Scabies is a noxious little bug that burrows under the skin...moves in, bag and baggage, bringing along all of its progeny. It wanders about, hither and yon, raising general hell, and since it can't be seen, the only way we know that we are playing host to the original man-who-came-to-dinner is that the skin erupts in ways that drive one totally up the wall.
The skin, as you know, is the largest organ in --- or about --- the body, and when it is attacked by what they call Scarcoptes Scabiei it goes nuts.
You think fleas are bad. According to my beloved Merck Manual, scabies is "An impregnated female mite who tunnels into the stratum corneum and deposits her filthy little eggs along the burrows..." I inserted the words "filthy" and "little" in the proceeding sentence.
Scabies usually comes from what the manual so archly calls "skin-to-skin" contact --- in other words, from our doing those things that Granny advised us never to do with any other human. Scabies is thus another of God's mysterious ways of punishing us for our night-time pleasures and our secret daytime delights.
Scabies is known as "The Seven Year Itch," because its incidence rises and falls as regularly as the tides, or the sunspots, turning up in abundance every seven years. It is easily cured --- once you find out that you have it --- by spreading a special pink marmalade all the way from one's neck to one's tippy-toes, missing nothing (I repeat, nothing), in the process. Then you lie about for 12 hours, at which time all the little buggers are supposed to die and go off to the great corpulent body in the sky.
The kicker is that if even one of the beasts survives, the whole process starts over again; and it takes a couple of weeks to know that one is infected again. If you happen to be fumbling about in love, it's even more difficult --- because you can easily give the lover's mite to whomever you're consorting with. Furthermore, he or she may well give it back to you. It is, truly, the gift that keeps on giving.
I once asked one of my doctors if he would show me the cause of my misery under a microscope. He refused. He said that one time he showed the bug to one of his patients, and the patient was so terrorized he never came back. Since I was such a good customer, he was not about to lose me forever just to satisfy my curiosity.
I've had it so many times, and rubbed so much of the pomade, Elimite, over my body (at $25 a shot), you'd think I'd own half-interest in Burroughs Wellcome Company, the patent holder on one of the more popular of the scabies eradication creams. You'd also think I was an expert on the subject. Thus, when I started itching last spring, I went to see the good Doctor Feelgood --- all names have been changed to protect the guilty --- and said I was itching, and would he look and see if I had scabies again, and if so, could he write out a prescription for Elimite so I could spend some more money making Burrough's Wellcome rich.
Well, Dr. Feelgood said it definitely wasn't scabies, but rather, "a form of eczema." He said it might be a condition of nerves, and that it would stay with me until it damn well decided --- on its own --- to depart. He said he could give me some ointments that would alleviate the itching, but nothing could cure it.
I scratched my way all the way through spring and early summer, and then decided that there must be something more to life imitating the dogs on the streets of Cairo, Bombay, or Mexico City. I went to see a skin specialist over at the University clinic near here. After letting me cool my heels in his waiting room for an hour or so, Dr. Derma's nurse led me into cubicle #J, and after another pleasant 45 minutes or so reading year-old issues of "People" magazine, the good doctor breezed in, looked me over, and told me I had nervous Eczema. He then wrote out a prescription, and was gone within in 60 seconds, leaving me nothing more for my trouble than another useless creme, and a bill for $100.
You may be wondering where I'm getting to with this Seven-Year-Itch Shaggy Dog Story. Have faith: there is a point to this tale. It has something to do with disability --- and the way doctors perceive those of us in wheelchairs.
Especially those of us in what they so archly call "the senior years."
--- L. W. Milam