BALTIMORE (WJZ) — WJZ anchor and meteorologist Tim Williams helps bring you the news every morning; he’s not usually a part of the news.
Health problems, though, sidelined the 24-year WJZ veteran for six weeks last year. Now, he’s hoping to use what he went through to help others.
“The first thing that happened was my lip swelled,” he recalled. “And all the blisters, everything that happened to me happened on the left side of my face, even as specific as my two front teeth. My right side was fine.”
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Doctors diagnosed him with shingles, which is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It can be triggered by stress or spread by contact with unscabbed blisters.
The blisters, which he described as “very painful,” left dark blemishes on his face. He felt so embarrassed that for a month he only left the house to go to the doctor.
“I was very self-conscious,” he said. “I still am self-conscious about them.”
Shingles doesn’t always affect the face, but in Tim’s words: “Of course the one who gets it on his face is the one who shows his face every day on the television for work.”
“You normally get some blisters that can be painful, burning, itching, tingling,” said Dr. Kjell Wiberg, the director of the division of infectious diseases at Sinai Hospital.
Once someone has gotten the chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body and can flare up years or even decades later, Wiberg said.
“It tends to become reactivated when you get older, especially if you’re exposed to some type of stress. The stressor can be emotional stress, financial stress or health issues.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of people in the U.S. will develop shingles.
The CDC recommends the vaccine Zostavax for adults ages 60 and up but says the preferred vaccine is Shingrix, which is for adults ages 50 and older.
While shingles isn’t life-threatening, it can be extremely painful.
“It can be disabling for sure, and if you have a safe and potent vaccine, to me, it’s a no brainer. Why not use that and protect yourself from shingles?” Wiberg said.
Demand for the vaccine is high, but WJZ called a dozen Baltimore pharmacies and all but one had it in stock.
Tim’s doctor still recommends he get the vaccine so he doesn’t get shingles again.
Today he deals with shooting pains and he grew a beard because it hurts to shave. He visits his doctor monthly and takes medication for his nerve damage.
“While I’m taking medicines to bring the nerves back, I may not ever have complete sensitivity back in my mouth or my lips,” he said.
Despite that, Tim knows it could have been worse.
“Because it hit me in my face, it could have impacted my eyesight, which it did not, and it could have impacted my speech, which it did not,” he said.
When asked if getting shingles served as a wake-up call for him, he said “absolutely.”
“You start getting the stresses of life catching up with you,” he said. “Slow down, slow down. Don’t stress about things. Let it go. That’s been a big lesson for me.”