Know Your Ticks

http://www.27east.com

I like to think of myself as calm in the face of a crisis, so my own hysteria took me a little by surprise. Through 10 years of expat relocating, I have faced rogue elephants, stampeding rhino, a head-on with a hippo, floods, train derailment and a police inquiry, all of which have been endured with relative calm and a cup of tea / stiff gin and tonic depending on the time of day. But here in the bucolic calm of Lafayette, my previous calm has been shattered forever.

It started with an itch, which I attributed to a label inside my T shirt. It continued to gently irritate through the day, until by 7pm, it had upgraded to ‘sore’ status. I lifted my shirt and peered at my rib cage, only to discover a set of legs gently waving back at me. The rest of the head and body of a huge tick were firmly rooted in my flesh, and judging by the size of it’s abdomen, it had hit the mother lode.

There then ensued a frantic phone to Safety Staci, who can be relied upon to have the latest health updates on these matters. The token glance that I could manage without fainting to the floor confirmed that the creature was too far embedded for standard removal, so I was duly delivered to the Urgent Care Clinic for professional attention. By now the legs were no longer visible, I could hear a funny buzzing noise on the inside of my skull, and the casual observer could be forgiven for assuming from my overall demeanor that I was inches from death.

My reception at the medical facility was a little disappointing, starting with the somewhat dismissive attitude of the receptionist at the Emergency desk, who seemed to underestimate the life-threatening nature of a tick installation. Instead of being strapped to a gurney and raced at speed to the Operating Room, I was despatched outside the doors to await a courtesy shuttle to Urgent Care. And that title too was a misnomer, unless you are paying in cash. Filling in umpteen forms in triplicate while you are being eaten alive by a flesh eating parasite is no easy task, but luckily I have a stoic disposition and blatant disregard for legibility, so I did at least make it to the examination room alive. There I was greeted by a cheery doctor some years younger than myself, who proceeded to douse the offending tick in mineral oil and remove it with nothing more than a pair of tweezers.

With hindsight, I may have over-reacted. On spying a black breadcrumb-sized object rolling around in the specimen jar, my immediate reaction was ” Are you sure that that one wasn’t piggybacking on a bigger one?”, at which he emitted a very unprofessional snigger, and wrote me a prescription for a brand of antibiotics more commonly associated with teenage acne. It was all such an anticlimax that I am thinking of substituting a currant in the specimen jar so at least I have some shred of dignity left. The only saving grace in the whole debacle is that I didn’t take Staci up on her offer to be with me during my ordeal, to bear witness that I am truly a complete and utter twit.

So today, I’m staying in bed. My body needs to heal, and the memories need to fade. Along with my blushes.

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9 Responses to Expat Adventures..Tick Bite Fever

  1. Sorry – can’t help snickering just a TINY bit, here, myself. My first experience with a tick came after camping with my son and his Boy Scout troop, in weather that is not supposed to be conducive to tick activity. You can read my silly saga of tick removal (geez, you forgot to post a picture – I didn’t!) here: http://jahangiri.us/new/2009/03/02/spring-seems-a-long-way-off-at-spring-creek-park/

    Next time you have a tick embedded in your flesh, find a Boy Scout (particularly one in need of 1st Class rank advancement or one who’s working on his First Aid Merit Badge – he’ll love you for this) and ask him to demonstrate PROPER tick removal technique.

    Now, if you really do get a “bulls-eye rash” or a fever or any other disturbing symptoms, get checked out for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and/or Lyme Disease – but honestly, odds are, you’re just fine.

  2. Staci Johnston says:

    I was seriously impressed by your calm demeanor through out the ordeal. A tick removal device has been to delivered to your doorstep. The device accompanied by the baby oil trick
    should eliminate the need to go to urgent care in the future. As I picture you recovering in your bed, I can imagine your “free range” dogs in bed with you as well.. In a safety moment I wonder, “How did she get this tick in the first place?”
    Safety Staci

  3. “Tick removal device” aka tweezers? LOL

    Serious note here – never try to burn one or suffocate one. Sterilize tweezers, firmly grasp tick near its head (close to your body), pull steadily and FIRMLY until it is out. Wash with soapy water and follow with alcohol or iodine (main thing is, keep it from getting infected). Properly dispose of tick (or keep tiny tick body in a little bottle of alcohol for identification, if you think that will be helpful to forensic medical professionals). Wash your hands after handling the tick.

    If you burn or otherwise annoy the tick’s arse end, it will spit. (Read my reply to your comment on MY blog to understand more fully why you don’t want lots of tick spit in your body.) It’s also just not all that effective – they tend to burrow forward to get away from your annoyances, so it’s counterproductive. Just sayin’.

    And it takes a surprising amount of pulling to dislodge one, so do grasp it quite firmly with the tweezers on the first try. In this case, needlenose tweezers are NOT a plus.

  4. Here’s another one meant to entertain and make you giggle whilst lying abed and indulging in therapeutic bon-bons: http://jahangiri.us/new/2007/10/02/i-am-never-swimming-in-a-lake-again-well/

    My doctor’s comment? “I’m not laughing, really. I’m just so impressed you could actually pronounce that.”

    Two weeks of abject terror while waiting for my brain to liquify and leak out my ears and nose, and my doctor is barely repressing the giggles. The medical profession is cruel, I tell you. Cruel.

  5. Cheryl McKeon says:

    I will personally deliver bonbons, gin, whatever you need to snuff out the memory of this ordeal…just call. A
    nd are we citing paws as the carriers of the brutal tick? I am itching in sympathy.

  6. Kathy says:

    Rachel – after your experiences in Africa I can’t believe your response to a tick here!!!! Surely there must have been worse parasites there! You always have me laughing when I read your stories. I am glad I know you.

  7. Staci Johnston says:

    You may not believe this but if you google “tick removal device/tool” you will get lots and lots of hits. I am proud to let you know I delivered a tool “approved by my vet” but don’t tell Rachel the vet part…. I get mine at REI but online I can’t find the implement. (Though to be fair I didn’t look very hard) Must be very rare!
    Cheers

  8. AJ says:

    Sigh. Well, I’m going to rain on the parade. It was a funny post, I’ve just stumbled onto you, and was highly amused by it. This blog is being disseminated by some expat friends I met while in China. But I feel compelled to remind everyone how very serious this tick business can be. Especially after needing 4 surgeries in my 40′s to be able to walk again… misdiagnosed, or rather, undiagnosed with Lyme and Babesia, my body tore itself to shreds and I am now permanently handicapped. I used to be a weight lifter. Now, I can barely open jars. Years of pain, debilitation and a lifetime of the same in front of me as I continue to slowly break down makes me wish I had been as “freaked out” as you were, and had more info when I figured out that little spot at my waist was a tick. Oh, and the bullseye rash? Barely half of folks get that. I didn’t. New estimates put Lyme at 300K people infected. Don’t EVER be afraid to freak out, Lyme disease will honest to goodness ruin you. Don’t let any doctor who doesn’t have experience with this devastation fool you, it’s a nasty ride, and you don’t always get well again. Thousands of us out here havn’t conquered this bug yet. Glad you didn’t get it this time. Just keep doin’ those tick checks, and keep on NOT getting Lyme!

    • Rachel says:

      You didn’t rain on the parade – you brought up a really, really good issue. I too have friends who have had Lyme disease, and who spent two years with an IV antibiotic pump – so I can only imagine what you are going through. Thank you for making such great (and well-informed) points – most notably that only half get the bullseye rash, so don’t risk it – and that it is very difficult to get a confirmed diagnosis, so people are left with debilitating symptoms and delayed treatment.
      I also love that you took the time to comment – it’s what makes writing these posts worthwhile, so a big THANK YOU!

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