DAY 12: Unexpected setback sidelines Stephanie

I’m on WebMD this morning with two goals: help Stephanie feel better and absolve myself of blame.

Our 90-day carless experiment—my idea—may have put her health at risk.

Two years ago, Stephanie developed shingles. Don’t let the wimpy name fool you. Shingles, a reactivation of the chicken pox virus, can be torture. Stephanie’s original outbreak was mild, but it’s come back twice. That’s pretty rare.

Her latest outbreak followed minor surgery about 45 days ago. Some theorize that stress can reactivate the virus. The surgery—or the medicine she got after the surgery—seems to have been the culprit. She saw her doctor and got some medication. She was improving, back close to her normal self.

Stubborn husband proves point that no one cares about

The night we returned our polluting Passat to VW was bitterly cold by Houston standards—37 degrees and a 20-mph wind. After saying farewell to the Passat, we toasted our carless future at the Mucky Duck, then walked to a nearby bus stop.

I was determined that we ride home on the bus that night. It was going to be our “statement trip”—thumbing our nose at VW and the launch of 90 adventurous, car-free days. Stephanie went along with the idea; neither of us expected the consequences.

While the bus stop was enclosed on three sides, it faced the exact wrong direction for the weather—north. It was bone-chilling Chicago cold, the kind that causes your whole body to tense and tremble. We were there for 10 minutes.

The next morning, her shingles symptoms were awful—worse than ever. Since then, she’s had some rotten days, some decent days and mostly terrible nights. Her best day was last Thursday, when we biked and bussed to look at art. For now, she’s off the bike and has stopped playing tennis.

Early this morning she found some strong painkillers prescribed from a surgery two years ago. She checked the potential side effects and downed them. Within 30 minutes, she was one notch above zombie, but she wasn’t in pain.

When she’s sentient again, we’ll talk about medical next steps. One thing is for sure: I won’t ask her to stand at bus stops in the freezing cold. An Uber trip on the night of our VW buyback might have prevented a lot of pain and suffering.

Today’s lessons

If you’re over 60 years old, get the shingles vaccine shot, as long as you don’t have a good medical excuse. Your doctor might even advise it if you’re over 50.

For advice about the potential side effects of marriage, ask Stephanie. She may have some thoughts for you.



  1. I’ve had it twice, second time was worse attacking the right side of my head and upper portion of my face. I hate the side effects of pain killers. My doc prescribed gabapentin which had a nerve desensitizing effect. Maybe that will help.

    1. Thanks Bill. The is the second time for me also and it is much worse. I was getting along with the usual painkillers – Tylenol and Ibuprofen – until I found some hydrocodone that was prescribed for a dermatologic procedure. Hello my pretty – ahhhh – relief at last.

  2. Oh my my! Dear Stephanie, so sorry that you are enduring all that is shingles and more! Good to hear that Paul is thinking more clearly about future outings during the winter months in Houston.

    Hang in there! Get well – meditation/yoga, perhaps, to de-stress!

    Big hug!

  3. Oh, poor Stephanie! We could Indian food to you guys. Let us know if y’all are up for lunch – any day but Saturday and Monday. Give Stephanie a gentle hug for us.

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