Wednesday, September 9, 2015

In Which One Itty-Bitty Ant Ruined my Whole Labor Day Weekend

I quickly learned a few years ago in North Carolina that it is really best for us all if I do not allow myself to be stung by ants. For some people, like my husband and kids, it is a momentary annoyance. It's an "Ouch, stupid ants!" Then they brush them off and that's the end of it. For me it is days of misery; and the initial burning sting is so far from being the worst of it. So I resolved a long time ago to just not expose myself to the ants.

To this end, I am the one at the bus stop on a steamy 80 degree morning in running shoes and pants while everyone else is in flipflops and shorts. If I have to walk in grass, I watch every single step. But really, if I'm being honest, I avoid the outdoors as much as possible this time of year. It's not worth it to be out there with the heat and humidity, the mosquitoes in the air and the ants lurking down below. Best to just be in the air-conditioning where nothing will get me.

Then we were invited to a party for Tim's boss's promotion this past Friday. It was an outdoor party on their front lawn. I took a little bit of time deciding what to wear. I knew all the other ladies would be in their cute sundresses, skirts and sandals. Did I want to be the only one to show up in pants and sneakers? No, I did not. (Why, oh why do I have to care so much about the way I look?) So I wore a maxi skirt and flipflops. My nice metallic flipflops, not the rubber kind. Not that it matters at all. I looked nice, and I was dressed appropriately for the weather and the occasion.

I did pretty well almost the whole time we were there. I didn't have to move much after I'd gotten my food, and I stayed mostly in one spot at a table in front of a fan. I was the pregnant lady, no one expected me to move. Then it got late (like 8ish) and the kids started to fall apart quickly. I was in a hurry for us to get out of there, but first we had some trash left on the table that I wanted to throw away. I very carelessly traipsed across the yard in search of a trash can, and just before I reached one I felt it. The sharp stinging burn. I took a couple more steps and then stooped down to make sure there was nothing still there that needed to be brushed off. There wasn't. Whatever had stung me was gone. But ohmygosh, it hurt. I just wanted to get home and treat it with my AfterBite stick and ice, and try to minimize the damage. We live only not even a half-mile away from their house, and we drove, but we just couldn't get there fast enough for me. Tim just rolled his eyes.

At home I looked at my foot and saw one little mark on my foot. Just one had gotten me. One of whatever it was was all it took. Hour by hour, it got worse and worse. That first night wasn't too bad, I think I got some broken sleep. But by the next day I had a massive histamine overreaction of my entire foot and ankle. Itch wasn't even the word. I had to restrain myself from clawing my skin bloody. I had exhausted my arsenal of conventional itch remedies and was Googling to find more -- a search that led me to the kitchen cabinets, the laundry room, under the kitchen sink, and I feared eventually would lead to the garage. Anything I had to rub on my foot was the worst because that just made me want to USE MY NAILS, USE MY NAILS! I was making ever more frequent trips to freezer to use the ice pack until it got warm, and then to fill another bag with our rapidly dwindling supply of ice. Then that wasn't enough and I was just bathing my foot in ice water for about a half hour at a time. It was the only relief I could find. After some hesitation (and checking with medical professionals closest to me) I tried Benadryl on Saturday night before bed, and to my disappointment, it didn't do a thing either to stop the itch or let me sleep.

On Sunday morning it let up enough for me to attend Mass without an ice pack. "You would have gone to Mass with an ice pack?" Tim asked me later. "Yes, I would have if I'd needed to! I would have been discreet with it, only letting it sit on my foot while standing or sitting in the pew. And I wouldn't have hobbled up to Communion with it, but yes, I would have brought it if I thought I needed it."

I was not a happy camper and not a pleasant person to be around, as you can imagine. Later that day, Tim finally stopped mocking me and as he looked at my foot, all ballooned up and a deep angry red, he said, "Maybe you should go to a doctor." We had all been preparing to go to a birthday party at the pool, and I realized that I would much rather be seeking help for my foot than attending a party. It was probably best for everyone in fact. I quickly researched my options and decided that urgent care was the way to go. "You need a doctor to give you a shot of something," he said. He urged me not to change or get ready, to just GO. It was already almost 6. I was wearing one of his old t-shirts, running shorts and Crocs, and I couldn't believe I was going to be out and about on a military installation looking like that. "I am such a dependapotamus right now," I said. Then I had a big snack and left, feeling hopeful that real relief was in sight.

I was the only soul at the urgent care clinic at the naval hospital. I was quickly seen by the doctor. She seemed a little concerned when I recited the litany of home remedies I'd tried, which included among many other things bleach (it was diluted--a lot!), ammonia (not with the bleach! And it was in the AfterBite stick that I dabbed on), and vinegar. "Were you trying to clean your floor?" she asked. (This is what happens when you go to Dr. Google.) Then she told me that she wished she could give me a shot of hydrocortisone, but she couldn't because I was pregnant. Then she told me that she'd gone down a list of things in her head she wanted to give me, but she could do none of them because I was pregnant. Noooooooo! She prescribed antibiotics, and suggested I buy apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and Caladryl. She cautioned me to be careful about what household products I exposed my skin to, because it was all being absorbed. Good point. I was so deflated, but off I went to buy these safer products before I headed home. I used the Caladryl in the parking lot of CVS, and it made my foot flare up something fierce.

At home I frantically threw ice cubes into a pot and filled it with water. When I plunged my foot in, it was like dousing flames. I tried the apple cider vinegar (the good kind, Bragg's organic) and the tea tree oil, and they didn't do anything. Tim came home with the kids at almost 8:30, and they were all talking to me at once about what a good time they'd had. I was so glad that for 2 1/2 hours of that whole weekend, it had stopped raining so the kids could have a fun pool party with their friends. That was an answer to someone's fervent prayers, no doubt.

Later that night I tried to position a bag of ice on my foot and ankle in such a way as to numb it all and let me sleep. But there was always a spot that wasn't covered, that would start up. Then I'd move it to that spot, and then the same thing would happen somewhere else. I kept chasing it around. And now I was keeping Tim up because he could hear the ice cubes all knocking together in the bag while I turned this way and that. At around 4 or so in the morning, I decided to move to the couch so that he could at least have some rest. I sat on the couch and cried a little because I was so exhausted and didn't know what to do. Then I gave my foot one more ice bath at around 5:30, elevated it on a pillow, and fell asleep before the feeling could return.

When I finally woke up that Monday, the house was silent and I had no idea what time it was. It was pouring rain outside and could have been any time of day. I was afraid to even get up and check the time, but I finally did and it was 11:30. When I looked at my phone I saw a picture Tim had posted on Instagram and Facebook of the kids at IHOP. The caption read, "A little IHOP while Mama recuperates from the great ant bite of 2015." I smiled, glad that they had had a fun outing with their dad on this rainy day. Going out for breakfast is a very rare occurrence around here. I think the last time we did that the power was out and there was no other way to get coffee. I knew that IHOP only takes up so much time, and figured he must have taken them to stores in Bluffton too. There's only so much you can do around here to take up a whole morning. Later he told me that he had gone to the gym around 7, and had left them on our bed with the iPad and strict instructions not to go into the living room or to bother Mama. To his surprise, when he'd returned, they hadn't moved and I was still asleep. That's the power of the iPad!
I wish I could say that when I woke up that day, my foot was all better. Far from it. I would fill up many more bags of ice over the next 36 hours, and I'd try an Epsom salt soak that would help for a little while, and then have one more night of sleeping in short spurts. (Pretty much how it's going to go in about 13 more weeks anyway.) It is now Wednesday, and last night was my first night of decent sleep. The swelling is still there, but the itch is gone, thank goodness. I'd like to go back in time to Friday evening, grab myself by the shoulders, shake till my teeth rattle, and say, "No flipflops! It is not worth the risk!"

And that's finally the end of my tale of woe.


  1. wow....I had no idea an ant could do that. Maybe ballet flats might be a good compromise between sandals and sneakers?
    btw you are gifted at making that tale of woe funny :)

    1. Thank you:) Yes, ballet flats would have worked. Who's looking at my feet anyway?