The first thing that you need to know about me is that I hate hospitals. And doctors. And everything medical related. It’s not that I won’t go to a hospital if I’m sick, I just will only go if I know I need it and usually only if I have someone to hold my hand.
So when I woke up Sunday morning with an insect bite on my thigh, I noticed it, thought it was annoying and slightly unusual, but then proceeded to ignore it. I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor in Canada, and I know how to self-treat an insect bite (rubbing alcohol, Calomine lotion, and don’t itch). In retrospect, however, I should have taken a picture, to document my incredible experience.
Initially the bite was dark red, and about the size of the top of a pencil, maybe even smaller. It hurt if I poked it, but I know enough to leave it alone. Then I went to the beach.
When I got back, I noticed that the skin around my bite had turned pink, and that it started to grow a tail. I even joked that I had a little parasite burrowing into my skin, because that was sort of what it looked like. I was a little worried, but sure it would go away eventually.
The next morning, I came downstairs in my pajamas, and Ana Maria and Maria noticed the bite. It still had a strange shape (i.e. not round), but was becoming swollen and apparently growing. They conversed amongst themselves and decided that it was probably a spider bite and that I should see a doctor, because all of the spiders in Lima are poisonous.
I was still skeptical. I had been to the clinic only a few days ago with a volunteer, and it took us so long to see a doctor because we weren’t an emergency. I felt fine, and felt no urgency to see a doctor, and besides, I had plans. I decided to go in the evening, when I wasn’t busy. But I got guilted into going, after I was reminded that I had travel insurance.
So I went to a nice place down the street called Suiza Lab. They are a very modern clinic where you go for blood tests and other laboratory work, as well as travel vaccinations. I went, I waited for a while, and I saw a doctor. She oohed and ahhed over my bite, told me I wasn’t going to die, prescribed me an anti-histamine, and asked me all kinds of questions like “do you have a fever” and “are you peeing blood.” I told her no and no, and she told me that I needed a urine test and a blood test. At this point, as I was already skeptical, I refused. There is no way I am getting blood work done for a simple bug bite that I am not going to die from, and I told her so. She said that she needed to see if the poison was coursing through my veins and causing internal damage, and asked how my kidneys were working. I still told her no. She laughed and said that I should get the urine test done anyways, and if there was nothing wrong I probably didn’t need the blood test. That was fine by me, so I peed in a cup, filled my prescription, and waited until the next day.
In the evening, a few hours after I took my first pill, the swelling had already gone down, although my bite, which was now in the shape of a seahorse, was turning a darker red. I decided that this was progress, but it was still really itchy. Kristen, one of the volunteers, told me that she had a topical cream that was also an anti-histamine, that I could put right on the bite and stop the itching. So I tried it out this cream, which wasn’t exactly a miracle cream and didn’t exactly stop the itching or anything.
The next morning, I woke up and in the morning I was planning on going to visit a hospital for a volunteer placement. It’s an old, really sketchy hospital, that is essentially my worst nightmare – the building was probably even haunted. I wandered past wards full of hundreds of beds with people who were probably dying horribly, until I finally found the office I was supposed to go there. I made an offhand comment at one point about how I’d been to too many hospitals recently, and from there it was revealed that I had a spider bite.
“Oooh really? Can I see?” asked the woman I was with, who then ushered her friends over for a look too. They told me that I should see a doctor, at which point I explained that I already had. They wanted to know which one, and I told them I went to Suiza Lab. “Oh them,” she said, “They don’t have an insect bites specialist, but we do! I’ll take you to him!”
This is what my brain thought at this point: ohmygodnonononowaypleaseno and then ohmygodsaveme and then please don’t amputate my leg. Clearly I am very open-minded.
The doctor turned out to be a nice gentleman who looked at my bite and asked more pertinent questions, like “when did you notice it” and “does it hurt or does it itch” and “when you were bit did it feel like getting stabbed by a knife.” He told me that some of the spiders in Peru (and in Lima) are really poisonous but not the one that bit me, and then he asked to take a picture of it. I thought that was kinda funny. He said it was to show the medical students what various bites and stages looked like. So I asked him if he took pictures of all of the bites he saw and he said “no, just the interesting ones.” Apparently I’m interesting. He prescribed me an anti-inflammatory and told me to take it with the anti-histamine that I was already taking and that I would be fine, but because it was on my leg, I should rest and not walk a lot, because that would cause more blood circulation and cause it to get more irritated.
Then I got back home, and remembered that I was supposed to get my urine test back, and went back to Suiza Lab and picked up my results, and went back to see the doctor again. She looked at the results, told me I didn’t drink enough water, and told me there was nothing wrong with my pee. Then she asked me if I had gastritis. She asked to see my bite again, and commented that it looked itchy, and decided to write me a prescription for antibiotics in case it was itchy, I scratched it too much, the skin broke, and my bite got infected.
In conclusion, because of this little insect bite I have:
- talked to my insurance company
- been to two different hospitals
- seen two different doctors
- seen one of the doctors twice
- been instructed to have my pee examined
- been instructed to have my blood examined
- been prescribed an anti-histamine
- been prescribed an anti-inflammatory
- been prescribed an anti-biotic
- had my bite photographed
So what does this bite in question look like? At long last, here it is, at the about 60-hour mark: