Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ghost Spider

Some 19 years ago, a spider bit me on the temple 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, Jackie, who first suggested, “Spider bite.”

Since I hadn't seen or felt the little culprit poisoning my face, I doubted her call. 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. Usually, I don't go see doctors much, but the swelling and body aches were alarming. So, this time was different.

The doctor confirmed the spider bite diagnosis. He guessed it was a brown recluse and told me he didn’t know all that much about spider bites. Said most doctors don’t. He told me it was just a matter of how my body would react. The doc said the venom's tricks would run their course in my body no matter what he did. An antibiotic was prescribed to deal with the infection problem that sometimes comes along with any sort of bite

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. The ordeal was 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. 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.

After looking at gross photographs of people with 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 episode and wants to look for them.

Like other healing wounds there was an itching problem that was a distraction at times. That went on for months. What was the strangest aspect of it all came later, after I had stopped worrying about the spider bite all the time. You see, every so often, there was a feathery, fluttering sensation that felt just like a 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 -- that it could be a spider on my eye. It was torture. It was nearly a year before that last spooky effect 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 ghost spider thing, if I see a spider indoors these days, its biting days are over.

Were there seven separate bites, or was it one big bite and seven reactions?

The doc couldn't help with that question, either. But no doubt, I was lucky it wasn't worse. 

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