Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When Fire Thorns Attack


Yesterday the girls and I went out and attacked the overgrown and previously neglected Fire Thorn hedge. It attacked back!

We didn’t expect it to be easy. We did expect to get scratches, and took precautions. Long sleeves, long pants, hats and neck coverings, and even face shields. Everyone wore thick gloves with rubber palms, shoes that covered our ankles, the whole nine yards. We were covered head to toe, and used long handled tools as much as possible  in dealing with the debris.

But, these things have something more than a life of their own.  Fire Thorns, also known as Pyracantha, seem to actively fight back. They have brains.

I always thought they got their name from the bright red and orange berries they grow in mass quantities, as well as the fact they have larger and more densely packed thorns than monster Grandfather Roses. I knew that some people claimed they were poisonous, but that modern science says they are not. I found out the hard way that they got their name for what their thorns scratches to do to people with arthritis.

Pyracantha don’t have poison in their thorns; not in the traditional sense. What they have is a ‘hyper allergen’ that only a few people are sensitive to. If you’re allergic to Pyracantha and you get stuck with the thorns you will end up feeling pain in your joints for a few days. This pain can range from a very mild stiffness to sever, agnizing pain accompanied by visible swelling. What it does is begin an autoimmune reaction that lasts for a few days. This reaction attacks the joints, but doesn’t usually cause any permanent damage.

Unless you already have arthritis. Especially if that form of arthritis is already caused by an autoimmune problem, such as RA (rheumatoid arthritis). And yes, that’s means me.

I’m in the very early stages of RA. So far it only effects a few joints, and even then it’s very mild. When it flares it really hurts, but modern science is a wonderful thing and we now know how to slow the progression of RA to a barely noticeable crawl if it’s caught early. Mine was caught early.

Despite the amount of gear I wore I still got a few scratches. If I hand't worn protective clothing things would have been much worse. One, in particular, on my left knee ended up being a bit deeper than the rest. It hurt, but I didn’t think anything of it. Scratches are scratches and, as farm manager, I get them all the time from hundreds of different kinds of plants. I’ve never had a negative reaction to a scratch, even when raked horribly by overgrown blackberry bushes that gave everyone else shingles.

The Fire Thorn, on the other hand, I am now afraid of. Very, very afraid. My left knees feels like it’s in a constant state of explosive expansion, my right hand is so stiff I can’t grip anything with it, and my upper back refuses to bend. These are all joints that I have RA in. Every other joint in my body simply feels like they’re on fire, but at least I can use them. I spoke with my rheumatologist on the phone and he said to take it easy, but don’t become stagnant. Don’t give my joints a chance to completely freeze up. Take my anti inflammatory meds, stay hydrated, and make sure to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour, and let him know how I’m doing tomorrow. Basically, take two Aspirin and call him in the morning.

It's important to note that permanent damage is extremely rare and usually only happens to people who are already suffering from advanced RA or some form of advanced active brittle bone degeneration. In other words, people who aren’t capable of wielding an 18-volt reciprocating saw with one hand to knock down a 12ft tall hedge in the first place. And since that’s exactly what I was doing when I got scratched my doctor chuckled and told me not to worry too much about it. The only time I should start worrying is if the industrial strength anti inflammatory meds he keeps me in stock of stops working to reduce the swelling.

Since I can’t move much today I plan to do get a lot of writing accomplished. I was considering moving the tomato seedlings into their own 4-inch pots today, but then I remembered that involves bending over to fill the pots with soil, shuffling around the greenhouse, and doing other little things my body won’t currently let me do. And those seedlings can stay where they are for at least another week (or more) anyway.

So, while I have lots of publishers I can be catching up with, I might go ahead and get up a few posts for Reclaiming The Farm today. There are lots of things I’ve been meaning to talk about, but haven’t had the time and brainpower simultaneously to do so. Maybe this is the universe’s way of saying “sit down and write!”.

1 comment:

  1. Found after an early afternoon taking two pyracantha down from three metres to thirty centimetres each. They fought back -- worthy foes.

    My right hand and arm are puffy and swollen; they look as if I'd been "playing" with a very mistrustful cat.

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