My name is Melissa and I have been a nurse for 12 years. This is the story of how phototherapy has helped me in my personal life as well as my career…
I was a nurse working in postpartum maternity in 2009, when I developed dyshidrotic eczema on my hands and feet. I had spent a lot of time trying every topical steroid on the market with little success. Working had become very difficult because as a nurse I had to constantly wash my hands and wear gloves which aggravated my eczema. The fluid filled vesicles would erupt and then clump together and grow in size and eventually they would break. When the new lesions would erupt they would be extremely itchy and then before they would break they would be painful because if felt like the skin was stretching. Once they broke it would relieve the pain, but it would then leave open areas to my skin. At times the itching was so intense I resorted to using ice packs and buckets of ice for my feet. I often kept buckets of ice under my desk to bring some relief in between patients.
I had to come up with creative ways to work! I started using alcohol free Purell which was less irritating to my hands, cotton gloves under my nitrile gloves, socks with a wicking feature, well ventilated shoes, and limited hand washing as much as safely possible. I also wore band aids to cover any open lesions. I often felt embarrassed because I knew I was not contagious, but my patients were usually overprotective new parents with brand new babies who did not quite understand. My hands were my tool and it was the first thing my patients would see.
In 2010, I was trying to start a family and it was determined that topical medications were no longer a safe option for me and topicals did not really prove successful. It was at that point my dermatologist suggested that I was a perfect candidate for phototherapy. I started the treatments and started responding after the 5th treatment!
I continued phototherapy treatments for 5 years in which the last year or two was spent on a maintenance dose where I was only treated every other week. My dermatologist felt confident for quite some time that I could try stopping the treatments and re-start if areas returned. I was so frightened to stop treatments because phototherapy gave me a better quality of life! I can now say that have not been treated in 2 1/2 years and considered in remission. I do still occasionally get a small lesion, but it quickly self resolves.
Approximately 2 years into the treatments a nursing job opened in the phototherapy department. During my time of being treated 3 times a week I had gotten to know the phototherapy staff very well. Also, the results phototherapy gave me changed my life, I knew I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by! I continue to work in the phototherapy department, this year I am celebrating 6 years. I feel like this awful, uncomfortable situation let me on my meant-to-be path. I love seeing the successes of my patients and there is nothing better than being able to offer support to my patients. Thanks to this wonderful treatment I have been able to build therapeutic relationships with my patient’s during their own journey by being able to relate!