Thursday, 3 January 2013


If there was something in this world that I could not live without it would have to be my hands.

Sorry... But in all seriousness, my hands mean everything to me. Without them I would be lost. I couldn't imagine one day not being able to pick up a pencil and sketch something, or rest my fingers on a keyboard or a piano. That's why I make every effort to make sure my hands are well looked after (and still attached).

But the universe works in mysterious ways and when it comes to my hands it works against me.

Allow me to explain. By now you should know I'm a nurse. If you don't

During placement through university I used the hand washing agents available at the hospital. My skin is quite sensitive so the use of harsh chemicals in the hand wash and alcohol rub caused a reaction and gave me a condition called contact dermatitis. An inflammatory disorder where the skin becomes very dry, inflamed and is characterised by small boils, cracked skin - oh, did I mention it is also extremely

Seriously, you have no idea what itchy is until you have contact dermatitis - and I've had eczema in the past. It's so itchy, you could scratch until you bleed and you still won't have any relief. It's so itchy, it feels so good to scratch purely because you know it's bad to. I have encountered people who said I should not scratch it. Well...

Just kidding. But if you still don't understand how painstakingly itchy contact dermatitis is - then don't tell me not to scratch.

Another thing about contact dermatitis is once you've got it, it's very hard to get rid of. I've had it going on 4 years now. I can get it under control using steroid creams and moisturising, but things like heat and frequent hand washing causes it to flare up again. Being a nurse doesn't help either, as I have to wash my hands at five key moments:

Sorry about the quality of the image...

So when you apply this rule to an 8hr shift that involves a lot of hand washing. A... lot.

When I started out as a grad on the wards my hands got really bad due to the constant exposure to the hand wash and alcohol rub. They were so sore and dry I could barely bend my fingers. I would be in pain during the whole shift. And if my hands came into contact with the alcohol rub...

I couldn't take it any more and went to visit my GP to get some really strong steroid cream and asked what other options did I have in the work place. He banned me from using the products at work so I had to carry around my own personal hand wash. Needless to say, I looked like a dork carrying around my own soap.

Now I'm working in the operating suites things are a little different. I don't need to wash my hands as frequently as I did on the wards and my hands improved greatly. Scrubbing in for operations is a little traumatic on my hands as I have to wash them for 5 minutes at a time (see blog post "Theatre Days" for more about scrubbing in), but I have access to different hand washing agents which don't cause such a harsh reaction as the other products did. There's also plenty of moisturiser on hand which I can use as often as I want. This looks a little odd to people at times because I'm always - ALWAYS rubbing my hands together, as though I'm scheming or plotting something evil...

A few weeks ago I had a flare up due to the hot weather. It made work very difficult but I managed. Here's a photo I took of my left hand one afternoon at work. Sorry if it looks gross.

As you can see my pinkie finger is a little swollen and I've broken out with all these raised red bumps. I visited the GP at the hospital to find out stronger treatment options when I got flare-ups and he bluntly told me I should no longer work in the nursing profession because of my hands.


Excuse me, Doctor, but I did not just dedicate 3 years of my life to study, almost completed a graduate year and enrolled in my Masters of Nursing Practice to just throw it all away due to a treatable medical condition. I'm tougher than that.

So he prescribed me some emulsifying ointment to use as often as possible to prevent my hands from drying out like my sense of humour when I'm drunk. The ointment works great at keeping my hands moisturised. The only thing is that my hands are always greasy (because it's an ointment). So everything I touch is greasy.

But I'll get by.

I have to admit, despite everything - there is one perk about having contact dermatitis.

Teehee - it really isn't contagious.

I was hoping to get this post done before the New Year but I just missed it. Ah well. Happy New Year everyone. Hope all your plans and ambitions are fulfilled and I wish you all a safe and successful year.