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              I was sitting at my desk in middle school taking a test. My hands had always been cold; dubbed "The Hands of Death" by my older brother. In fact, often when I was chilly (which was all day, every day) I would put my hands on the back of my father's neck which I had found was always warm. I had seen an episode of Smallville in which the villain, through some radioactive experiment, had been genetically mutated so that he had to steal body heat to warm up.  I felt like that was the future I had to look forward to.

                But this particular day, I felt something I hadn't experienced before. My hands began to tingle and turn moist. It slipped down my pen and as I looked in bewilderment, I noticed something frighteningly odd. They were a bright red, a color I had never seen skin turn before comparable to the color of raw beef. The veins on the top of my hands stood out, a bright purple. And my fingers had swollen to the size of small link sausages. The stiffened up and burnt as if I was running them under water that was too hot. I searched for something, anything, that would cool them down so I grabbed the metal bar on my desk. It felt like ice. It took a good thirty minutes before they cooled down to their typical chilly temperature.

                The same thing happened a good ten or so times before I alerted my mom that something was wrong with my hands. Though she was concerned, she wasn't immediately worried so she scheduled a doctor's appointment about a month out. Meanwhile, my feet began do the same as my hands. It came to a point where my hands and feet were more often red and scorching than purple and freezing. It was painful, embarrassing, and scary. I had no clue what my body was doing. When it came time for my appointment, the doctor said it sounded like a vascular-spastic disorder called Raynaud's Syndrome. She prescribed a hand cream, but the ingredients were so rare that none of the pharmacists in our area were able to make it.

                My hands and feet began to swing viciously between the beet red and icy purple. Many times, the tips of my fingers and toes would turn a gray color with cold and in a matter of minutes would heat up to the point where beads of sweat would drip off of them. When they got that hot, I would hold ice packs until they began to cool down; sometimes it took up to an hour until the temperature dropped.

                A few years later I went to a podiatrist who had treated Raynaud's before. He told me that he needed to do tests to make sure I didn't have any auto-immune disorders commonly linked with Raynaud's such as arthritis. In the meantime, I was to take Aspirin daily to thin my blood out so it could squeeze through veins that had tightened closed during fits of spasms. Unfortunately, it didn't change anything. The next appointment it was confirmed that I didn't have arthritis and my blood count was normal; however, my blood pressure was fairly low. The doctor said it may also be a possibility that I had Erythromelalgia, exactly the opposite of Raynaud's disorder.  See, with Raynaud's ,vascular spasms choke blood flow and cause a drop in temperature due to a lack of blood flow.  But Erythromelalgia causes fingers and toes to overheat due to a pooling of blood in these areas also due to a lack of blood flow. I felt stuck; I just wanted to know what was wrong with me.

                He put me on a blood pressure medication for the calcium channel blockers which were supposed to relax the veins and prevent such dramatic spasms. The first week on the medication was miserable. My blood pressure, already abnormally low, had dropped significantly and my brain didn't receive the flow that it needed. I fell over several times, I wasn't able to see straight when I was walking, and any exercise wore me out completely. However, I noticed no difference in my hands and feet. After I had finished the bottle of medication I quit taking it. The next appointment, the doctor took a different approach. He prescribed hats.

                I was literally told I had to wear a hat to prevent heat from escaping. Being the diva that I am, I was devastated. The first day I spent searching for any hat I wouldn't mind wearing in public. The very next day, I went to school in a pink knit hat avoiding stared and questions. At one point I tried to turn that root of embarrassment into a point of pride, "bragging" that I was allowed to wear hats in school. In the end I wasn't any more proud; in fact, I just felt like a freak. I mean, who gets prescribed hats? Only people who are afraid to hold other people's hands because they're embarrassingly hot or cold. Only people who try to hide their hands in pictures and videos because they're obviously always discolored.

                There was one time I was at a boyfriend's house having dinner with his family. During prayer we all held hands and I was next to my boyfriend's older brother. My hands burned and moistened, but I tried to ignore it and I held his hand with as much false confidence as I could manage. After prayer, Nathan, then 22, blurted out "Well, Lauren sure is hot! She's sweating like a pig over here!" I know I turned crimson and no one came to my defense. I'm guessing no one else thought it was a big deal or thought much of it. But to me, I would rather people pretend that my hands and feet don't exist. Whenever I'm cold or hot, someone always feels it's their responsibility to point out how discolored my skin is, as if i couldn't tell already. All I can say is "Yes, yes they are red. They do that sometimes."

                Within the past year they've gotten better. They only act up when I exercise or get nervous. Perhaps I'm becoming normal again, or maybe I'm just getting better at ignoring my problem. But no matter how used to it I get, I know other people will never get used to it. I will always get " Wow! You're hands  are cold!" or "Your feet are really red." And I suppose that's what really bothers me even more than the physical pain. I mean, I know that no one means to be offensive or hurtful, but I'm aware that sweaty, beet red hands are repulsive. The last thing anyone wants is for their unavoidable faults to be called out.

 

 

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