Rural Living

A Tale of Tick Terror


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

I was reminded this afternoon about why I really, really love fall. I write this in October, and the leaves are just turning gorgeous. The sky is that particular shade I call October Blue. The weather is perfect: warm and bright during the day, crisp at night so one must have covers. It’s almost “sock weather,” and I love wearing socks.

 (Diversion: Have you discovered “The World’s Softest Socks”? They are one of man’s coziest creations. My sister found them the winter I was so sick, and came by with a pink pair as an early Christmas gift. I don’t recall what else I got that Christmas, but man, I am in love with The World’s Softest Socks. Look them up online. They are a little pricey, but you won’t be sorry.)

But this issue is in your mailbox in November. The leaves have fallen; the days aren’t so warm. The skies are leaning toward a grayer shade of blue.

Here’s the great thing: Ticks are no longer rampant.

I’ve written about ticks before. One crawled in my hair and then burrowed into my head during my one-and-only camping trip. It was a ghastly day.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for ticks. They’re one of the chief reasons I am not an “outdoor girl.”

Yet, yesterday I found myself tramping through a wide open, grassy meadow to take a picture of an artist engaged in “plein air” painting. There was a Plein Air Festival in Bath County that upcoming weekend, and I needed a photo of someone doing just that.

Reaching the artist required using my SUV for the very reason it was created (and for my very first time): driving through open fields where cattle graze. And painters paint.

I got out and walked over to the artist. She is an old friend I haven’t seen in years, so we had some catching up to do on that glorious afternoon. I took the photo, got back in the car, and bumped back through the field to the highway.

This afternoon, I had a doctor’s appointment. It was just a check-up type of thing; no big shakes, no reason to worry. I was wearing a scoop-necked T-shirt. As we were ending our appointment, she looked at my chest and said, “What the heck is that?”

As a malignant melanoma survivor, I always quake when someone looks at my skin and makes such a comment.

My eyes widened. My voice rose an octave or two.

“What?” I quavered. “What’s what? Give me a mirror, quick!”

Funny thing, but there wasn’t a mirror, or even a little compact with one, anywhere in the office suite filled with well-groomed women. Don’t know why that  is, but it seems deliberate. “Whatever you do, keep the patients away from a mirror!

She exclaimed, “I think it’s a tick.”

I shrieked. This brought in a nurse from an adjoining office. And then another nurse. And then a nurse practitioner. The four of them stood in a close-knit circle, gaping at my chest.

“How are we going to get it out of there?” they asked each other.

“Pour alcohol on it!” I shouted. “Scotch worked on that tick in my head on the camping trip!”

Alcohol was procured, though not the tasty kind. The tick stayed tight. Then, long tweezers were employed.

“There’s his legs!” someone shouted.

“You’re going to have to slice it out of there,” one professional opined.

I sat down before I fainted.

A needle full of lidocaine was delivered, and injected into the site. One nurse let me clasp her hand tightly. I began to sweat in the cool office air.

“Do whatever you must, but get it out!”      I cried.

I don’t know how the ladies finally managed to extract the sucker, or what tools they used. At one point, I heard something like a tiny pneumatic drill. A gaping hole was excavated in my bosom. Questions were raised about whether it was a wood tick or a deer tick. No one was quite certain. A 14-day dose of some strong anti-Lyme Disease fighter was prescribed.

Somehow, the five of us managed to laugh our way through the ordeal. The medical professionals thanked me for making their day and giving them some excitement. I considered billing them for the entertainment.


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