Sunday, August 22, 2010


We just returned from our annual holiday jaunt to Montana and the incredible and always spectacular Beartooth Mountains. This year it was more exciting including a welcome, anticipated visit from long-time Friends Dorothy and Norm Bishop of National Park Service, International Wolf Center and the Wolf Recovery Program fame and all around good guy. Our locale was also visited by those prison escapees/fugitives from Arizona who probably made it to Red Lodge and were seen in nearby Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and Billings, Montana before the last two were finally captured way back in Arizona (apparently they thought it too cold?). We were more vigilant than usual and scrutinized all strangers with a calculating Poirot demeanor.

The bears have been active again though the Grizzlies appear to be staying up in the high country. There was some concern about Grizzlies given the recent terrible death and mauling of tent campers (one death) near Yellowstone Park. Thankfully, the guilty party’s three cubs ended up in a zoo in nearby Billings. The guilty sow is now occupying a non-earthly plane.

We did note that some black bears have learned the relative ease of entry that casement windows offer and the treats in human refrigerators (ice cream and blueberries). Once the berries start to show on native flora, however, they will be gone - back to their normal and relatively safe habitat for more plentiful and nourishing offerings. No, though we saw lots of scat we did not see any bears this year. We did see and or have experiences with some other critters, including at least one spider…

For most of my life I have been well aware of the threat that some spiders (out of 50K known species) pose to Humans including the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. Thanks to National Geographic and the Discovery Channel we in North America now know about the infamous and sometimes fatal bite of the male Australian Funnel Web Spider and that has always prompted my serious respect for our eight legged cohabitants on this planet. It wasn’t until recently that I started to understand that I needed to be ever more vigilant - closer to home.

One of my welcome and enjoyable chores this holiday was to paint and spiff up the house and that meant standing around the home exterior in a kind of rock border and just happens to be a perfect habitat for some critters. Whilst I was scraping, sanding, caulking, painting, etc. apparently this yet to be identified critter nailed me with consequences that will be remembered for, hopefully, many years. I did not feel the bite though noticed the inflamed and by then painful area on my right calf while taking a shower the next day. It got steadily worse prompting a visit to the local doc who proclaimed that he thought it a spider bite (no Brown Recluse in Montana but the aggressive house spider?) and prescribed a watchful eye on the wound and a return visit the next day for reevaluation.

The next day found a much enlarged even more angry wound which prompted a post-haste return visit and the observation that it was surely staph infected and worthy of lots of attention. A righteous antibiotic was prescribed and that would have to suffice until my return to Dallas. There went my evening glass of southern Rhone red wine (Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault & Carignan) and I have had no alcohol since… Ahh the prospects of a divinely aged red awaiting me in 2011.

The affected area on my right calf worsened with a now almost black, ever-expanding necrotic center though the antibiotic seemed to be keeping the overall infection in check. By the time we returned to Dallas the leg was raging and a welcome return to work the following Monday was not in the cards. I first went to my internist who immediately impressed, referred me on to a top notch dermatologist who equally mesmerized, promptly cut on me until the wound now with a concrete hard, six inch diameter started draining. They changed me to a more powerful antibiotic and told me to stay off my feet and elevate the leg. I worked the next day but returned to the doctor Wednesday when my right leg swelled to tree trunk dimensions. He cut on me some more and added another antibiotic to treat what looked more like a Stephen King nightmare at this point (Daddy?). All this wasn’t happening to me. This has to be some diabolically close reality show… As Mother would have said, “Ghastly.”

I was told not to work that day and only work on Thursday and Friday if I felt better. I had to be recumbent and at least have my leg elevated at all times. You, however, couldn’t have kept me out of work then and while I did mostly catching up for a lost week, the calf and my leg would appear (jury is still out) to have made a turn for the better after yet another Doctor visit on Friday that included an additional, more powerful topical antibiotic and the news and attendant relief that the staph was determined to not be the infamous, drug resistant MRSA. Up to that point their fear was I would have to go on an IV antibiotic and perhaps hospitalization. Yikes!

So why go into all this gory (Gang, I have really cleaned this up) detail about my experiences? Well, I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. Aside from the absolutely gross appearance and experience of incredible pain, discomfort, anxiety, lost sleep and the threat to my overall health, the message is clear - this is nothing to mess with. Infection in this day and age by any opportunistic hole in your body cannot be ignored. The rules have changed and keep on changing. We are in a race to keep one step ahead of these ever evolving, opportunistic and resistant bacterial (and viral) infections and failing in our efforts to keep up, may someday best us.

Bottom line: I’m still fighting this thing and am waiting for my spidey powers to kick in and contemplating changing at least my pen name to Peter Parker. I may do that for no other reason than to entertain and accommodate my recent feelings and continuing obsession with all arachnids, sanitation and checking each pants leg before putting on my trews. Despite rumors to the contrary I was not wearing a kilt while working on the house. Indeed, I was wearing shorts that day, a mistake I will not repeat.


Ned Buxton

P.S. Went to COSTCO in Plano this afternoon to replenish my larder (buy groceries) and lo and behold - in a metroplex with millions of residents I ran into my dermotologist. I gave him a hearty and respectful greeting though he sternly responded, "I thought I gave you strict orders to stay off your feet." Busted... NB

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