Horn playing with shingles

Oh boy. After two weeks on the road attending the BSO Academy and SummerTrios I arrived home with shingles. People get shingles if they previously had the chicken pox which for people my age is probably 90% of us. The chicken pox virus never goes away, it lays dormant in our nerves and when it wakes up it comes back as shingles. Shingles presents itself first with pain, in my case in my back, followed by an itchy feeling where the rash will eventually show up, and then with the rash itself. Pictures can be viewed here. My rash looked exactly like picture #7. If you are squeamish don’t look.

My back pain started toward the end of my week at the BSO Academy. I started aching during rehearsals but at the time I thought it was a muscle pull. It made sitting through rehearsals difficult but not impossible. The pain continued at SummerTrios. What I didn’t mention in my post about SummerTrios was that I left early. My 3 month old granddaughter got sick and was taken to the hospital so I decided to go home. The faculty understood but they had to scramble to find other horn players to play in my two quintets. I could tell they were a little peeved at me but they don’t know how lucky they were that I left when I did.

My drive home took six hours. I was achy and itchy but had no rash when I left. When I got to Long Island, the rash had shown up. Shingles is extremely contagious once the rash shows up. People who have not had chicken pox or who have weakened immune systems will get chicken pox when exposed to shingles. If I had stayed at SummerTrios I would have exposed everyone there to chicken pox.

Needless to say, I went to the doctor and was told to remain in my house for at least 2 weeks. In addition I received 3 medications. I am taking Acyclovir which is an anti-viral medication that is supposed to shorten the length of time that the rash is present. I am taking Prednisone which, hopefully, will prevent the lingering pain that remains after the rash is gone, and Vicodin which was switched to Tramadol for pain. Shingles is extremely painful because the virus is living in the nerves.

You’d think that being confined to my house would give me a great opportunity to practice. Alas, such is not the case. The two drugs that are wreaking havoc with my horn playing are Prednisone and Tramadol. The Tramadol messes with my head and I can’t play the simplest etudes without messing up the fingerings. As bad as that is, what’s worse is that I can’t get a decent sound, have trouble making notes speak, can’t play high, and have very little endurance. From what I’ve learned, it’s the Prednisone that is causing these issues. Prednisone causes some swelling and it is effecting my lips. They feel a bit tender to the touch and look slightly swollen as well.

My dilemma is how long I should try to practice or even if I should practice at all. At the beginning of last week I was trying to get my usual time in for practice however, it was very frustrating. It’s hard to practice when you can’t product the sound you want or play the notes you know you should be able to play and were 100% capable of playing the week before. As the week went on I practiced less and less because I felt like I couldn’t accomplish anything productive and my endurance was tanking. My biggest concern is whether I will end up unknowingly changing how I play to compensate for my lips and then go through this same nightmare once I go off the Prednisone.

Of course being confined to my house has prevented me from attending several rehearsals and two band concerts, plus I had to withdraw from a chamber music group I was in. So much for the summer concert season. I wouldn’t wish shingles on anyone. It’s excruciatingly painful and being under ‘house arrest’ is annoying at the very least. There is a vaccine available for people over 60. I wish I had known about it last month.

4 thoughts on “Horn playing with shingles

  1. TIna, I just read this. I feel so bad for what you are and have been going through. But it seems you are doing all the right things. I knew your back was bothering you at BSO Academy, but thought it was just because you were playing and practicing so much.Thank you for your excellent descriptions of everything. It may serve as an alert to someone else reading this in case they experience the same thing. Get better soon!

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    • Hi Dianne,
      Thanks for writing! I also thought my backache was from all the horn playing we were doing. It was quite a surprise to find out what it really was. I’m really glad that I wasn’t contagious then. If people get anything out of my post I hope it is to go get the vaccine. Then they won’t have to go through the rest of it.
      Sincerely,
      Tina

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  2. TINA WOW. Real bummer! I’ve had shingles but milder. You’re doing all the right stuff and when its over, one thing is clear- it is unlikely to recur.Watch some movies, listen to Dennis Brain and Barry Tuckwell records and read Fergus Mc Williams’ book.
    Cheers ( a real sleeper– if you an get hold of, listen to the sound track from “To Gillian on her 37th” by James Horner. Some of the most beautiful horn music ever written.) Cheers

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