‘Pain was incredible’: Ch. 9 reporter shares experience with shingles

CHARLOTTE — Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe is sharing his personal experience with shingles — a painful, debilitating medical condition that impacts more people than you probably realize.

Doctors estimate that 1 in 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime. If you’ve ever had chicken pox, the virus is already in your body. Shingles develops when that virus re-activates later in life.

By anyone’s account, shingles is a painful, miserable disease that causes blisters, itching, and extreme nerve pain. But that’s not all it can do.

Reporter Jonathan Lowe learned that firsthand and agreed to share his experience so you’ll take steps to protect yourself. He stepped onto the other side of the camera for an interview with Anchor Erica Bryant.

“I thought I was just getting a normal cold, like fever at night, chills. And we were about to go on vacation so I absolutely did not want to be sick,” Lowe said.

“I was taking ibuprofen, that seemed to help. We were still able to leave on vacation, so it just didn’t seem like, at that point, a big deal.”

“Describe when it changed,” Bryant said.

“By the second day, it was getting worse,” he said, adding, “It felt like a burn but from the inside.”

“At night was really bad,” Lowe said. “The blisters and the nerve pain was incredible.”

“You describe the pain like nothing you’ve ever experienced before,” Bryant said.

“I’ve fallen off my bike, knocked out my two front teeth, have a bun on my leg. I’m a bit of a klutz. I backed up against the tailpipe of a moped. Nothing comes close,” he said.

“I told my husband, I was like, ‘I need to go to the medical center on the ship.’”

“As soon as I took my shirt off, the tech that admitted me immediately said, ‘I think you have shingles.’”

‘I went on TV and it was just too early’

Lowe started antiviral medication, which seemed to be working. He had no way of knowing the virus was spreading.

“What was the worst of it?” Bryant asked.

“The, what most people know as Bell’s palsy,” Lowe said.

The virus that causes shingles, which is also known as Herpes zoster, can travel to the nerves in the face. That’s what happened to Lowe.

Dr. Cramer McCullen is his physician.

“So you might have eyelids sagging, eye drooping, lip drooping, changes in your taste, saliva, tear production,” Dr. McCullen said.

“I thought the shingles was bad, but this is by far the worst,” Lowe said.

“Why is that the hardest part?” Bryant asked.

“Just concern over what was happening to my face,” he said.

Lowe took some time off work and then worked without appearing on camera.

“One night, we had major breaking news. And you know, we all — this is just second nature for us to jump in,” Lowe said.

“Completely my decision, you know. My teammates asked me, ‘you sure?’ And I said ‘sure, I can go out there.’ And I went on TV. And it was just too early.”

“Phones in the newsroom blew up, my Twitter blew up, got emails asking if I had had a stroke.”

“But I want to say that I completely appreciate every person who reached out,” Lowe said. “And I felt that and I — ”

“They expressed care and concern. And love for you,” Bryant said.

“Yeah. And — Very moving,” Lowe said.


Lowe still has issues with his left eye and eyebrow, but he’s come a long way since this all started in March. His message now is for everyone to consider the shingles vaccine.

“I’m 41, just turned 41, so I’m not 50,” he said. “Most places, you don’t get the vaccine or it’s not recommended to get the vaccine until you’re 50.”

“I just wanted to mainly say to people — have a conversation with your doctor, no matter your age. 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s — at least have a conversation, because I wouldn’t want someone else to go through this.”

One of Lowe’s doctors reported seeing more people in their 20s and 30s being diagnosed with shingles.

The shingles vaccine is given in two doses a few months apart. For people ages 50 to 69, doctors say it’s 97% effective at preventing shingles.

There’s a lot more you should know about shingles, including its symptoms and the side effects. The following links provide more information:

(WATCH BELOW: Pharmacist emphasizes importance of vaccines ahead of holiday travel)

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.

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