Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I have been waiting all week to post this blog. I will start by saying I did not have hives, it was much more interesting than that.

I went home last Tuesday and on Wednesday morning the "hive" on my arm, which was nothing the day before but a little red bump, was really swollen and the ones on my stomach were still very painful. I was putting calomine lotion on and everytime it would dry I would then feel a pin-prick sensation. It would take my breath away for a minute. We had the clinic come on Wednesday and do the baby weigh-in, so afterwards I walked up to the hill to call Peace Corps. I wanted to explain to the medical officer what was wrong, perhaps I had to go to Accra to get it checked out. I described what I had, and what I thought it was. Her response was that it wasn't hives, rather it sounded like this weird form of acne (I was thinking, oh, no) or the tumbo fly. She said to start putting antibiotic ointment on and warm compresses twice a day, not calomine lotion. Call her in four days if it wasn't better. Of course I cried and of course a few people saw, walking by from their farms. I was crying because I didn't want to have to heat up the coal pot twice a day just for some water. I collected myself in about a minute and walked home.

Once home I pulled out my two medical books, courtesy of Peace Corps. I looked in the one I always refer to, and couldn't find anything regarding tumbo flies. I remembered talking about it in training vaguely, so I knew it was somewhere. I pulled out the Peace Corps Medical Handbook and sure enough, found what I was looking for.

I wish I had the book with me to quote it but I don't, so I'll try to do my best.

You can tell you have the tumbo fly by a small red bump, usually with a black center, much like a black head (this is exactly what my arm looked like). They grow and become more painful. The pain is often described as a pin prick (bingo!).

The tumbo fly enters your body through your clothes. It is common in areas with dense vegetation. It is commonly referred to as the mango worm or mango fly also (I remember in training they said to try and never hang your clothes by mango trees, which I do not, but nevertheless). When you hang your clothes to dry the fly will lay it's eggs on the cloth. If you put the clothes on when they are still damp (which is hard nearly impossible not to do when it is so humid outside) it will burrow into your skin and become larvae. You have to eventually remove the larvae. When I told people in my community what it was they said it was from the forest. I'm not sure where I received these invaders, but I will always be extremely careful about my clothes (it is recommended to iron them or leave them to dry for three days) and never put them on the ground (which I do not do anyway).

The next step, after identifying what it was, was to remove the larvae. I am still in shock, part disgust, part fascinationg, with the next part.

So, I put antibiotic ointment on all five spots and waited. The book said to do this for about 15 minutes and then squeeze, the larvae will pop right now. I started on my stomach, where the bumps were larger, more irritated and had been open for a couple days. I squeezed the bump on my right side and sure enough, slowly, a maggot head came out and then a whole body. I was standing on my veranda shocked. I though "that was in my body!" I still had four more to go. The next one, about an inch below and to the left of my belly button, literally "popped" out. It was like squeezing a pimple that squirts on the mirror (okay, I know, gross). The little maggot flew from the hole and fell to the ground. I found it and killed it. At this point I could have passed out I was so shocked, but I didn't (that would have been hilarious if you ask me). Next, the on my left rib-cage. No problem, it popped out with no acrobatics.

The two smaller bumps, one very small one on my left breast, about two inches from my armpit, and the one that was sore on my left forearm, were next. The one on my arm hurt and not much came out. It bled a little, which none of the others had done. A larvae half the size of the others came out and I was scared I cut it in half and left some, but I think it just hadn't had time to grow fat like the others. The one of the breast was even smaller. I'm not sure if I picked these creatures up at the same day, but they were three different sizes.

As for now, I am still treating the wounds. The ones on my stomach are really red still and hard. I am still shocked that I had five maggots in my skin. Regardless, it makes a great story and I have to laugh. Cheers!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I am speechless! I believe your story rivals any horror movie I have seen. I am really proud of you keeping your cool I think I would have freaked out. You are wonderful and so amazing! Olivia is playing softball, she is the catcher.


12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YIKES! I can't believe that! I think I would like to "pop" them out too, some people are sick, right!?!? I love reading about your travels!

Love ya - COurt

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy Cow Sista!
I'm right there with you...fascinating, yet totally disgusting at the same time!
Love you!

7:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG!!! You are such a badass!! I would have passed out, or gone into shock.... love you, you are a braver woman than most!

4:07 PM  

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