August 20, 2007

So how is it that a damned insect can break your leg?

VALOIS, New York, USA - The second day of Zithromax was less fun than the first, though by 5 p.m., I decided that I should be at least mildly industrious and burn some trash and some of the huge mound of scrap wood that has to be gone by the time we leave Sept. 1.

For those Californians reading this, yes, we take out the papers and burn them in a firepit in front of the house by the lake. If it is windy at all, we have a backup (read: Protected) spot behind the house. Wildfires? Not often around here, given how much rain there is.

It was such a beautiful afternoon, that I had just decided that it might be worthwhile to build a real campfire and drag out a couple of glasses of Hazlitt's Reisling for the Admiral and I to enjoy when I heard a shriek from the area above the driveway where the Admiral was soooo industriously pulling weeds and trimming.

With one loud "Michael!!!!" and a shriek that would send your average Irish Banshee hiding in the closet, she bounded off a four-foot bank down onto the driveway and ran full tilt to the house - the shriek continuing.

Now, I'll be frank: Flying insects - particularly the biting kind - are not my favorite bit of nature. And here in Valois, we have these huge black bees - about the size of a Brown 'N Serve sausage with wings - that dive bomb you from time to time. The only saving grace about those bastards is they are soooo slow, so if I am working with a shovel or leaf rake, I can usually dispatch them with a single swing.

I never feel bad when I kill one. I was stung by one three years ago and it hurt for a week.

So I didn't rush to the house right away to follow the Admiral, as I was pretty sure one of those Brown 'N Serve bombers was waiting at the front door, until I heard the next set of shrieks.

Arnold the Wonder Dog and I sprinted to the house, where the Admiral was in the shower - completely clothed and reasonably completely covered in a lot worse insect than the Brown 'N Serve bees: Yellowjackets.

Yellowjacket at rest

Yellowjackets are not bees, though they look sort of like bees. These critters can bite and sting over and over and will do so, particularly if you disturb the nest.

The Admiral had, pulling up some wisteria vines and earned herself about a dozen stings before she could get her clothes off. Running into the shower was a good idea, because the shower floor was littered with Y-Jackets.

She had, we quickly ascertained, about a dozen sting/bites, one of which was bleeding rather profusely, the others just getting bright red and swelling alarmingly. A quick call to brother-in-law & paramedic Dan reinforced what I had learned before taking off on Sabbatical cruising years before: Severe reactions happen fairly quickly - usually with a half-hour or so.

So by the time I had her piled in the Buick and on the way down to Watkins Glen, I was pretty sure she was fine. If not, she would've waited for the ambulance. We bought benadryl to have on site and then drove slowly home, back to the scene of the attack.

Scene of the yellowjacket attack
Scene of the attack(s)

Oh, so what's the deal about the headline and the 'break your leg' reference?

This morning, after twisting and turning for hours at night - and telling me that her leg hurt - the Admiral decided to seek medical assistance at the same time I was going in to get a checkup to see how the Zithromax was working. (Slowly, very slowly...) We both were pretty sure she had twisted her ankle in the leap of the bank and in her run to safety.

But it seems that she did fracture one of the two bones in her shin - the smaller of the two, thank God, and the X-ray of her leg was, the doctor said "unremarkable."

That translated into no cast, no Ace bandage, just keep the leg up in the air and stay away from yellowjackets.

We were provided with one yet-to-be-solved mystery through all this, however.

After I had an X-ray done of my throat (to make sure something weird wasn't going on with this infection/cold), the X-ray tech told me that my X-ray was likewise "unremarkable," noting that only my very pronounced tonsils caught the doctor's eye.

Indeed they should, I thought. My tonsils were taken out when I was 7 years old.

But before you dismiss the idea as simply X-ray-technician (or doctor) incompetence, be advised that my late mother had her tonsils reappear when she was in her late 30s - after having been removed when she was very young.

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