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