Unwelcome Hitchhiker

January 14th, 2012 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Monday afternoon, I was tromping around Hemenway Pond in Milton. Thursday, my wife was tweezing out a tick — rather most of one — from pectoral skin and muscle.

As boomer kids, we grew up cowering under school desks, which was supposed to somehow protect us from a nuclear explosion’s effects. We still get palpitations when we hear a test of a civil alert siren, which we knew as a possible warning of Russian missiles or bombers. We took our polio shots or sugar cubes, lest we spend our shortened and painful lives in iron lungs or leg braces. Our parents vacillated from telling us how good we had it and trying to terrify us into orthodox, prophylactic behaviors.

Yet, we didn’t have AIDS. We didn’t have daily fears of strangers and child molesters OUT THERE. We also knew nothing of Lyme disease.

Now an embedded tick immediately brings to mind that horrible, chronic, debilitating and likely incurable set of nasty conditions and symptoms. And sure enough, when I found an inflamed sore on my left pec near my armpit, my wife was both quick and unhappy to point out that it had a big red circle around it, it was a tick, and it looked like a bull’s eye to her. The bull’s eye, of course, is the classic indicator of a deer tick carrying Lyme.

Now, there’s an alert-making way to start the day!

My wife has many virtues, not the least of which is considerable musical ability of which I have none. However, she is squeamish about blood, wounds and such. In contrast, I grew up with a mother, aunt and other family members who were nurses, first aid instructors, home nursing teachers and the like. Anything short of compound-complex fractures and massive bleeding were usually handled on the spot with gauze, scalpels, tweezers, slings, disinfectants, adhesive compresses (BAND-AID® bandages to you), ice or heat packs and such. As an active, outdoors type, I don’t know how many injuries were patched before I headed out for more.

My wife could sort of look at the tick and kind of get most of it with the tweezers. However, she convinced me it looked bad and that there were visible parts left in the skin. It was an awkward spot or I would have hacked at it myself. I could only see it in a mirror and could not get both hands to the area because of its location next to my armpit.

So, I made an appointment with our doctor-like folk. In this case, it would be a nurse practitioner, Patricia, in the urgent care part of internal medicine. From my own background of being the instruction dummy and then first-aid instructor, I link urgent care to stopped hearts, shock, and uncontrolled bleeding. Instead, there I arrived with a purplish/reddish mound with tick parts in the center. Meh.

Patricia gave it her shot. She rooted around in the muscle and skin for around 20 minutes with various stainless steel gear. She retrieved parts, but admitted defeat and the immutable tenacity of a tick leg or two in the wound. It was painful and mostly tiresome, for both of us, but geewillikers, for all the flaying elbow action, I wanted her to say smugly, “Got it!” She didn’t.

She said that so far, the wound did not fall into the bull’s eye category. It didn’t have a pale ring separating the main mound…at least not yet. I’m supposed to watch for that.

She didn’t want to have the tick pieces I brought in on a cotton pad tested. She did give me doxycycline, a single dose of two tablets, as a precaution. I see that it may or may not be effective in preventing Lyme post-exposure.

Of course, the big joke is that ticks carry many diseases other than that one. The incubation period for Lyme and a few of those can be months or years. I think I’ll pass on the worry.

Oddly enough, a few months ago, we went hiking in the Blue Hills as a family, and two of our sons ended up with ticks. They each got a medical pro to pull out the parasite and then got doxycycline as a precaution. It seems to be a family shtick.

I can’t see this inconvenient experience changing my behavior (sorry Scientologists, no engramming here). I’ve been an outdoorsy active guy since I was a wee bairn.

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2 Responses

  1. Uncle says:

    I’m not sure which bothers me most about this: when you picked up the tick or where upon you it decided to light. Part of this may be the price we pay for a mild winter–a friend recently picked up a tick late in November. Assuming you weren’t wandering shirtless, that little bugger was unusually persistent in reaching your pectoralis major.

    Do keep an eye on this, even if it means badgering the clinicians. I’ve become convinced that there is no such thing as past tense where Lyme disease is concerned, and no caution is too excessive.

    It would also be nice if one could convince the pharmacies that this isn’t a seasonal threat.

  2. Harrumpher says:

    I had my horse hide leather jacket on. I figure the beastie got on the collar or even a sock and crawled around. Finding a covered spot near an axilla seems tick-smart. I am somewhat disturbed that I was not aware it was tooling around my body looking for a good spot. The pond area was overgrown, so that even as covered as I was, there were numerous bushwhacking points for a mount.

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