Reclusive spiders aren't so reclusive around me
It appears that I was correct in assuming that the wound on my leg I that I was complaining about in my last post was in fact a spider bite. I took the advice of my mum and my friend Nick, and decided to bite the bullet and just go visit the doctor on Monday morning. I am pretty glad I went!
When I told the doctor I thought I’d been bitten by a spider, he looked sceptical at me, but as I explained further my symptoms (painful sore on leg that didn’t hurt when I was bitten, but that I noticed in the morning, so must have been bitten at night; the wound got worse as the days went by; it started to ooze pus; the red lines that showed up along my veins; the headaches, fever, joint pains, nausea, dizziness, fatigue [I slept for 13 hours straight on Saturday night, and usually I am proud if I sleep 6 hours being that I’m an insomniac!]; the swelling and redness of the area) he began to become convinced that my initial thoughts were correct.
I then showed it to him, upon which he looked mildly shocked, and took a deep breath in. He said “yep, that’s definitely a spider bite – probably a violin spider, as we don’t get sac spiders here” (plus sac spiders are neurotoxic, rather than cytotoxic, and from the look of the decaying tissue on my leg, this was definitely cytotoxic). He got me to lie down on the examination bed, fetched a needle, took the top dead black bit of skin off (necrotised tissue from the cytotoxin), then – as with my stye – squeezed the hell out of it! Fortunately, although worryingly, it didn’t hurt at all; in fact, I could barely feel anything in my thigh, which was surprising given how angry it looked. My thigh had swollen up to the point that the skin was so stretched that it became hard and felt so hot that you could almost cook eggs on it!
Day 2 of spider bite (it didn't really look that bad at this point other than the red streaks!)
The doctor then proceeded to tell me that a while ago a lady had come in with a violin spider bite on her thigh and had left it about a week before she had been seen; by this time, she had to be taken straight to hospital to get part of her thigh cut away because the venom and secondary infection had killed off so much of her tissue! He then said that it looked like I also had a secondary infection from the bacteria on the fangs of the spider (I dread to think where else those fangs have been….) and prescribed me with some antibiotics that I’d never heard of before. He said if the infection hadn’t gone away by Friday that I should come back to get another 5 days of pills. I mentioned that I worked at CCF and we have a vet clinic there complete with a multitude of medicine, and that I could probably just get some more of the antibiotic there, to which he chuckled and said “No I don’t think you would find this antibiotic there”. I frowned, wondering what exactly he meant by that statement, but then gave it no further thought. He told me to try squeezing some more pus out in a day or so, because there was a bit that he couldn’t drain, and apply some antibiotic cream every so often. He asked me if I needed any pain pills, to which I replied that I had some Ibuprofen, which I had already been taking, and could continue on with that. He then sent me on my way.
I went to the pharmacist, picked up my meds, instantly took my oral antibiotic, Moxifloxacin, and went to go wait in a café for my colleagues to finish their meeting in town before they could drive me back home. By an hour later, I started to feel rather queasy, dizzy and felt a headache coming on. I took out the instructions from the antibiotic box and started to read them. The document of small print was approximately 40 cm long and 20 cm wide: this was the second point that I started to feel alarmed by these antibiotics. I then read through the entire document, and felt rather shocked once I finished: apparently this medicine hasn’t been trialled for interactions with a lot of other drugs; it caused lameness and permanent ligament rupture in juvenile dogs; it can cause central nervous system damage and convulsions when mixed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories; it reacts with most multi-mineral tablet, causing non-absorbable materials; it should never be prescribed to children or the elderly; you should never take more than one pill per day (when other antibiotics are usually two or three times a day); plus a million other shocking things. I decided to call my boss to ask when he would be free to pick me up, as I felt like I needed to lie down. Fortuitously, just as I was calling him, he came around the corner. I curled up in the back of the car and dreamed of being at home in bed.
Eventually we got back to CCF and after a failed attempt at trying to eat something (just looking at the plate made me feel like throwing up), I went to rest. In the evening I decided to take the bandage off to apply more cream. Upon taking the dressing off, I noticed the wound looked a great deal more pus-filled than before, so decided to squeeze out as much as I could. Boy, was there a lot!! After half a roll of toilet roll later, I’d gotten most of it out. However, there was a stubborn bit left in the crater of the wound. I picked at it to get it out, and as I dragged it out, I realised it was semi-solid and plug shaped: in fact, it was about 6 mm long and had left a very evident HOLE in my leg that looked like it went into an abyss, as it was black inside and I couldn’t see where the hole stopped.
Panicking, I instantly reached for my phone to call my housemate, a vet nurse. Sod’s law: I had no reception. I walked out into the night wearing nothing more than a nightie to wander round in the darkness for signal. Eventually I climbed on top of a termite mound and was able to send her a text “Please call me ASAP”; however, I lost signal again, so was unable to receive her call. I texted another friend: “Can you ask Gaby (the vet) and Rosie (the vet nurse) to come to my house immediately as my wound looks bad”. I decided that it would be better to go straight to the clinic, as that’s where they had all the equipment to deal with something like this. I hiked on a pair of trousers and some trainers, and off I went. By the time I arrived, both the vet and nurse had been informed of my situation and were preparing things for me. I dropped my trousers, showed them the hole in my thigh and told them about the plug-shaped pus. Gaby flushed the hole out with saline solution (it’s an odd feeling having fluid squirt into a crevice that shouldn’t be there), cleaned it all up with alcohol, put some more antibiotic cream on and redressed it.
By night time, I couldn’t sleep, for fear that I’d wake up in the morning and half of my leg would have been eaten away by the venom. I took some of my prescription sleeping tablets with some melatonin tablets, and instantly felt pain in my stomach. I realised that my melatonin tablets had calcium in them, which would react with my antibiotic. However, the pain went away (or the sleeping tablets kicked in) and I awoke the next day to find that thankfully I still had two legs left.
Gaby flushed the wound out again and decided to see how deep the wound was – it was approximately 20 mm deep and 5 mm wide! Even she was surprised at how deep it went! Apparently cytotoxin doesn’t usually affect muscle cells (and fortunately the area that I had been bitten was more adipose tissue than muscle) so I didn’t have to worry that my muscle would be eaten away – small graces!
By midday, it was time to take my second antibiotic. Within an hour, I was feeling nauseous, headachey, dizzy and had painful joints again. I decided to research into these antibiotics I’d been given, and was shocked. Apparently they are a super strong “last resort” pill that should only be prescribed when nothing else has worked. I read more about the joint problems it caused, which worried me being that I have hypermobility syndrome. Plus, and much more worryingly, I realised that the Ibuprofen that I’d been taking was interacting with it, being that it is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. I went straight to our vet to inform her of this, who said I should instantly stop taking the medication and get some other antibiotics from her the next day and replace the Ibuprofen with paracetamol.
By the evening, I had pins and needles in my hand, my leg felt weird to walk on, the muscle in my bitten thigh was quivering and the skin around it was burning up. Not good! I was pretty worried about the heat coming out from the wound that I decided to put my metal watch and chain on it to try to cool it down.
Thankfully, by Wednesday it was finally starting to heal. When the vet looked at it in the morning, she told me “oh it’s looking better – it looks like a volcano now”; greeeat, I always wanted to be compared to a huge, dangerous structure spewing molten lava! There does seem to be much less pus coming from it, the adverse antibiotic effects have mostly worn off other than joint pains, the muscle twitches have gone, the swelling has gone down and I have feeling back in it – phew!
I seem to have SUCH bad luck with my health wherever I go: I got malaria in Kenya, an impacted wisdom tooth and an odd skin infection in Malta, a cracked tooth in South Africa, a stomach ulcer in Zimbabwe, pancreatitis in the UK and nearly cut my finger off with a machete in Texas! Apparently I am a danger to my own health! Last night I was pretty worried about going to sleep in my bed for fear of being bitten again. I’ve now printed out a poster of the dangerous spiders in Namibia and have stuck it up in the house so that we are all aware of what to look out for. I’m now checking my sheets, shoes, towels and clothes for any spiders, and check my walls thoroughly before going to bed! Violin spiders are not known to cause many bites (in fact, they are called “brown recluse spiders” in the US, because they are shy and rarely seen), so it was quite unlucky that I even got bitten. I miss living in a place where the wildlife don’t try to kill you!