Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Australian Spider Bite: A Trip to Royal Perth Hospital

I am pretty sure every post I wrote about my experience at the winery in Frankland River mentioned some sort of creature. I am pretty sure every day at Frankland River I saw or heard a least a mouse, rat, hunts man spider, red back spider, translucent white spider, giant moth, maggot, snake, sheep, or emu either in and/or around the house, the winery, or the vineyard. I am pretty sure every night I dreamt about spiders while at Frankland River. Nope, wait, I'm positive it was every night. Once I moved to Perth, I didn't have to write about these country creatures. I never saw them. I never thought about them. I didn't look up at the ceiling every time I walked into a room or shook out and stomped on my shoes before I put them on.  I dreamt about spiders maybe once. But of course, it is when I am in Perth away from the rural country fears and instead living the city life with its own sets of urban fears, that I get bitten by a poisonous spider. In my own bed. 

So, here is the story of what happened, written in the 3rd person b/c I can hardly think about it without cringing:

She described her first Australian winter as a tropical cyclone meets a balmy Irish summer. The rain was louder than the rain in Donegal which had reminded her of giant Connect-Four pieces falling from the sky. The wind was still intense in Perth, but there were more buildings for it to swirl around than the roaring wind in Donegal that reminded her of being Dorothy waiting for her house to blow away. Yet, just like Donegal, the rain still poured down voraciously while blue skies were shining.

On a day off from work, the seasonal rain woke her up with the sun sneaking through the blinds. She curled the covers up around her, happy at the prospect of an entire day off with nothing impending to do. At some point during the morning - it was quite early despite having the day off to sleep in, but all thanks to the noisy weather - she noticed a swollen bump on her wrist. Odd, she thought as she poked and squeezed it a bit as a habitual picker does, but didn't think anything of it. Soon, the swelling forced her to take her watch off. Liquid no longer oozed out of it when she poked at it, but instead, it looked like it had drained itself and was just a shallow, hollow hole. Like a crater. Directly opposite on her wrist, the swelling scab had become bigger than the wrist bone. Cankles of the wrist! The rain was continuously coming down even heavier. She had chills that layers of clothes and the covers of bed couldn't warm up, but were just blamed on the Australian winter weather. She was beyond exhausted by 6 o'clock but that was blamed on a long week of work and waking up so randomly early. From just lying in bed, any movement or touch to the wrist made it feel as though it were fractured, like the very first time she played on the futbol team in London, was tripped, fell on her wrist, and out for the rest of the season.

Her father called to thank her for his father's day gift he received in the mail. "Are you sleeping?" He asked skeptically, looking at the time as he worked out the time difference. "No, but I am in bed and completely exhausted," she muttered and described what she thought must be a spider bite on her wrist. Phone calls with her family always make her day, but this particular call made her feel even further away, aching for some sympathy and care. It was taxing enough to barely muster up the energy to type a one-handed reply to an email to mum. Later, she called, as mum's do, and anxiously insisted that she go to the hospital. Despite the pouring rain, the cold weather, the late night hour, the lack of shower or make up from lying in bed all day, the unwillingness to have to face unaffordable medical fees, and the fear of having been told that the pain could be solved with just some Tylenol made the idea of going to the hospital unappealing, but she knew that not only was the pain too much, but the severity of her mother's tone gave her no other choice. She was right, as mum's always are, and the daughter was grateful. 

lucky for you the iPod has crappy photo abilities
Sheepishly opening the door to face her flatmate, he announced "good morning sunshine." She felt like shit. She looked like shit. Rubbing her eyes as she held out her shaking arm, she begged his Australian experience to examine it and confirm it was after all a spider bite. He was so appalled at the swollen wrist and the pain she had in her almost-in-tears face, that he offered to take her to the emergency room, but only after taking a picture of the infectious bite with his iPhone. The uncharged phone, the wi fi device and the iPod were thrown into a bag, while a book on the floor was left behind, and she left the flat wearing the oddest combination of layered clothes that refused to warm her. It was the first time she had moved all day and the quiver of energy she had made her feel as though she would lose her balance and fall down the stairs of the flat into the wintery night's rain. Trying desperately to maintain her composure, she was eternally grateful that it happened to be one night when her flat mate was actually awake later than her.

 They got to the emergency room and waited behind one other person in line Not much of an emergency scene, it never really is, but it seemed to be a quiet night. The overweight guy in front of the queue couldn't form two words together in a sentence and as she stood there patiently, she felt as though she might as well just faint right there and then for some impatient immediate attention. Luckily, they had dealt with that guy the night before, with the same over dose of pain killers excuse, and quickly sorted him out of the way. Next in the queue and up at the counter, she told the nurse as she held out her arm that she thought she had been bitten by a spider. The woman just stared, in disbelief. After filling out some paper work details and being questioned about the bodily shaking, which included being completely dizzy, having the chills, being scared, and nearly about to faint - she was led back to one of the beds in the hospital's emergency quarters. Right across from her was the stoned fat guy who was rubbing his protruding belly while mixing up his story to every nurse and doctor about how many pills he over dosed on and next to her was a pilot who had a flight to catch but had just gotten off an 18 hour shift and fell asleep at the airport and the next thing he knew he was at the hospital, without even knowing which "friend" was waiting for him in the waiting room. They must hear and see all sorts of stories. "I've got a poisonous spider bite on my wrist!" she wanted to yell, but could only collapse back on the bed, shivering with chills, and trying desperately to be an adult by not crying.

The doctors came - Australian McDreamy and McSteamy no doubt - and after some probing and questioning, they didn't have any answers to her pain or what caused the swelling hole that had turned into a deep, raw crater surrounded by a hot, red rash. They were ready to send her home with some pain killers and antihistamines. But she was not convinced; this is exactly why she didn't want to waste her time and exhausted energy coming to the hospital and there was not enough of a medical explanation to justify her pain. Fortunately, a nurse walked by to check out this infamous bite no one in the hospital could identify.  "Gross!" she yelped, then felt how hot the patients arms and body were. She took her temperature and again yelped when it beeped 39.2 C. Apparently that's hot. She ran off to the doctors who then came back and said they couldn't send her home with a fever like that. Duh. Why hadn't they checked before? Morons. Cute. But morons. More tests were done. Blood was drawn. Swab tests protruded. Blood pressure taken. More doctors. More nurses. More curiosities about the bite. No more conclusions. She was told she would have to stay over night, which made her feel somewhat comforted that they would look after her, but somewhat fraught over the fact that the mobile and wi fi device both had low batteries that would diminish any outside communication with concerned parents. To make matters worse, there was an overweight man snoring loudly across the way. Luckily, that's not where she would spend the night: a wheel chair was called and she moved to a quieter and darker dorm. She tuckered down, settling in for the night when another wheel chair was called and she was moved to a more private room. The nurses, hence far at Perth Royal Hospital, were tremendously nice and attentive - maybe it was a slow quiet night - but she relished in their attention and curiosity. After some repetitive paper-work questions, she was hooked up again to some anti-histamine drips and settled into an exhausted and drug-induced sleep only woken a couple times by switching liquid bags and the other patients' noises - one had a very weak bladder that demanded Immediate attention. The deep deep sleep was surprisingly comfortable, only cautious not to move the fractured-like wrist or the other arm with the needles taped into it. 

Breakfast and more pain killers woke her up at 7.30am. The "vegetarian" diet meant that breakfast was two slices of plain toast, some porridge (typical hospital-style as you could imagine), hot water for the choice of packaged coffee or a tea bag, a mini carton of milk, and a processed OJ. What was vegetarian about it compared to what the other patients got, who knows. What was anything about it, except for reinforcing the terrible reputation of what hospital food is, who knows. Her attention towards the food lasted only a matter of bites. The mobile battery was blinking a near shut-down, while the wi fi device was already completely dead. She had nothing else to do but fall back asleep, and happy to do so.
 The hospital seemed busy and the day staff were new. She was told by some new doctors that she would probably be kept until after lunch to ensure that the high temperature had gone down. So she waited. More pain killers. More bag switches. More sleeping. New patients came in and out of the room. Lunch came. The "vegetarian" lunch was ravioli with some MSG-thickened sauce, frozen Brussels sprouts and carrot coins cooked to mush to uphold their reputation, a sugary yogurt, and a slice of white bread. Seriously, you'd think in hospitals they'd know a thing or two about nutrition, healthy food, and helping people feel better through food. Before she passed out again, she had a fleeting thought that maybe she'd look into applying for a job to save the hospital's kitchen. Although she didn't expect anything else, nor had much of an appetite, she was disappointed.
 A new doctor came around with his interns to probe questions and take notes - Scrubs-like. The man across the way had difficultly standing up and the doctor told him he basically needed a new body. The Ukrainian woman next to her had the most high pitched voice that squealed her fright over dying to her patiently comforting daughter. The other woman in the room was in the hospital with an asthma attack, most likely caused by smoking 25+ cigarettes a day. The doctor then peered into her curtain and kept walking. Maybe spider bites don't warrant a doctor's visit. She felt like crying: she wanted the pain to go away but just wanted to go home. She wanted an explanation. She wanted a doctor's note to give to her work. She wanted her parents. She wanted her phone to have a charged battery. She felt like a loser when the nurses kept asking her if she had anyone to pick her up and bring her home: no, she doesn't. She buzzed for the nurse and complained that the doctor hadn't come to see her, even though she was told she could go home at 3 and it was now half an hour later. She missed the quiet hospital and attentive nurses from the night before who looked after and comforted her. The day nurse gave her a packet with some anti-histamines and paper work and offered no explanation for what caused the hospital visit, because she explained, the x-rays and swab tests take 24 hours to get results.
few days later, finally able to bend the wrist
She was surprised that the Australian hospital didn't have more experience with spider bites. Two of the nurses definitely claimed it to be the work of a white tailed spider and said, "luckily for you it dies after it bites someone - karma!" That wasn't comforting she thought, as that means there's a dead poisonous spider somewhere in her room?!

So that is the tale of the spider bite. It hurts. It's ironic. It's a funny story that a scar on my wrist left by the swollen crater will always remind me of Australia.

1 comment:

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