On the morning of July 27th, 2011, I woke up to a strong itching sensation on my chest. I didn’t think much of it until I realized, “hey, this itch is not going away and it’s very strong.” Then I look down at my chest – where the itch was located – and see two distinct little dots. I was hoping that I had an itchy freckle and zit side-by-side, but no…
These were fang (or chelicerae) marks.
I began to throw the kitchen sink at Google. I’m a little surprised their server didn’t crash with how many searches I was submitting.
“Spider bite marks”
“Spider bite symptoms”
“Spider bite treatment”
“Identify Spider Bite”
“Venomous North Carolina spiders”
“Caring for a pet spider that bit you affectionately”
One of the Scariest Moments of My Life
With some competition from vomiting bile for the first time, the following 2-3 hours were the scariest in my life. The single scariest moment was the instant I felt a systemic response. My entire body began to shake. I nearly passed out.
*knocks on dad’s door*
Me: “Um….A spider bit me.”
Dad: “Ok, I’ll be right out.”
*waits 8 seconds, worried that I’ll collapse before I can explain the situation*
Me: “It could be serious.”
I grab an ice pack on the way out the door and hold it to my chest, hoping to slow the neurotoxic venom that was flowing through my bloodstream.
I was thinking black widow. The symptoms matched up perfectly and it seemed very severe.
As I am sitting next to my dad and he drives to the emergency room, he looks over at my convulsing body and says, “holy smokes.” (I don’t know if other people say that, haha.)
The next thing you know it, I’m filling out paperwork which – as you guessed – is my preferred activity when I only control some of my muscle movement.
Somewhat quickly, we are let in and the testing and questioning begins. Since entering the ER, my symptoms are actually fading (ice pack?!). The doctor eventually comes in, looks at my chest for 5 seconds and confirms I was bitten.
Next thing I know, I’m getting a shot in the butt (it hurt) and taking a pill. I asked a lot of questions about what they’re giving me and why. They gave me a strong steroid and strong benedryll type of pill.
Medically, I MUST know what’s going on. I’m not the kind of person that can blindly trust a doctor with my health (unless I’m in dire straits and need immediate attention). I think I’m an expert on spider bites now.
Another scary moment happens – I begin to feel very flushed – one of the worst feelings in the world I think. It’s the feeling that comes before a vomit. It bothers me so much because of how systemic it is. Your whole body sends you the message at the same time – “something is wrong here.” It makes me feel completely helpless.
As I’m about to throw up (hate it), I realize I haven’t eaten hardly anything. My dad saves the day and recommends I lie down. Relief is quick.
The doctor prescribes me three drugs – antibiotics, prednisone, and an anti-itch drug. I looked at the drugs carefully and decided to get the Prednisone and the anti-itch medicine, while leaving the antibiotics. The reason was that I was feeling much much better and didn’t expect to take any of them. (I felt that I had wasted a few hundred bucks going to the ER – though I’d make the same decision again in a heartbeat. Better safe than sorry – especially with health).
Back Home - The Unexpected Adventure
At home I relax, sleep, eat.
It seems as if the scare is over and I feel fine. Now that I’m back home and feeling ok – I have an appointment with a creature I hope is still in my room. I thought of setting up a tiny torture chamber custom built for it, but ultimately decided it was too much work.
I search everywhere and find a tiny dead spider that I know isn’t the culprit.
Then out in the hall, dad says he sees a bug in the corner and it’s pretty big. It was pretty far away and hard to see. The ground underneath it was the bottom step about 12 feet below (see picture). I squinted over the banister upstairs (just outside my room) and thought it was a spider, though it just looked like a nickel-sized dark spot.
Naturally, my dad picks up the granite cleaning spray and we all get into our positions.
Dad is halfway up the stairs with the “weapon,” I am at the top of the stairs in case spidey retreats up the wall, and mom is…not interested in joining us.
We want to kill it, but not squash it (so we can examine it).
It starts out boring. Dad is spraying it and it doesn’t seem to care at first. It’s moving slowly as it gets covered in the mist. But as far as we can tell, it is harming the spider.
The excitement starts when the spider drops a line and begins to descend…
Dad has a container and tries to line it up so spidey descends right into the bottle. Well, he misses a little bit and the spider lands on the rim.
So as I see dad moving towards the kitchen with the spider/bottle saying he has it, he suddenly makes a terrifying-sounding surprised gasp that scares everyone. Was dad bit too?
The spider jumps and he doesn’t know where.
As I come rushing down the stairs to help, unfortunately I’m wearing socks and slip dramatically on the laminate floor at the bottom of the steps. Can you guess why? The granite cleaner was dripping down from the corner dad sprayed right onto the floor. It is very slick.
So as I’m doing my best matrix impression, dad and mom are screaming at each other in the excitement. Then I start screaming at dad to let him know I nearly broke my neck on his “pesticide.” So we’re all screaming at each other and the spider is probably thinking, “why did I choose this house?”
It was quite the scene (and yes, I was laughing some in the midst of the chaos).
We see the spider, so dad sprays him more and I put a cup over him.
Eventually I flipped it over and filled it 20% full with rubbing alcohol to make sure the spider dried and died.
Game over, spidey.
The Eye of The Hurricane
I examined the little creature that had caused me so much worry, fear, grief, and discomfort. It wasn’t clear-cut, but I was 89% sure it was an american house spider. The symptoms of such a spider’s bite were like that of the Black Widow but less severe (depending on allergies). It was a perfect match with my symptoms and a pretty solid match on visual research.
At this point I figured it was merely interesting. Other than occasional itching at the spot, I felt fine. A few days passed.
Then Tuesday morning, nearly the exact thing happened (except the bite was already there). I woke up with it itching badly. I looked down and saw that the bite had formed a small pimple-like mark.
I had symptoms: feeling flush, dry mouth (with white on tongue), severe itching, general nausea.
Long story short, I feared infection and ran to pick up my antibiotics. As I continued to feel horrible, I told my mom and got in to see the family doctor as a staph infection is very serious and I wanted to catch it early (if it was to be).
I get in to see the doctor and ask a zillion questions while explaining the course of events. She looks at the bite mark and isn’t worried because of the lack of on-site swelling/redness/etc. I get blood taken for precautionary testing and she advises me to take antibiotics and prednisone to fend off potential infection or systemic allergic response (cover the bases).
A Miserable Day
I am still taking the antibiotics (and probably will continue to because I’m shell-shocked and frightened of infections at the moment). The Prednisone though…I’m finished with…I hope.
The side effects of this drug are horrible. It suppresses the immune system and makes your body go crazy. I took 20mg at lunch time and it prevented me from sleeping. I think made me more susceptible to my least favorite feeling of the body sporadically feeling flush (essentially like a hot flash I think – don’t make fun ).
About 2 hours ago – in my bed – I calculated that my RESTING heartrate was somewhere around 110 BPM (normal is about 68 for me). Um…no thanks. I called the pharmacist to make sure it was ok to stop taking prednisone and she said yes. You can’t stop taking it cold after long term use (serious consequences), but I had only taken the one dose so it was ok.
So here I am. I don’t feel perfect, but I feel alright. I receive the blood results tomorrow. If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to the past week, now you know. I’ve been a little…preoccupied.
One thing I know is that I want this to be over. I want to look down at my chest and not see those ominous little bumps. I want to know that I’m going to be ok.
I guess I’m not so tough after all. A mere spider has brought me to my proverbial knees. I know this might seem mild to you (and it is relative to many things), but the constant uncertainty and lack of control about what might go wrong next has forced me to stare death in the face and I was terrified.
I rarely get sick and don’t have health insurance, so this was a definite, sudden shock.
If I found out for sure my time was up, I hope I’d be able to get things together mentally…but sometimes life blindsides you. I have developed much more compassion for others with health problems because of this experience. I (predictably) appreciate life and health more now.
Life is short. I want to live accordingly – spiritually, with family, friends, work, passions….everything. How can we get caught up in the petty things and argue with those we love when we might die tomorrow?
I don’t care if that’s cliche. It’s real to me now.
P.S. I had a big problem with anxiety during this time. I tried The Linden Method and it helped a lot. What’s even more impressive is I’m pretty sure my anxiety was chemical, but it still helped me. If you have anxiety problems, I recommend it. The audio tapes are the best. Get it here.