09 January 2006

Revenge of the redbacks

I had the absolute, without a doubt, worst flight back from Australia ever. There were times - and I say this with all honesty - that I thought I wasn't going to make it. Allow me to explain.

Whilst watching "King Kong" with a couple of mates I noticed that the inside of my left leg just above my ankle was hurting a little. My sock had folded over a couple of times but I thought it extremely wussy of my body to be complaining about that so I ignored it at the time. Later on that night at Garage club whilst playing some fussball I noticed the pain had increased and the left side of my groin was also starting to hurt. Standing in the line for the Vodka bar I felt my left leg go extremely numb and more of a general numbness over my whole body. My teeth started chattering, my pulse was racing and I was finding it difficult to stand up. I pretty much said "I have to go... to the hospital"

In the hospital I was put on a drip and given pain killers. By that stage my temperature was 38.5 Celsius (not that high really), my heart rate was 110 bpm (or thereabouts) and I was generally not feeling nor looking the best. Here is evidence:

I was diagnosed with SVT (superficial vein thrombosis) ... somehow. In hindsight such a diagnosis completely ignored all my other symptoms and only focused on the red patch, about 3cm diameter, just above my left ankle. I spent about 4 hours in the emergency ward before being discharged and by that stage I was feeling pretty good, in comparison to when I was admitted anyway.

I spent the next day generally laying about watching my left foot to make sure it never got too swollen. I was still fairly red though so that night on my mum's insistence I checked back in to the hospital to see if I could fly the next day. This doctor was different and was more or less scratching their head about the previous night's diagnosis. She was leaning towards more of some sort of bite, since the swelling on my upper leg was my lymph node. She drew an outline around the bite area and said if the redness exceeded that line in the morning that I do not fly.

Morning came, I thought I was feeling well enough to fly, the redness was contained within the line, I still have a little trouble walking but I caught the flight back to the US anyway.

Biggest mistake I have ever made. But there was still some stupidity on my part.

The flight from Adelaide to Sydney was fine. My foot was still a bit swollen but other than that I could not really complain about much.

Sydney to LA flight: the absolute worst flight experience I have ever had. Period. I had been doing my regular exercises and walking around the plane but around half way through the flight I suddenly felt lightheaded. My left leg was really swollen now and my left foot was bulging out of my shoe. I told an attendant that I didn't feel too well so I got up and lied down at the back of the plane for a while, did some walking around and got a lot of air onto me. I must admit though I really did play down how I was feeling. I felt worse than I stated. I sat down again and that's when it really happened. I had massive difficulty breathing and I was nearly falling unconscious. Every time a "wave" hit I tried meditating to pull myself through. I nearly called for more attendant attention but thought I could pull myself through it. I'm a bit stubborn like that sometimes. I got over the waves and was able to enjoy a viewing of "40 year old virgin" until I started getting them again. Not as bad as the first time but still pretty bad.

In the end I made it to LAX, of course, and I was deciding whether I would check myself into hospital or continue the flight to Fort Lauderdale. I had a 4 hour lay-over and decided to sleep a while and see how I felt. I chose a nice corner at my gate and once I woke up I felt ok again. The plane lifting off was a little horrific, and I spent a little time fighting the waves again, but I was able to get to sleep and I felt good again after that.

I'm convinced now I was bitten by a redback spider. The symptoms I had both on and off the ground are absolutely consistent with such a bite. That day I had been working in the garage and had been moseying about a bit, so the potential for a bite was there. Oh, here is what a redback looks like (image from Victorian museum website)

I've felt relatively well since. I have had a light headed feeling and my arms and legs don't really feel like they're there. The swelling in my foot has gone down quite a bit and the redness of the bite area is nearly gone. I was in the emergency room last night at a hospital here in Florida getting more blood tests done as well as some ultrasounds. My blood tests indicate normality everywhere as did the ultrasound. The doctor compared my symptoms with that of a redback spider bite and agreed that they matched, but without actual venom tests there is still some uncertainty. Plus, they don't have any antivenom for such a bite over here anyway.

Right now as I type this I'm high on antibiotics, pain killers and anti inflammatories. Every night I still wake up with my bed soaked from sweat but I'm not sure if that's from the antibiotics or not. Here is a pic of my little pill collection:

If it was a redback spider bite, and I'm pretty convinced it was (the symptoms just matched up perfectly from the intense pain at the bite site to the swollen lymph node to the numbness, difficulty in breathing, fever, high heart rate... everything) then I'm just plain curious as to why I got bitten visiting Australia rather than when I actually lived there for my whole life. Weird. If I had known it was a redback spider bite before leaving Oz I would never have left, since the symptoms can be recurring, as I experienced. But I was also feeling ok on the morning I left. Next time anything goes wrong on a plane I'm not going to be so quiet about it, that is for sure. I also remember thinking at the time that I just wanted to get back to Florida.

There are two people I have to really thank who looked after me when I first got the symptoms: Mary (not Mazza) and Ben (the guy with the girly smile here. Hehe). Thanks! I owe you. And of course my Mum, but she already knows that.

Anyway, it's 9pm and not surprisingly, I'm tired. Time to look forward to another 12+ hours of sleep :-)


Nav said...

I know your not feeling well buddy but...can you put the photos up from the Boxing Day party?

I want to see if the Adelaide massive represented on Boxing Day :)

And are you sure the Redback didn't come from Garage? What the hell were you doing in there? You know its hazardous to your health...

PK said...

Ok, ok. I'll put some pictures up tonight.

Re Garage... yes, it was as dead as ever, and the vast untapped dancefloor justly represented the clubbing experience I had in Adelaide. Of course my choice of going to Garage was probably influenced by neurotoxins.

Anonymous said...

Wussy Aussie can't take a little spider bite.