Hiking Bites

“So, what can we do for you?”

“I would like to see a doctor.”

“Alright.” The woman typed feverishly on her computer’s keypad. “Have you visited this clinic before?”

“Nope. First time.”

“That’s nice.” Again, she worked the keys like Yo-Yo Ma works a cello. Alright, here you go Mr. Troll. I’ll just need you to fill out the highlighted section of the top three forms and then you’ll need to fill out the final three pages in their entirety.”

“Sure thing.”

“Also, I’ll need some form of identification, a drivers license will do just fine, and your insurance card.” I fished through my wallet and handed the information over. “Thank you. You can bring the forms back up when you’re done but I’ll need to hold on to you drivers license and insurance card for  a moment.”

“Mmkay.”

“Oh, and one other question. The reason for your visit today?”

16 hours earlier.

I had heard for some time that Nisene Marks, a large California state park filled with towering redwoods and miles of winding trails, was something I had to experience while living in the area. So, in good faith, I checked it out. Little did I know that I would take away more from the park then a few memories.

I had just finished a few hours of hiking with a friend when I started feeling pain near my ribs on my right side. That’s bizarre, I though to myself as I gave my right arm a windmill-type rotation as if I had just pitched seven solid innings. Why the windmill? I’m not sure. I poked around the area with left hand until I found the pain’s epicenter. Ouch, Chalie. There it was, about four ribs up…it felt like I had been punched. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps I should investigate the sensation further, but given the fact that all I had had to eat in the past four hours was an Odwalla bar, the thought of food quickly won the battle of my attention. Oh, I would check it out, but not before I grabbed some Quiznos.

My excitement for a toasty Classic Italian was dashed as pulled up to the storefront. Chairs on top of tables. Parking lot empty. “Closed” sign on. Classic indicators of something not being open. With my mind momentarily off the sandwich, my attention returned to my side. I felt around and poked my ribs again. The pain almost felt like it was getting worse. It could wait.

Okay, what’s next? I though to myself as I contemplated my next food move. I settled on Safeway given the fact that they have a deli and that they’d be open. I was right. Safeway was open; it’s deli wasn’t. I was beginning to have a difficult time distinguishing between the pain in my side and the pain in my stomach…it was all sorta becoming one lump discomfort. I was having my own hunger games going on. What’s left? I thought as I sat in my Blazer prodding my side once again. Then, across the street, like a greasy lighthouse guiding me in, the neon “open ’til midnight” sign of Taco Bell caught my eye. I hung my head in defeat. I had no choice. Oh sure, I would enjoy eating a couple chalupas, but that didn’t make it right. When I finally returned to my room and finished my number six with a side of guilt, I decided to give my ribs a look. Standing a little ways away from my bathroom mirror, I lifted my shirt. What is that? I thought to myself as I looked at my side through the mirror. Slightly startled, I quickly redirected my focus downward from the mirror to my ribs where black spot occupied the central space of a larger red circle on my skin.

At first I thought it was poison ivy that had somehow made it down my shirt, but then I realized that poison ivy doesn’t typically move…or have legs. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing as I watched this dime-sized insect continue to burrow itself deeper into my flesh. What the?! I immediately tried flicking it off to no avail. Google! I thought…or said out loud. I’m not sure which. Much like the woman behind the counter at the clinic, I typed like a hacker: How to get a tick out of your skin? WebMD was the first result. The short blurb beneath the WebMD link read: Gently pull the tick straight out until its mouth lets go of your skin. Do not twist or “unscrew” the tick. This may separate the tick’s head from its… That’s all I needed to read. I immediately pinched the intruder near its neck with my thumb and pointer finger and slowly began the extraction. It wasn’t coming out. I regrouped. Alright. I pinched the bug again and pulled. What is your deal?! Finally, with one last yank, I dominated the beast. I watched it squirm between my fingers before I quickly flicked it in the toilet and gave it a water burial.

I looked down at my skin again. Well that doesn’t look good. I jumped back onto my computer to see what else WebMD had to say on the topic. Grab the tick as close to its mouth as you can. Nailed that step. Do not handle the tick with your bare hands. You could push infected fluid from the tick into your body. Hmm. Put the tick in a dry jar or ziplock bag and save it in the freezer for later identification if necessary. Well, one out of three wasn’t bad. I looked back at the bite. Doesn’t actually look all too bad, I thought to myself. I’m sure it’ll probably look better in the morning. 

“Oh, and one other question. The reason for your visit today?”

“I was bit by a tick.”

“Has infection set in?”

“Probably.”

“Okay. Well, fill out the forms and the doctor should be with you soon.”

I took the forms and found a chair in the waiting room. As I settled in for what I expected to be a long wait, I looked at my two waiting room companions imagining why they were there. Ants-in-his-pants Jackson, as I decided to name him, was a short man probably in his mid 60s seated a few chairs away from me who couldn’t sit still. Ants Jackson (what his friends call him) was up walking about every five minutes or so. I decided he was probably at the clinic because he had actual ants in his pants…which I’m not sure why he couldn’t deal with that himself, but that was the doctor’s problem now. Three seats to his left was Tummy Shame Tammy. Tummy Shame would occasionally lean forward while hugging her stomach. An easy tell of a gastrointestinal situation. I’m not sure what Tummy Shame was thinking when she ate those Lincoln Logs, but she looked to be seriously regretting that decision. Classic Tammy.

I looked at the paperwork I had to fill out…not exactly how I was planning to to spend my Saturday. I began filling out the forms as instructed while continuing to modify my stories of those sitting near me. When I finally finished, I brought the forms back to the counter. “Thank you,” the receptionist said as she took the papers from me. Should only be a few more minutes.

Pulling my phone from my pocket, I made my way back to my chair. Just when I was about to start firing some birds at pigs, I heard my name called.

“Jonathan Troll?”

“Yep,” I replied as I walked toward the nurse.

“That’s an interesting last name.”

“Oh…yeah. Well, I’m pretty big in Fremont.” Apparently I assumed everyone knew about the Fremont Troll.

“Where?”

“Oh, it’s in Seattle…there’s a big Troll under this bridge there.”

“And people make a big deal when they find out your last name?”

“Well, not really people per se. More like this one time I used my debit card at a McDonalds and the guy at the drive-thru was like ‘Are you serious? Your last name is Troll?’ And I was like ‘yeah, crazy huh?’ And he was like, ‘crazy? that’s awesome!”

“That’s interesting,” the nurse replied as she continued writing in her chart having never made eye-contact. “Alright, just need to take your blood pressure; is it usually pretty normal?”I thought back to my last night’s Taco Bell dinner.

“Actually, it’s sorta hit or miss.” The arm strap tightened. “How accurate are those blood pressure machines in places like Rite Aid?”

“They should be pretty reliable.”

“Well, they always say I have high blood pressure but I don’t know.” I could feel my heartbeat in my arm which let me know the test was almost over.

“Well that’s because you do,” the nurse informed me as the strap released its grip. “You should probably watch that.”

“Hmm…will do.”

Okay. Well, the doctor should be in shortly.”

“Great.”

Leave it to a clinic visit to remind you how relative the word “shortly” is. By the time I heard the courtesy knock on the door I had literally taken a nap on that strip of table paper. And really, what’s with the courtesy knock? Has anyone actually ever yelled back, “Don’t come in!” By the time you’re in the examination room, I would hope a doctor walking though the door doesn’t come as a surprise. Now, if a clown walked through the door, I would appreciate a heads up; otherwise, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all on the same page. I digress.

Two taps on the door woke me up. As I propped myself up, I waited for the introductions to began; but the door never opened. Maybe it was a clown.

“Is the tick in room 2?” I heard a voice yell down the hall. The tick. Room 2?” The door swung open as the doctor apparently received her answer. “Hello, Jonathan. My name is doctor Jones” a tall woman said as she walked briskly toward me as if a tick was the least of her problems that morning. “So, you were bit by a tick?”

“Yep.”

“Do you have it?”

“Nope. I actually flushed it down the toilet.”

“You know you’re supposed to keep it, right?” She said said as she added to my chart.

“Yes, yes I do. I’ve actually learned quite a bit about ticks recently.”

So, how did you pull it out? did you extract it with tweezers?”

“Nope. Used my fingers…and yes, I know you’re not supposed to do that either.” The doctor looked up over her glasses.

“Alright, let me take a look.” After a quick observation, Dr. Jones stood up from her chair. “I’ll be right back.”

I wasn’t sure what the doctor saw but I didn’t like her reaction. “Do you have the needles?” I heard her shout down the hallway.

Crap.

The doctor returned with what appeared to be a small tool kit. “Are you okay with needles?”

“Well, if I had to choose between being stuck with a needle and a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s, I’d probably go with the ice cream.”

“You shouldn’t feel much. There are just a few of the tick’s legs still in you.”

“Awesome.”

“Should just take a second.” The doctor proceeded to poke and prod the area with an assortment of needles affirming my preference for the ice cream.”See, here’s what’s left of your friend,” she said as she retrieved three small black legs and showed them to me on her white glove.

“Good job.”

“Okay, we’ll just do some blood work to make sure you don’t have Lyme disease and then get you on your way.”

“And what are the odds of that?”

“Of having Lyme disease?”

“Yeah.”

“Not very high. But better safe than sorry. The nurse will be in shortly.”

As soon as the doctor closed the door, I laid back down on the table to pick up where I left off on my nap. No sooner did my head hit the paper pillow when two knocks on the door forced me back up.

“Okay. So, we need some blood work done?”

“Yep.”

“Alright, no problem,” the nurse replied as she set what appeared to be a blood-drawing starter kit on the table. “Okay, just need a few things…oops, not that. I’ll be right back.” I started to question her blood-drawing experience. “Here we go,” the nurse said as she walked briskly back into the room. She then proceeded to tie off my upper arm with that piece of rubber noodle which always makes me feel a little like a heroin addict. “Now we just need to find a good vein.” The nurse returned to her kit in search for something. She rummaged through the box like some women do a purse. As I sat watching her, I was going to ask how her week was going but didn’t. Small-talk wasn’t worth the possibility of being stuck multiple times. “Good to go,” she said as she returned with a disinfectant wipe and began applying it to the target area. “Alright, ready?”

“Sure thing.”

The needle stuck and blood flowed. Success. I sat and watched the vial fill. “So, how’s you’re week been?” I asked knowing that we were in the red zone of this procedure. The nurse smiled as if to imply it’s been rough.

“Well, I wasn’t bit by a tick so I guess it could’ve been worse.”

“True. Well, I’m glad my pain can be your perspective.”

“Me too,” she replied as she removed the needle from my arm and replaced it with a cotton ball. “Alright, that’s it.” She reached into her pocket. “And here’s the prescription for your antibiotics. Take them as directed or else you could be back here giving me more perspective.”

“Fair enough.”

My encounter with the tick (my third coastal nemesis) was a harsh reminder that not everything is as it seems. For example, I used to think monkeys were the greatest animals alive until one day in Kenya, one pooped in my room. That sorta ruined it for me. Once again, I looked behind the curtain and found Oz. My knowledge of ticks up to this point had been primarily limited to a television show and a country song–both of which lulled me into a false sense of security with this arachnid. My personal experience revealed that the tick has been grossly misrepresented. I feel a little misled and betrayed. I mean, what’s not to love about a big, blue, awesome, crime fighting tick. Answer? Not a thing. So, yes, it was a bit of a surprise when the very thing I believed to be good and just was feeding on me like a little eight-legged zombie. And that Braid Paisley is full of just as much crap and deceit. He actually makes the tick sound like a good time. Oh sure, I suppose he would like to check her for ticks, but I’d like to hear the song when he finds some. Not quite as hot. All that to say, if I get Lyme disease, I won’t be happy.

An example of how we’ve been misled from the truth:

Fact: Ticks aren’t helpful. They suck.

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~ by jontroll on February 27, 2012.

2 Responses to “Hiking Bites”

  1. Holy crap, I didn’t know The Tick was that dude from Rules of Engagement/the Honda commercials/Crunk from The Emperor’s New Groove!! Next time you face a tick, I read somewhere years ago that if you light a match, blow it out, then touch his bunz with it, he’ll come out. Oh, and p.s., seriously write a book, ok? I don’t take much time to read anything, but I love your stories!

    • Haha…yeah, I think I read somewhere about that match thing…of course it was after the fact. But thanks man! Appreciate the kind words! I would love to write a book…ha, maybe my first will be a collection of blog posts…

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