Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Spot of Trouble


About two weeks ago I found a sort of white blister on the knuckle of the middle finger of my right hand. The blister soon had a red ring around it and I scrubbed it hard with a surgical scrub, fearing that it was a spider bite. The knuckle swelled, the right hand hurt like crazy, but after about three days the swelling went down and I stopped worrying. A couple of days later I found another blister on the palm of my left hand, near the heel of my thumb. That one really hurt and within 36 hours I had another blister on the tip of my ring finger on the left hand. By this time, the right hand was much better aside from the fact that the hole left by the blister on the knuckle was taking its own sweet time to heal. As a matter of fact, even today it still isn't healed.

I began getting alarmed when the wound on the left hand turned black, blue and a bit green with red streaks running up my arm and an egg-sized lump under my left arm. I wasn't getting much sleep with my dreams being entirely about pain in my hands, and I was feeling pretty terrible. I did some research on the net and made an appointment with our family doctor. The research confirmed what I feared, that I'd been bitten by a brown recluse spider, probably while cutting chicory in the garden for the birds' breakfast. Egypt has its fair share of venomous spiders, as well as spiders that are supposed to be venomous and aren't. We have poisonous snakes and scorpions as well. Despite my hanging about in the sorts of places that critters like, I really haven't seen much in the way of evil ones, other than the recluses.

One very rainy winter in Alexandria there was a rash of brown recluse bites among friends of ours. Most of us caught things in time and escaped with sore, swollen bites, but one of the men didn't pay attention and ended up in surgery having his elbow joint cleaned out when the bite became necrotic and invaded the elbow. These cute little brown arachnids pack a wallop. They are relatively small, just over a half inch in diameter, and nocturnal, with a preference for hiding under vegetation in the garden or in clothes that have been tossed on the floor...a good reason to be tidy. But they aren't aggressive and only bite when someone "attacks" them by putting a hand or foot on or too near them. In fairness to the spiders, while they are not uncommon in Egypt just as in the southern United States, my kids never seemed to get bitten and there could have been tigers hiding in the rubbish tips that they called bedrooms in high school.

Two weeks on, I'm still taking antibiotics. The tip of my ring finger and the base of my thumb on my left hand are still so sensitive that I jump if I accidentally bang them on something. The bite on my right hand has a nasty deep scab that is slowly healing, and I put a layer of A&D ointment (not just for babies, you know!) on my hands about three times a day to help the healing. The lymph node is no longer swollen and I'm feeling pretty good...especially since the temperatures are down to a balmy 33 C these days. Do I still cut chicory for my birds? Nope. On his suggestion, I let the gardener do it. He has calluses on his hands that no spider could bite through.



copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani

12 comments:

Judith in Umbria said...

That's just appalling! Thanks for the photo of the critter. I'll steer a wide course if I see him.

Cairogal said...

By far, your grossest post to date, MA! I started reading it thinking you had a staph infection!

Akinoluna said...

Ouch! My grandma got bitten the same way, by sticking her hands into plant life.

Mia said...

Wow! That's a bite! I got bit by a small one here in the states.. but nothing like you ended up with. Your spider must have been a GIANT!

Anonymous said...

What is it you maybe could/should have done IF you would have suspected it was a spider bite in the first place?

g
toronto

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

Being sort of a first aid freak (comes from raising two active kids in a country without 911) I've known that a small white blister with a red ring is a spider bite for years. The first bite on my right hand was washed with a surgical scrub that we keep around the farm for wounds and then had antibiotic creams applied frequently. It healed slowly but without the spectacular accompaniment of the second bite. I think that the hit my immune system took fighting off the toxins from the first bite is what caused the second to be so much worse. I just didn't have what it took to deal with it in the usual way. The third bite on my ring finger was still in the blister stage when I started the antibiotics so it never really got too bad. Basically, as far as I can tell, it all boils down to a healthy immune system. If it's been compromised somehow, get those antibiotics right away. Otherwise, if you have only one bite, you can usually deal with it with local antibiotics and fanatic cleanliness at the wound sight. But if it spreads....Doctor Time Immediately.

Forsoothsayer said...

where do u live in cairo that has a garden and gardener? if i had that life, i would have minded the move from toronto a bit less too...

Forsoothsayer said...

oh...outside cairo. good for u.

Anonymous said...

Therefore people in your region who don't have money for a doctor and are stressed out are kind of, well, up poo creek?

Your message about this being from a Recluse spider was fascinating because I thought their distribution is the U.S. and definitely not Egypt.

I suppose wearing gloves of some sort wouldn't help? They could crawl down the sleeve? Even those white gloves ladies wore in days gone by would help, wouldn't they? Not rubber, not sweatproof. Those ladies knew a thing or two that we have forgotten. I keep telling people: we need white gloves. :)

g
Toronto

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

If you check on venomous spiders on the net, you'll be surprised at what lives where, and with the global warming they are all moving north. There are doctors and clinics in my area that are quite inexpensive and sometimes they are pretty good....and sometimes they aren't.

Living Away said...

omg, i hope you get well soon!

laura said...

OUCH! That looks like it hurts! Another reason I'm terrified of spiders! I hope it heals well.