Monday, May 17, 2010

Ghost Spider's Skitter

Twelve years ago, a spider bit me on the temple area next to my right eye. The first symptom was an itchiness that got steadily worse. Initially, I thought it was poison ivy. It was my then-girlfriend who first suggested, “Spider bite.”

At first, I doubted her call. Since I hadn't seen or felt the little culprit poisoning my face I didn't know if she was right or wrong. By the end of the first day there was some swelling and redness. Over the next couple of days the swelling increased dramatically until my eye was completely closed by it. By then I felt weak and nauseous, with chills and body aches.

Usually, I don't go see doctors. This time was different; the doctor I saw confirmed the spider bite diagnosis. He guessed it was a brown recluse; he told me he didn’t know all that much about spider bites and most doctors don’t. He told me it was just a matter of how my body would react to the venom. An antibiotic was prescribed to deal with the infection problem that sometimes comes along with any sort of bite.

"Unfortunately," said the doctor, there was nothing he could give me to prevent the venom's tricks from running their course in my body.

Once I started taking the medicine, some of how I felt for the next week probably had something to do with a reaction to the pills, too. In general, I wasn’t as sick as the worst day of a full blown flu. It was somewhat similar to the flu, but it was much more disorienting.

As the swelling went down, the seven spots that had formed in the middle of it gradually turned from reddish-purple to bluish-black. Naturally, I looked at them every few minutes, to see what would happen next.

To understand my problem better I read about brown recluse bites online. That only scared me more. Yeah, at this point it was scary. I came to understand the spots I was seeing on my face, grouped within an area the size of a penny, were necrotic flesh.

It was a sobering thought -- my flesh was dying. Not somebody on the Internet. Me. After looking at gross photographs of people who had huge tissue losses from brown recluse bites, I swore off my research.

The sick feeling gradually went away. The swelling disappeared. The dark spots, most of them the size of a piece of rice, rotted away and dropped off, leaving seven little holes.

Today the scars are mixed in with the crows feet lines extending from the corner of my eye, so mostly they are only noticed by someone who remembers the ordeal and wants to look for them.

Like other healing wounds there was itching problem that was a distraction at times. That went on for months. Yet what was the strangest aspect of it all came later, after I had stopped worrying about the spider bite all the time: Every so often, there was a feathery, fluttering sensation that felt just like an insect -- or a ghostly spider! -- was skittering across my eyelid, or the eyeball itself.

Each time it happened I flinched, believing, at least for a fraction of a second, it could be a spider on my eye. It was torture. Maybe a year after the spider bite that last spooky effect of it faded away, too. I've since believed that meant the healing was over.

Never worried about spiders much before this experience. Live and let live was my approach. After that fluttering eye thing, if I see a spider indoors these days its biting days are over.

Eventually, I began to wonder -- why seven holes? Were there seven separate bites? Or, was it one big bite and seven reactions? The doc said he didn’t have the answer.

-- 30 --

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