Hawaii 2015

In search of lava on the Big Island

WaikikiHale PohakuStars and lavaHalema’uma’uMilky Way over the calderaLong MountainMauna Kea climbTallest mountain in the worldKa LaeKealakekua BayFlight over the volcanoKilauea IkiPu’u O’oEating the forestPahoaThe Hell ItchThunderstorms over Nicaragua

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The Hell Itch

Sunday, August 16th 2015

I'd got horrifically sunburnt while snorkelling at Kealakekua. But two days later when I was flying back to Chile, it was not so bad. I didn't even particularly notice it while I was on the helicopter flight over the volcano, though it was a little bit uncomfortable on the flight from Hilo to Honolulu.

I had two hours there before my flight to Houston, and I was just sitting in the departure lounge doing nothing in particular when suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my back. I sat up in surprise and felt another sharp pain. And within a few seconds, it suddenly felt like I was being stabbed repeatedly, all over my back.

I jumped up, unable to comprehend what was happening. It was excruciating and I could hardly breathe. I rushed to a bathroom and put some water on my back but it made no difference. I scratched furiously and it made no difference. I panicked and rushed around the airport trying not to shout in pain and that made no difference either. I was sure I would have to miss the flight - there was no way I could get on a plane in this state. I did not know what to do to stop the pain, and it was really just about the worst pain I've ever experienced.

Finally I ran into a shop, and saw some after sun. I could hardly speak, and I was desperate to put the stuff on, so I just threw down my dollars and didn't even wait for my change. I ran to a bathroom and slathered the stuff on.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then, unbelievably, the pain got worse. Then, thankfully, a few seconds later, it got better. I slathered more on. A few minutes later, it was definitely getting better. The relief I felt was huge. When it was time to board, I'd almost entirely returned to sanity, and I could contemplate 8 hours on a plane.

When I got home I googled my symptoms. It had been such a weird and awful experience, but, it turned out, far from unique. If you get burned over a large area, then sometimes, for reasons unknown, two days later you can get a sudden massive inflammatory response which causes the most horrific itch known to humanity. I'd got very lucky though - my panic-bought after sun turned out to be one of the few substances which can help - Ocean Potion instant burn relief ice. For some people, even this doesn't help, but for me, I think it saved my life. Without it I might have had to jump through a window or something.

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