Thursday, September 20, 2012

As Promised: Naples Mosquitoes from Hell

For two glorious years, the husband and I kind of took a break from reality and lived in Naples, Italy. Like I said, glorious. We wouldn't trade our time there for anything, and the husband knows that he would not need to call home to ask what I thought if someone were to randomly show up in his office and say that a spot there opened up and he had 2 minutes to decide if he wanted it or not, because we would both be there on the next flight if we could. Naples itself is an enigma: She's the beauty of the Amalfi Coast and the graffiti on the cathedrals; the bustle of driving and the lingering bottle (or three) of wine; the obscene gestures while driving and the love of a family among strangers in a cafe. One loves it and hates it all at once.

(In Vietri sul Mare - one of my favorite places ever.)

(And, yes, we are talking about the burning-piles-of-trash Naples and the seat-of-the-Italian-mafia Naples)

One thing that Naples is not-so-known for is its infrastructure. Internet, water heat/pressure, road maintenance (hahaha...), wiring, etc. I got used to saying a little prayer every time I turned on the shower or wanted to Skype.

The reason I'm saying this is not to complain, but to get to the main part of the post: the mosquitos. I am 98% sure that there is none of the spraying-to-reduce-mosquito-population going on. They're absolutely massive, and I'm positive that there's some bacteria or something that causes a crazy reaction the first summer there, and then you're body adapts (hopefully) and the next summer, while still completely miserable, doesn't lead you to totally scratch off all your skin.

Right after we moved there, we took a weekend trip to a little resort-ish thing. I have no clue where it was, but there were mineral springs or something. Seriously - it was a long time ago. Anyway, I got all these bug bites, but I didn't notice them at first, meaning that I scratched them. A lot.

The retreat was great, blah, blah, blah. Not relevant.

We got home (well, back to our temporary lodging on base), walked straight to the grocery store for hydrocortisone cream - I would have gone for tequila and a shot glass, if someone had thought that would help at all. I was absolutely sure than any instant, my legs would spontaneously combust and I would be forced to stop, drop, and roll in a kiddie tub of bite-be-gone. By the time we got home, it looked like someone had chopped a couple of softballs in half and shoved them under each of the 3 (!!) bites on my leg.

It was at this point that I made the fateful decision to pull up webmd. I'm pretty sure that webmd should change their tagline to "We Turn Headaches into Brain Tumors!" Somehow, I got into the section that talks about skin infections. Uh, gross. I started reviewing the symptoms: itching (check); warm to the touch (check); white area in the middle (check). And that is when I knew for sure that I had a skin infection, I would be septic within 2 hours, and would inevitably die before my parents could fly from the West Coast to be at my bedside.

Needless to say, some of that panic was, um, unnecessary. There was that little voice in the back of my head whispering, "uh, Jess? shut up. you're fine. take a benadryl and watch BBC Sports."

However, I definitely did not listen to that little voice, and had the husband drive me to the hospital on base. Here's a snippet of the conversation between me and the ER check-in lady (I'm sure that's not actually her title, but I definitely was not up for reading name tags):

Me: I-have-these-things-on-my-legs-and-I-think-they're-infected
Nurse: Oh - those look like normal bug bites.
Me: They're-red-and-warm-to-the-touch-and-have-white-parts-in-them
Nurse: Well, I can't just look at them, we would have to check you in if you want someone to examine them.
Me (probably in a condescending tone): Well... I came to the Emergency Room because I feel like it is important for them to be, uh, examined as soon as possible, especially since I believe that they are infected.

(I'm sure that, by this point, the husband was a little embarrassed to be seen in public with my overly-rude and definitely overly-paranoid self.)

Apparently, then, the gal got the hint that I would like to see a doctor, and did the triage and the medical history and all of the things that are supposedly "necessary," even though that meant wasting valuable time. I couldn't believe they were so blatantly and completely disregarding the seriousness of my condition. I vowed to complete a patient survey form... if I made it out alive, of course.

Finally, they put me in a "room" - really a bed surrounded by curtains, but that was okay... I was sure I'd be in the ICU in a matter of minutes.

And then, while I was lying in hospital bed, smelling the scents of iodine and bleach (yay!), and being accosted by the icky florescent lights, it dawned on me that the whole ER-thing might have been an overreaction. By the time we went home, I was absolutely mortified that I had panicked and, on top of that, I was mean to the nurse who was just trying to keep me from spending an evening in the ER when I could be home eating pasta and sipping limoncello. Here are two great one-liners that helped me reach that healthy embarrassment:

1: (the patient in the next room, through gritted teeth) - "Yeah... I thought that might be bone sticking out through the skin..."

2: (the doctor that examined me) - "We do see a lot of patients coming in with their first Naples bug bites... Especially moms bringing in their toddlers."

End of the story: I didn't die; I was am a total wuss, especially compared to people with actual "owies;" I have the triage skills of a toddler.

(Parenthetically, someone told me, "It's important to pay attention to changes with your body," which was comforting for a few minutes... until I realized that they probably got that line from a 5th-grade sex-ed pamphlet.)

Here's what I should have been doing: Homemade Limoncello

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