A long story that starts with a crooked red line…
In November, I left my split counselor position to work for an inner city school helping them to manage behavior issues. I was very excited, albeit nervous, about this opportunity. Nervous because the position I left was fairly easy and low-stress, not far from my home, and in the same district that my own kids attended. I was walking away from a good thing, and trading it in for stress, a commute, harder kids, and having to re-learn rules, policies, and names of staff and students. I suck at remembering names with faces.
My feelings about the whole thing, though, were much milder than I expected. I assume it is a side-effect of getting older. I just wasn’t as freaked out about it as I’ve been before when starting new positions. I didn’t even get butterflies in mah belly. Is that weird?
Anyways, I started the week before Thanksgiving on a Monday. My first few days there I was pretty busy. I was running all over the school to counsel kids and support teachers. I was meeting with kids in my office. I was badly forgetting the names and roles of the staff members I encountered. Still, I was jazzed.
Wednesday night I noticed a little sliver on my thumb. It was tender, not bad. I tried to dig it out. I had my husband look at it under a magnifying glass (because that’s how small it was) because I couldn’t get it out. He insisted it was not a sliver at all but actually a tiny cut and what I was seeing was just dried blood under the skin. Meh. I moved on.
The next morning, my thumb hurt. The not-sliver area had turned red. Mildly annoyed, I washed it with soap and applied some antibiotic ointment and a band-aid. I soon forgot about it and got busy at work. A few hours later, though, I was counseling an upset child in my office when I lazily scratched my arm and I happened to notice a weird red line on my forearm. As the student continued talking and fussing (if I’m being honest), I pushed my sleeve up and saw the crooked red line extended from my thumb, up my arm, and above the crease of my elbow where it then disappeared.
You know what this is, right? We lay-people would call this “blood poisoning.”
After another few hours of counseling kids and a panicked call to my doctor who couldn’t get me in until the next morning, I sheepishly went to my new principal and asked if I could leave early to go to Urgent Care. I showed her my arm. Her face said it all – get the hell out of here before you drop dead, she seemed to say. FYI, this was my 4th day on the job.
I vegetated in the waiting room of urgent care, listening to a chatty fellow describe life in the good ol’ days for about 3 hours and frantically texting my husband before I was called back to be seen. The person who checked me over was a student. When I explained why I was there and showed her my arm, she stepped back and pulled her phone out of her pocket while asking “do you mind if I take a picture of this to share with my fellow students?” I knew that meant it was kind of a big deal. So I let her take the picture but made her promise not to post it on Facebook. She then told me “this is called ‘streaking,’ and it means an infection has gotten into a vessel.” She excused herself to get her supervisor.
She came back in with him to discuss what was going on and get his opinion. They asked me questions like “how did this happen” and “have you traveled anywhere outside of the country recently.” No and no. He called it “an infection gone out of control” and said I needed strong antibiotics. Then I received a very painful shot in the butt and had to wait around to make sure I didn’t have any sort of reaction to it (I didn’t). I had to go pick up powerful oral antibiotics which I began taking that night. The next morning, my butt hurt when I walked, my stomach rumbled to warn me of impending chaos, and every orifice of my body felt like it was on fire. I stayed home sick. The line faded by the next morning and gone by Monday.
That was my first week. The next week was 2 days long due to Thanksgiving. Easy breezy.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, my husband had to go out-of-town for the week. I had a training to attend on Monday and Tuesday so I was able to get home in time to get them off the bus in the afternoon – something Doug normally does since he works from home. I was still feeling the effects of the “powerful antibiotics” including cracks in the corners of my mouth (apparently we have good bacteria there and mine was killed off, allowing the not-good stuff to flourish) but was otherwise on the upward swing of things. Only good stuff ahead.
Wednesday morning as I was getting the kids out the door, I left through the garage in order to get to my car. As I stepped down, I turned to the side to hit the garage door opener button – and my right knee popped. The pop was followed by unbelievable pain and crunching. WTF?
I limped up the driveway with the kids and waited until their bus came. Then I limped back inside, gripped by indecision. What should I do? I hadn’t even been at my school yet that week because I’d been off-campus at a training so I didn’t think it was smart for me to call in sick. But I literally could not walk. I called Doug on the brink of tears and he helped me find this walking stick thing he had. I decided to bring it with me to use as a cane, assuming the knee would get better in a little while.
Only, it didn’t. My new school is 3 floors, an older rambling building. Part of job is to be a crisis responder and go to classrooms to help manage kids who are out of control. Our school has an elevator, thankfully, because stairs were impossible. But really, as the morning wore on, walking was also impossible. I sat in a meeting, embarrassed, with my leg elevated on a garbage can and water dripping on my pants out of a little baggy filled with ice cubes from the freezer. I was in misery. My doctor, again, couldn’t get me in until the end of the day. By noon I couldn’t take it any more and asked if I could leave to visit my friends at urgent care. My principal was unbelievably cool about it, even offering to bring my car around or call my husband – who, again, was out-of-town.
At Urgent Care my knee was x-rayed and I was given an immobilizer (black splint thing), crutches, and prescriptions for 2 different pain medicines. They also submitted a referral for me to get an MRI, and gave me a note that said I needed to be home, off the leg, for the next 2 days.
If you are keeping count, this would mean I was actually AT my school for about 4 hours the entire week.
Doug came home the next afternoon, which was a relief because it is frigging hard to do anything when you are on crutches. I had my MRI that Saturday, and the technician told me the radiology report would probably be done before Wednesday the following week. Also, over the weekend, I developed a progressively worsening itchy rash on my chest, neck, and face – presumably from the pain medicine. I returned to work that Monday on crutches.
Being on crutches with a leg splint inside an elementary school is about as subtle as walking through the building with your hair on fire.
I went to an orthopedic doctor later that week. My knee was better. Still crunchy and occasionally painful, but not like it had been. Turns out, I tore the meniscus. I tore my ACL about 20 years ago and had it reconstructed, but the MRI images weren’t clear enough to be able to confirm if the repair was still intact. So I am probably going to need another MRI. I was also referred for physical therapy, and given different pain medication. I have a follow-up appointment with a surgeon next week.
Finally, the week before Christmas, I was off the crutches and feeling good. Except for one nagging thing. My rash had gone away but I still had these itchy welts on my arms. They seemed to get worse by the day, and they were very itchy like mosquito bites. But only on my arms. Then I found a few on my lower back. This had happened periodically over the past few months, mystery bug bites. We had checked for bed bugs but did not find any of the evidence indicating that was what the bites were from. In fact, I couldn’t find anything at all.
That week, we watched a show on cable called Monsters Inside Me. NEVER watch this show. Ever. Because nature is fucking disgusting. After the show I became convinced that we had some sort of parasite living in our bed that was biting us. So at 10pm, after the kids went to bed, we decided to tear our bed apart. We have a Tempurpedic. When I pulled all the sheets back quickly I found a single bug crawling around, and several blood spatters.
We pulled the mattress off the bed – gingerly, mind you, since my knee is basically broken and Tempurpedic mattresses are heavy – and didn’t see anything. We pulled the bed away from the wall. At the end of the foundations against the wall, there are 2 tags that say “do not remove…blah blah blah” and around the edges of them was black stuff. Doug flipped one over and there was the bed bug family.
Ew Ew Ew. Flappy arms dance. Ew.
We pulled everything outside. Doug dismantled the foundations and vacuumed the bugs out. I bagged up everything – clothes that had been on the dresser, pillows, pictures that had been under the bed – and sealed the bags. I put the bedding in the wash, then slept on the couch for the next 4 nights. I called the pest control company with whom we have a contract, and they said they’d get someone out to inspect for free IN TWO WEEKS.
Doug steamed the foundations and mattress the next day. He bombed the bedroom and the kids’ rooms, although we saw no evidence of our little visitors in their rooms. Our room is at the opposite end of the house, and between our rooms is hardwood and tile, no carpet. We vacuumed and vacuumed and vacuumed. He steamed the carpets. We sprayed the carpets and baseboards, cleaned out our night stands and sprayed the tracks of the drawers, steamed the chair in our bedroom, and did the same in the closet that adjoins our master bath.
See, my parents were supposed to come for Christmas. Would you want to visit someone with a confirmed case of bed bugs? Me neither.
I told my mother about it and assured her that I would understand if she didn’t come. She came anyways. We seemed to have managed the bed bug thing. There were no more sighting, bites, or evidence of their stay. We continued to vacuum, spray, and wash the bedding. We learned that heat is the most effective treatment, so lots of things went through the dryer.
Last night, Doug wanted to watch a show called Infested. Why? Whywhywhy? He said he thought it might make us feel better, since they were featuring a bed bug infestation. So we watched it. And it made me feel much, much worse. The show inspired Doug to do a repeat steaming/vacuuming/spray treatment.
This morning, as I was making the bed I found a bug on a pillow that had been on the floor. We pulled the mattress and foundations out again and found another one on the bottom of the foundation. We sprayed everything down again, threw the pillows back in the dryer, and washed the bedding again. Then I called a different extermination company.
They are coming Thursday, which is when I go back to work. My first day of the New Year.
Oh, also, ha ha, as if I wasn’t already suffering enough, I hopped on the scale a few days ago because my pants felt a little bit tight, and realized that I am 10 pounds heavier than I was at the start of November.
So, to recap, I ended 2013 by:
getting blood poisoning
tearing my meniscus
developing an allergy to Vicodin
getting bed bugs
gaining 10 pounds
I plan to ring in 2014 by forking over thousands of dollars for exterminating the bed bugs, probably buying bigger pants, and having surgery.
It can only go up from here.
May your 2014 be filled with joy, health, and bug-free bugs.