With thick unmistakable accents that one could call, “Bostonian, but south and Italian” and Bagels readily available on any given day (as long as it’s before 4PM), Long Island isn’t exactly known for its bug population–let alone poisonous ones. In March. Hell, the most technically threatening ones we have are Daddy Long Legs that dwell in basements. That is of course, with the one exception. One sneaky sucker that boroughs in fabric and bed sheets and doesn’t abide by traditional seasonal norms–newly found global warming climate and all: The Brown Recluse. And I, as you may have guessed, was bitten.
(It doesn’t look AWFUL, but I can assure you, it was a big hot mess.)
I am writing to you, dear reader, about a week after treatment. I will preface this post with a disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not someone who even knows a lot of credible information about medicine outside of my incessant Grey’s Anatomy watching and late night Web.MD searches. I am, however, a hypochondriac with arachnophobia. So clearly, this was a very fun time for me.
On the afternoon of March 10th, I noticed a pain in my left forearm after doing some planks at work on break as my job as a drummer in a children’s band to keep my average frame in shape. That’s a sentence. It went a bit like, “Ow, hm. That’s weird,” and my first guess was maybe it was a cyst. Gross, but not awful. My coworkers with the same level is medicinal knowledge agreed on the very official prognosis.
As the day progressed, so did the size and redness of the patch on my forearm. As I sat in the back of a Diner in Rockville Center (A place only known for Amy Schumer and like, one scene in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind–ugh) I could no longer focus on the high volume of Trump-supporting Long Island born-and-raised conservatives around me, or the Spanikopita in front of me. A rare form for myself. “What the fuck?” I said, half-laughing at my friend across the table, equally as confused by the state of my arm and the fact that even the fabric of my jacket hurt more than I was willing to admit.
“I should….probably go to the doctor? Right?” “I mean, probably?”
Defeat was admitted. Those damn weak millennials.
As I checked to see which Urgent Care’s were open, a heavy mood settled as I realized they had all closed by 9P.M. and I’d have to made a trip to the Emergency Room. You know, typical young-person Friday Night activities. Turn up.
My Mother graciously accompanied me because she’s as much of an anxious mess as myself, and of course we got sandwiched between two people, a middle-aged man with a cigarette dependency and an elderly woman in the process of having heart attacks in the ER. The man, hiding his anxiety by repeatedly saying, “Man, I need a cigarette and an Arby’s Roast Beef sandwich” while the woman too-comfortably asked when they’d give her an EKG, assuring that she’s, “Probably on the way out.” The contrast between them both made it almost too easy to want to see a buddy-cop movie starring them. I would see it. I would see it twice.
To speed this up, I had spoke to three doctors that night. One said is was probably just cellulitis, one suggested a bug bite and decided to talk about necrosis (the decaying of skin tissue), and one said it was an abscess. So my nerves were clearly put at ease. Despite the three different diagnoses, they all agreed that I needed a power dosage of antibiotic and steroids. I also had work at 9am with children. So that was a good time.
Somehow, the bug bite made the most sense. It was out of nowhere, not a slow development, and I spend a LOT of time in the basement. I also sleep a lot, which is where brown recluses dwell; in between sheets and clothes. It had also clicked that my parents had just come back from Florida and probably brought something back. Essentially, the holy trinity of spider-bite opportunity was formed in an area and season where it wouldn’t be so common.
If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time watching gross videos on YouTube and have learned that a brown recluse bite and how a person reacts is a gamble within itself. Basically, you either get one of those nasty suckers where the skin tissue turns black and dies because the person, (usually a man) thought they were tough enough to ride it out, or you don’t react at all. Also, there is no anti-venom or guaranteed cure. Great.
The next morning, I wanted a more definitive answer than what the ER doctors had to offer as essentially pure conjecture. I went to brunch, then the Urgent Care where I had encountered the most Mom doctor I’ve ever had. She was comforting and sympathetic, mixed my steroid with gatorade and assured that it was most likely a bite or sting, but changed my antibiotic (Doxycycline) in the rare case it was MRSA. I was prescribed a healthy dose of 40MG of Prednisone a day, and that’s where the real fun kicks in. I didn’t sleep for about 72 hours. While working. I cleaned the house at 3a.m. and watched about 9 movies.
As someone normally affected by bouts of anxiety and depression, I felt the most neuro-typical I had felt in years.
Here’s an example: “The sun is shining! The birds are chirping! Flower are blooming, and it’s only MARCH in New York! I watched The Usual Suspects and wasn’t even creeped out a bit! Amazing!”
Within a day, the swelling had reduced ten-fold (Thanks, Western Medicine) and the deep-tissue pain that can only be described as, “Needles in my muscles” had begun to pass.
By the fourth day of sheer bliss, no sleep, and an almost recovered arm, I figured my body was probably tricking me into feeling good and stopped the steroid cold turkey.
“Oh ho ho, not a good idea!” As you may be thinking, dear reader. For I experienced awful withdrawal symptoms from not tapering that mimicked a major depressive episode that caused extreme fatigue, needing two naps a day, and snapping at almost everyone. I had debated taking another just to put my body at ease.
Encompassed in psychosomatic angst and apathy, I felt like I had just listened to Dookie by Green Day for the first time and that I reverted back to my 15 year-old self. “Whatever” became my mantra, and my bed became my best friend. I had almost no appetite, and I felt an exhaustion I had never experienced in my life that words to a disservice to aptly describing. The recluse made me a recluse. Constant reminders to myself that it would pass was the only thing that truly helped. It took nearly 6 days (Why I’m writing today) to recover fully.
Without actually physically having the spider, no doctor can definitively pinpoint what the cause is because it was all internal, and you don’t want to force an infection out. Now was it really a brown recluse bite? Well, in a very technical sense, probably. Either way, that shit hurt and I didn’t even get super powers from the bite. 2/10 stars. Never again. I don’t know how Peter Parker did it.