Be sure to check out Vicki Balint’s blog, Small Change Mom, for important facts you need to know about life with scorpions and links to related videos, local resources and more.
I had my own scary experience with a scorpion sting about a year ago. And it happened at work, not home.
It was 4pm and I had just wrapped up a phone interview for a story. Needing to stretch my legs, I stood up and started down the hall to check in with my editorial team.I was vaguely aware of some minor pain in right arch of my foot. I chalked it up to a muscle cramp and didn’t give it another thought.
For the next hour, I sat at my desk going over budgets and logging bills. The cramp in my foot seemed a bit worse. I started wondering what I’d done to injure my foot. When my brother was in town from Seattle a week earlier, we did several hikes up Piestewa Peak. During one hike, I’d badly rolled my right ankle. Was it possible that I was just now experiencing the symptoms of a sprain? Maybe I’d misstepped in my flip-flops and re-injured it without realizing.
By 5:15, the cramp was getting worse and, even more weird, it seemed to be spreading. Now I really felt like I’d badly sprained my ankle. My whole foot was hurting and felt swollen, even though I could see that it was not. I needed to get home. When I stood up, I gasped. I couldn’t put any weight on my foot without experiencing tremendous pain. I hopped around the office on my left leg, turning off lights and setting the alarm.
Driving home, I almost had to pull of the road. Every time I put my foot on the gas pedal I felt like screaming. What was going on? Finally I turned onto the quiet street that leads to my neighborhood. I pulled my right leg up onto the seat, hoping that changing positions would offer some relief. Somehow I managed to finish the drive home using my left foot to control both pedals.
I hopped into my house and went straight to the freezer. Wrapping ice around my foot didn’t help. I tried a heating pad. That didn’t help. I sat on the edge of the sink in the bathroom and soaked my foot. No better. I dried it off and tried massaging my arch, thinking I could stop the spasm. By now, I was writhing in pain. No position I put myself in seemed to help. I was shaky and nauseous.
I called my husband, who was at a client’s. For the first time in our marriage, I said, “I need you to come home. NOW!” I started thinking about the emergency room. This was stupid! I sure didn’t want to spend Friday night in the emergency room for what had to be a weird delayed reaction to a simple sprain.
By the time Dan got home, I was sobbing and scared. The pain had spread to my calf and my mind was racing with all sorts of possibilities. Could I have a renegade blood clot that was heading for my heart or lungs?
As Dan drove me to the hospital, I did some yoga breathing, trying to calm my shaky, twitching body. I must be in some serious state of panic, I told myself. This is not like me! What is going on? We got to the hospital and took the clipboard from the sign-in desk. I started to fill in my information but my hands were shaky and my body was twitching uncontrollably. Dan had to finish the paperwork for me. Silently, I chastised myself for being such a weenie. Get ahold of yourself! I thought.
I apologized to the nurse who took me back to a bed. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” I said. “I feel stupid for even being here!” She was amazing. “You are in pain,” she said calmly. “That’s why we’re here. Don’t waste any energy worrying about it. If it’s nothing, that’s a good thing.”
When I explained my situation to the ER nurse who examined me, he said he’d talk to the doctor and schedule an x-ray. Little did I know (until he told me later), but he went straight to the doctor and said something was up–“she looks like she’s completely hyped up on too much caffeine.” The doctor quickly arrived, asked me some questions and looked at my foot. She shined a light in my eyes. She shined a light in my mouth, then beckoned my husband to take a look. “See her tongue?” she said. He nodded. I looked at him, puzzled. “It’s jumping around,” he said. I couldn’t feel it.
“I’m 99 percent sure you’ve been stung by a scorpion,” the doctor said. WHAT?? My husband has been stung by a scorpion. There was no mistaking that experience. I think the whole neighborhood heard him shout. He described it as feeling like “someone had driven a nail through my heel.” How could I be stung by a scorpion and have no recollection of a sting? No sign of it on my foot? The doctor told me that everyone reacts differently to scorpion stings. Most adults experience intense pain at the site of the sting, some swelling, some numbness. I was clearly having a “neurological reaction,” something she sees more often in children than adults, she said. “It may last as long as six hours or more. We want to watch you.”
By then I was ready to believe her. The whole right side of my body was heaving and jumping uncontrollably. My jaw was chattering. Even the left side of my body was starting to react. I suddenly had tremendous empathy for people like Michael J. Fox, who suffer from uncontrollable spasms generated by Parkinson’s disease. It’s awful to watch your body doing things you don’t want it to do and can’t do anything to stop.
They put me on an IV drip with morphine and Benadryl. Within half an hour, I was much calmer. By the time they released me, at about 9:30pm, I could move my toes and foot without pain. I managed to walk out of the hospital on my own. “Do I get some sort of badge?” I asked the nurse who’d first assessed me. “You know, ‘scorpion sting survivor’ or something like that?” He smiled. They see people like me all the time. To them, my experience was very routine.
To me, though, it was a complete eye-opener. I’m always careful about watching for scorpions. We often see them in our home. But I never thought about encountering one at work. And I certainly never run around the office bare-footed! Just goes to show, you can’t fool Mother Nature. Somehow, this tiny creature managed to crawl onto my foot while I was deep in thought. I didn’t notice when it stung me. The aftermath, however, made me appreciate, once again, how little control we really have over the events of our lives. Things can changed in a heartbeat. And the next, despite a splitting headache and a morphine/Benadryl hangover, I was feeling awfully lucky.