The moment the Solarcaine touched my skin I was in a frenzy. One second I was just feeling a little overdone from the Florida sun, and the next I was running back and forth on an outside deck trying to squelch whatever had set me on fire.
I was in my first year of college and thought I was all grown up. I was about to find out different.
It was the last vacation I took with my parents and all my siblings. Mom and dad had rented a nice place right on the beach with the Gulf of Mexico waves lapping at the sand just a few feet away.
It was early in the day when we arrived at our destination, so rather than heading directly to the beach, one of my brothers and I decided to shoot some hoops at a nice basketball court in the area. It was a hot, spring day, right around Easter, and since we were in Florida, I figured I’d take my shirt off and catch some rays. We played basketball for a good while, then decided to head to the beach to cool off.
In the meantime my parents had been sunning themselves, too, while watching their younger two children play on the beach.
We played in the waves for a good while, then at some point decided to get out of the sun, shower and change to go out for supper. I noticed in the shower that my skin was bright pink, but I don’t remember it hurting at all, and soon thereafter we went out to eat.
Sometime after we arrived back at our temporary place of residence, I noticed that my skin, especially the skin on my stomach, was starting to feel rather uncomfortable. So, since my mother was always prepared with everything we might need and more, I grabbed some of her Solarcaine and started rubbing it on my stomach.
To this day I do not know what kind of reaction that caused, but it did not relieve my pain. Instead, it instantly set my stomach on fire with a sensation I never experienced before or since.
It was so bad that I dashed out onto the deck, running back and forth across its length, hoping the cool breeze blowing off the ocean would help. It did not. I do not remember the exact order of things for a while after that, but I do know that the only way I could get any relief was standing under running water in the shower.
As soon as I got out of the shower though, the sensation returned with a vengeance. And by then it was not the warmth of my skin that was bothering me. It was an itching sensation. And it was not my skin that was itching. It was something under my skin — like in my body. And it felt frighteningly horrible.
What in the world is going on, I thought. And while I was afraid it to admit it then, I am not now. I was scared — like a little boy that needed his mommy to protect him from the dark. Only, I was 19.
Over the next few hours, as the sensation started traveling up one leg and then down the other, my mom tried everything she could think of to help. She even clamped her legs around one of my mine like she did when we were little kids and had leg aches. After that, as I laid there whimpering, she started tying tourniquets around my legs to isolate the sensation to wherever it was at the time. I must have been a sight to behold.
Sometime in the middle of the night I started to get a little relief. Eventually the itching went away and I was left with just a good sunburn.
The next day we explained to some local residents what had happened. They said I had sun poisoning and probably should have been in a hospital.
It is not my favorite vacation memory, but I was not the only one to suffer. My mom and dad had bad sunburns, too. In fact, my dad’s was so bad that the first or second evening, as were heading to dinner, he laid down the back of our extended cab van that we had turned into a large bed. He had his legs propped up against one side of the van, and his legs were shaking so bad that the whole van was rocking.
The next couple days after that first one, while my dad watched the other kids play on the beach, my mom and I went shopping because her legs were burnt to the point that she could not wear pants, and neither of us wanted anything to do with the sun.
The rest of the vacation was fun. Toward the end of it, I remember standing in lines at Disney World peeling massive hunks of dead skin off my stomach.
It’s too bad that was our last family vacation. But, at least we made it a memorable one.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected] or 937-402-2522.