By my own admission, I am a dabbler in life, filled with pseudo expertise, while totally lacking common sense. In college, I changed my major eleven times, until it dawned on me that honor grades alone would not produce a diploma. Now, as a married woman, raising kids and operating my own business, I still dilly-dally, vacillating from meditation to mediation to legal research to alternative health. The result is, I often know a little about a lot, which sometimes gets me into trouble.
On the fated day, I talked to gynecologists, herb specialists, even Harborview Burn Center, all of whom admitted they had never faced such a problem. “You did what?!!” “Oh you poor thing,” they all whispered under their breath, while trying desperately not to say “how could you do something so stupid!” But there I was in excruciating, yes, worse than child-bearing, pain. What had I done? It was simple enough. I tried to treat a vaginal yeast infection, by a rather non-traditional method.
I had taken a class a few years back, you see, called “Herbs for the Immune System.” The teacher, I recalled, had espoused the marvelous benefits of a product called grapefruit seed extract. “Would kill anything,” he said, including, you guessed it, yeast infections. We happened to have some of this marvelous product in the house. (It really does tame a sore throat if you gargle with a few drops diluted in water—tastes like soap and makes you gag, but it works.)
Anyway, I failed to read over my notes, which would have reminded me to use the product in a suppository form. I also failed to read the warning label on the bottle: “Avoid contact with eyes or skin at 100% full strength. Use sparingly due to extreme potency. Do not exceed three drops per usage.” Instead, I relied on my own expertise and inserted two droppers of the stuff. That ought to kill it, I thought.
After a while, I felt some tingling down below. Great, I thought, it’s working. But it wasn’t long afterwards, the tingling increased in intensity. Soon I was in screaming agony. Nothing I did stopped the burning. It started to blister. I bathed in baking soda, douched with Acidophilus, applied ice. My husband and I huddled on the couch trying not to think of our future nights together.
After all known home remedies to stop the burning failed, my husband took me to Virginia Mason Emergency.
“What’s the problem, honey?” the receptionist asked sweetly as my husband wheeled me to the front desk.
“I think I burned myself.”
“Okay. What happened?”
“Well, it was, um, from an herbal product,” I flushed, trying to avoid telling her the whole truth.
“An herbal product? And, where is the burn?” she asked peering over the counter curiously.
I gave up and told her the whole story. She listened intently, trying not to react, but I noticed she crossed her legs and wouldn’t look me in the eye after that.
Several other hospital staff members somehow found reason to come check on me. I figured I was the latest coffee break story and they were all trying to get the facts straight. I remember one no nonsense nurse who came in to jot down a host of miscellaneous information. She hadn’t been briefed yet.
“Have you had any medication today, deary,” she asked taking notes.
“I’ve had two Percocets and a Tylenol with codeine,” I slurred.
“Now, why have you had so much pain medication?” she challenged, mistaking me for a druggy.
“Because I burned my vagina,” I said, by now enjoying the shock value and her momentary lack of composure.
She gave a little “oh-my-poor-dear” gasp and hurried out of the room.
Eventually, a female doctor examined me and deduced in hushed tones and a sympathetic voice that I had suffered second degree burns. She prescribed a soothing ointment and more pain pills, but explained the best help would be time.
Whether this incident has curbed my dabbling streak, I can’t be sure. I am happy to report, however, that vaginal tissue has a remarkable ability to heal itself. My only remaining scar is a bruised ego and my mother’s words haunting me: “How can you be so smart and so dumb . . ?” which reminds me of the time when I was seven and tried to see if electric scissors, famed for being able to cut anything, would cut my tongue .. but that’s another story .. .