‘I couldn’t use my hands’ - Sanitiser delivers pain, depression for Manchester man
Mark John* is alive again.
For weeks, he stared at dead skin in his darkened palms as he inched closer and closer to depression.
It’s the result of the use of a hand sanitiser he accepted at a store or stores in the Manchester capital, Mandeville, in late July.
But it’s hard for him to pinpoint the exact store, as John said he visited more than one a couple days before he got a grasp that something had gone wrong.
“Mi hand dem started getting stiff and mi see some fine bumps starting to come up and the joints of the fingers start buss up,” John told The Sunday Gleaner.
He said as the condition of his hands worsened, he became increasingly worried and decided to visit his doctor in Mandeville.
“The doctor said the damage is already done and it takes some time to penetrate the skin – maybe about three or four days after I got that chemical,” he related.
According to the 48-year-old civil servant, the doctor also told him that in recent weeks, he had seen several similar cases in the Manchester capital, but his was among the worst.
One of John’s co-workers is among the cases in Mandeville.
At the doctor, John received a prescription he later filled, but the recovery was like watching paint dry.
“Mi actually go into depression, but I said I have to get over this. Then sometimes, the things that people say ... if you are weak, you get in a panic and all of these things,” he said.
By now, cooking had become impossible, bathing was a task and John had to muscle up to bear the pain to touch everything but air with his now cracked, tender, darkened hands.
“Basically, I couldn’t use my hands,” said John.
He then visited a second doctor who gave him a similar diagnosis – a negative reaction to a hand sanitiser.
It was at this point that a nurse friend suggested that he uses home-made castor oil to moisturise his palms as often as necessary.
John took the advice and proceeded on vacation leave from work, but still, life had to go on. It was a recurring task to convince storekeepers – particularly supermarkets – that he could not accept their sanitisers because of the condition of his hands. As a solution, he would walk around with a box of latex gloves and would fit a new pair to be allowed entry to some places.
However, there were times John would be refused admission as he insisted that he could not accept their hand sanitisers. As an alternative, John said he would pull out a pack of hand wipes with which he also travelled, but that, too, would not soften security guards posted at storefronts to ensure sanitation compliance by customers.
At that point of his recovery, John recalled that even regular rubbing alcohol felt like pouring hot water in an open wound.
But after more than a month of constant use of castor oil, John’s hands are almost completely healed and he’s raising his palms to the heavens again.
“It was hard to deal with. You can imagine you go somewhere and most of the time your hands have to be in your pocket?”
Now, John wants to raise awareness so that people can be vigilant about substances being offered as hand sanitisers. He wants business places to ensure that they are using approved sanitisers and he wants the health authorities to do random testing of the substances being used by stores.
*Name changed on request.