Thursday, February 5, 2015
I know the exact moment it happened. Between the Strangler Fig and the Cahune Palm. I knew I was being bit, I slapped my back but it was too late. I instantly thought, "I hope I don't get malaria."
That night, while I was frantically applying antihistamine lotion to my badly bitten ankles, I felt a pinch in my back, in the same spot that I had been bitten in the jungle. Another pinch. "Hmm...mosquito bites don't usually hurt." As I cozied up in bed that night, I added "painful bites in Belize" to my hypochondriac web search, which produced the following: stingray, shark, and crocodile. Not helpful.
While my Mosquito bites continued to swell and itch, the bites on my back continued to pinch. They itched a little, but more like something was crawling on me. Then it would stop and pinch again. It was subtle. Obvious, but subtle. I remember mentioning it to Aaron a couple times and he provided his usual response, "Hmm. Weird."
It wasn't until I was back in the states that I started to worry that my little pinch was a botfly. I watched my first "botfly removal" YouTube video in the Dallas Airport, threw up a little in my mouth and decided it was most definitely not a botfly. Please God, no.
Day 5, I noticed that a hole had formed in the middle of each bite. Not a good sign. They call that a "breathing tube." Seriously.
Day 8, I'm noticing a pattern of behavior, wherein the bite itches at specific times, hurts at specific times, and feels totally normal at specific times. Everyday, the same. I grew a baby in my stomach, this is too familiar. Is it sleeping and then burrowing and eating? My flesh? Oh.my.god.
Day 11, I KNOW it's a botfly. I'm an anxious person and I can make up some ridiculous shit but I know when something is living inside my skin. I'm totally dumbfounded by the people who don't know something is living in their skin and then their drunk friend pulls out a full grown worm. Really? You didn't feel that?
So I made the decision to force someone at urgent care to cut me open. I walked in pumped and ready to sell my case. If the doctor turned me away I was prepared to cry, beg, chain myself to the door, threaten malpractice. It was going in that direction too. She started to mention that I could "go home and..." At which point I cut her off and said, brazen and annoyed, "can't you just cut me open?" Her face lit up, "well, YEAH!"
Before she cut she called a friend who runs urgent cares in third world countries. She put him on speaker phone:
Doc: what can you tell me about botflies?
Third world Doc: do you have one?!
Third world Doc: I'm coming up! [he lives in Santa Fe when he's not ridding the world of parasites].
Doc: no way! This is mine!
Disappointed, Third world went on to explain how to triage a botfly site, how to drain it, and my doc finally interjected, "She [me] wants me to just cut her open." To which third world doc, stumbling over words, exclaimed, "oh! Well then cut her open!" I nodded enthusiastically.
She drapped me, numbed me and then cut. I was laying on my stomach, both sets of fingers crossed. I prayed she would find a bug. A hair follicle. A tumor with teeth and a spine, something. Unfortunately it's not totally out of the question for me to dream up a botfly infestation.
I once had a mental breakdown in the parking lot of public health because I had convinced myself I was HIV positive. And then there was the time I tried to talk my gynecologist into removing both of my ovaries because they were most likely days away from cancer.
Half way through canvassing my incision, Doc said, "I don't know honey, you might just be crazy." My heart sank. I panicked. "I effing posted this on Facebook!" A few moments passed. A mixture of depression and questioning Doc's competence was sinking in and then she whispered, "No fucking way."
She pulled something out, stuck it on my face. It was little, sinister and unabashedly covered in my blood. She was excited, breathless, "I have to put this under the microscope! You're bleeding. Is that ok?" "Yes! Go!" From the other room I heard it, clear as day, Doc yelling, "YES! I love my job! Best day ever!" My clenched fist thrust into the air. Victory.
She ran back into the room. "Get dressed! Come see!" She paused, "Wait, stitches." She sewed me up, threw my shirt at me and when I opened the door, there were two lines of urgent care workers. Like a processional, they led me to the microscope. I peered in. There he was, Bottie.
I've enjoyed the pain of my incision far more than watching the other bite grow and increasingly itch and now, well, just know that it gets grosser. I have a random physical tomorrow that I scheduled a month ago. I'm hoping we can skip the physical and go straight to cutting Bottie 2 out. I'm ready for it to be over. Most disgusting thing that has ever happened to me. By far.