Call if your rash covers a large body area, or if it is on your face near your eyes. (Not on my face so far!) If you are having trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.

Okay, I’ve done my good deed for the day. And it wasn’t weeding my neighbor’s dangerous garden. I have lots more information if any of you manage to come into contact with this vicious plant and need advice. I am a keystroke away. Be vigilant.


  1. I’m so glad you went to the doctor!! Sometimes those fast care places are just a God send! In a day or two you will be woman and I’ll hear you roar – all the way in Edmond, Oklahoma! 🙂

  2. I am so happy you went to a doctor today Yeah Brenda!!!
    See now your a wealth of information,and I for one hope I never ever get poison ivy.
    I certainly hope you get the relief you so badly need.
    Take care my friend
    PS And NEVER EVER do that yard again!!

  3. I’m so glad you went to the doctor and finally going to get some relief. I itched everytime I visited just reading about it. And your comment on bras!! I hate them too. I don’t wear one at home but put the stupid thing on when going out. Shoes are another thing I don’t wear unless I go out.

  4. Glad you finally went to the dr and got something for that nasty stuff!
    Been a long time since I had it – and if I never get it again, it will be soon enough!
    hope you feel better soon!

  5. OMGoodness! I am paranoid whenever I go out on nature walks. My husband thinks I’m a nut. Now I have living proof that caution is a good thing! I’m sorry about the rash, but so happy you have found a solution.


  6. Brenda, here is another DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER BURN POISON IVY!!!!! The smoke carries the spores and if you inhale it your throat can close up and unless you make it to a hospital in time, you can die!

    A friend of ours, years ago, lived next door to someone who was innocently burning leaves in the fall. She ended up in the hospital, and fast!

    It’s a horribly nasty plant.

    And I agree with you about war. It’s never the answer.


  7. So glad you got the poison ivy taken care of. Steriods are very good medicine! 🙂 Thanks for the tip about how the leaves turn red.

    CA, down in the woods of Mobile. 🙂

  8. My goodness, Brenda! I just caught up with your last few posts and could hardly bear to read them, in spite of the wonderful writing! I’ve had bad poison ivy more than once, but not as bad as you did…thank heavens that doctor could help you and I hope you’ll soon feel better and get some healing sleep.

    Isn’t it weird how dogs, squirrels, and other animals can spread it but not get it? I read that only humans, some higher primates and hamsters have allergic reactions to urushiol.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. Oh man, I feel for you…..that is just awful! Glad to hear you have a cure. But it does make a great story, you know 🙂

  10. My god that really does sound terrible Poison Ivy, wow dont get those problems over hear in England, Glad your alright though and went to the doctors. Great little site and very intresting stories keep up the good work. would love it if you got the chance to look at this site and give me your opinion

  11. Brenda,
    I am so glad you went to the doctor. I can’t imagine being so covered with an itchy rash and maintaining sanity!

  12. Hi Brenda…I busted out chuckling at the comment of you catching your neighbor unaware…. 🙂 made me think of the picture of Robert that you took…unaware! hahaha 🙂

    I hope you have a really good week!!


  13. Oh my!!! You poor thing! Brenda that’s awful! I’m itching just looking at the pictures and reading about it! (((((hugs))))) Here’s to fast healing!

    Please stay away from that yucky stuff!!


  14. Brenda,
    I was asking Nola about you yesterday and hoping you were better. Hope by now you are on the mend. I’ll be keeping you in my prayers.

  15. Hi Walli! Now that we’ve met, when will we see Walli blogging?
    Please take care of yourself; as much of your body that’s covered in it, I won’t be surprised if caller ID shows a call from one of your local hospitals!

  16. I did not know you should go to the doctor when it covers so much of your body. Good info. My son had to go a few years ago. He also got the shot. But let me tell you he still gets goosebumps from the very mention of the shot. Apparently it hurt worse than poison ivy. He learned his lesson. I hope you don’t get it again. You must’ve had a bad case. Sorry the miracle stuff didn’t work either.

  17. Im glad you went to the doc. Glad you got some meds and even happier you will be better soon(-:
    I hope you are watching Dancing with the Stars…Its a riot!!!

  18. Brenda,

    No fair, you have made me laugh with your talk of bearing the merciful Dagwood’s child, while telling us of this horrid nightmare you have been in. There should be a verse somewhere about those who bring medical relief to those in extreme discomfort are angels in disguise or will gauranteed a place near God.

    I once found myself in abnormally high , unimaginable pain, and when the nurse administered the extreme narcotic for relief of my pain, I was fully aware of telling her she looked exactly like an angel to me. Dagwood deserves wings at least!

  19. I’m so glad you’re on the road to recovery! Hopefully this will soon be just a bad dream (or nightmare is probably more like it!).

  20. holiness! I had poison ivy when I was in 6th grade. It wasn’t fun. I remember laying on the couch with pink stuff all over me. 🙂 I hope you are feeling better. xoxo, Joanna

  21. Hi Brenda, what an ordeal you have been through. Thank goodness for your sense of humor, doesn’t that help with everything life dishes out to us? I have had an extremely bad case of this stuff too, actually when we started clearing the slope behind our house when the renovation began. There was so much poison ivy and poison oak and the brambles had scratched open my bare arms and legs so the poison entered my blood stream. I know exactly how madness must feel too. The shot and steroid packet worked wonders for me too. Now I ALWAYS wear long sleeves and covered legs, old cotton long john pants work well in the summer, and gloves when i work in the garden. And learn to identify the enemy in all its forms! ;->

  22. As I was reading the last few posts, I kept yelling “GO TO THE DOCTOR!” LOL I’m glad you finally did and I hope the rash leaves you soon.


  23. I’m so glad you are on your way to being healed. There is
    nothing worse than itching and scratching and I would have probably kissed that doctor.

    I hug you but you still may be infectious.


  24. Good grief! How horrible this has been for you! I’m glad you are finally going to get some relief!

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