Friday, March 1, 2013

The Mysterious Case of the Expanding Face

I had this whole idea of a blog planned out for a while ago.  And then you know, life got crazy and I found no time to write*.  And then, my face exploded.

Last week, in spite of my last blog post about Fuh-Reezing Weather, a Warm Front pushed through.   But this Warm Front brought along some friends (roughly 43 billion of them).  You might have heard of them? Raindrops.

Proof of Dolphin Training Occurring Despite Raindrops

So one day last week, I (and my fellow colleagues) spent roughly 9 hours in a wet wetsuit.  There was almost no break in the rain.  And at the end of the day when I changed to go home, I noticed the all-too-common Wetsuit Rash on my neck.

Wetsuit Rash occurs when dedicated men and women in the aquatic industry spend a long period of time in wet neoprene and are relatively active.  The intensity of this Rash begins at Vexing Chafing and runs through to Torture Commonly Used in Medieval Scandinavia.

My particular case began at the benign end of the spectrum, but quickly (and mysteriously) progressed.  By the next morning, I had hives all over my neck.  But thanks to the distracting nature of my job (you try ignoring the cherubic face of a marine mammal to lament your Wetsuit Rash), I didn't realize how far it had progressed until the end of the day when I had an exchange with a coworker who asked me simply if my neck was feeling okay.

At that point, my distracted mind suddenly fixated on the burning and tightness enveloping my entire neck up through my cheeks.  I reached up to touch my face and it felt as what is commonly defined in the Medical Industry as Weird.  

That evening, as I slouched on the couch and crammed as many SVU episodes into my brain as I could, I kept touching my cheeks.  The skin on my face felt like drying rawhide.    Nonetheless, because I have a borderline sleep disorder in which I actually die for a period of time at night, I was able to go comatose for a while.  Until....

1:30am.  I wake up, as I usually do, for what I call my Guilty Worry Panic Time.  This is the time, once a night, when I arise from my deep death sleep and Worry.  Here is a list of things I worry about:

1)  Things I've Said To People (No Statute of Limitations)
2)  How Will I Ever Train That (Insert Behavior Here)?!
3)  Emotions I've Felt That Maybe I Shouldn't
4)  Will I Have Enough Money To Pay The Bills?
5)  How Many Donuts Are Too Many?**

I wake up in the middle of the night haunted by the thought of not eating enough of these.

But normally, my Guilty Worry Panic Time is around 3am.  So when I woke up and realized how much earlier I’d been roused, I knew immediately something was wrong.  Not to mention, my face felt like it was going to explode.

I walked to the bathroom and flicked the light on.  Here is a conversation I had with myself:



 Self: LSKDG(&*W#%IOSD<GKSO#*%*&@%)*(ASLIUDSG!!

RationalSelf: It appears as though my entire face is swollen.


RationalSelf: Oh, how fascinating.  Look at gravity and my tendency to sleep on my left has made the left side of my face more swollen than the right. 


Etcetera, etcetera.  

The best part about this discovery of my massive noggin is that I kept going back to the mirror to “Double Check”, just in case my immune system was all like, “JK! Your face isn’t a marvel of physics and immunology!”

After a terrifying trip to WalMart at 2am, I loaded myself up with Benadryl and fell into a coma.

The next day, I woke up and felt my face had expanded even more.  Sure enough, as I tried to peer through the slit that was now my left eye socket, my face looked like a loaf of bread.  I had Chipmunk Cheeks.  I had Fat Eyelids.  I had a Ginormous Double Chin.  And I had to work, of course.

When I went to Publix in the morning to pick up my lunch for the day, I pathetically hid my face behind sunglasses.  This attempt was as futile as hiding a lawn mower behind a cashew.  I knew the bulbous portions of my face squeezing out from behind my sunglasses were mesmerizing the staff at the grocery store who have seen me come every day for the past six weeks.  

Then, when I got to work, I had to unveil (no, unleash) my new look to my coworkers.  They were really (I'm being 100% serious here) kind and kept all kept their laughing in until I cracked a joke about my appearance.   And then, I went to the Hospital where I was told I was having an Acute Allergic Reaction. The doctor gave me a prescription for steroids and sent me and my face on my way.

The rest of the day at work provided me with really great moments involving showing my doughy mug to dolphin show audiences, otter feeds, and seal sessions.   Just when I thought the situation couldn’t harbor any further humor, gravity, which had given my face a lopsided appearance overnight, decided to play another trick on me.  Whatever was filling my face to the point of expansion began to drain down into my “neck.”  The quotation marks are not, contrary to popular belief, there for “dramatic effect” (those ones are).  They are there to insinuate that the area between my shoulders and my cranium is yes, physiologically defined as a neck, but by 2:00pm, it did not in any way resemble a neck.

Here are some helpful visual samples of what my “neck” looked like by the afternoon dolphin show:

Oh, yeah.

Oh, look how it ripples!

*Actual photo of myself*

Me, my giant face, and my new waddle now mesmerized audiences and colleagues alike.  My wetsuit really accentuated this becoming feature by squeezing it out and over the neck opening, so I could actually feel the waddle overlapping the wetsuit.  It moved so fluidly, it could only be described as Lava Lamp.

Luckily, after a couple of days of a methylpredisolone dosepak, my face shrunk back down to normal, the waddle disappeared, and I now look like myself again.   What was the cause of this Great Expansion?  Neither I nor the Medical Minds who examined me can pinpoint its source. Nor are they worried it was something serious.

As animal trainers, especially ones who work outside, you never know what kinds of things you’ll encounter.  Sometimes you get Allergic Reactions.  Sometimes you get Bad Sunburns. Sometimes you get Fire Ants Trapped In Your Bathing Suit (more on this later).  And you know what? I’m okay with that.  Because let’s be honest, as long as the animals don’t mind that there’s more of me to look at, I can deal with having a Balloon Face.  

* I found Law & Order SVU on Netflix.
** None.


  1. You really could write a book. I laugh at all of your blogs.

  2. I hear these things just start to happen at your age

  3. Thanks, Constance!! And CN, who knows. The immune system is a confusing thing. Luckily, it's great fodder for the blog.