On Fridays I care for my grandson Isaac who is nearly three years old. We were out in our rocky Eltham garden throwing stones into the pond running around, playing on the swing-seat and generally having a good time. We decided to do some weeding and Isaac is very energetic about how he helps.I thought I knew where the bull ants were located in our garden, having had other experiences of their attacks.
The last attack was on my husband John who had been out digging in the front garden near a known bull ant site. He ran into the house yelling for help while he stripped off his clothing to find the five bull ants who were biting him. It was all pretty terrifying, but he recovered quickly; although he did complain of itching for months later.
So what I am saying is, we should have been more careful. So we started pulling weeds and before we knew it there were bull ants crawling all over Isaac. I grabbed him up and as I rushed to the house flicked off the bull ants taking no care to protect myself. Arriving in the kitchen with a frightened crying Isaac I flicked off the last bull ant, inserted the dummy, kissed the bitten toe and finger and my husband applied pig-face juice to the two bite marks. As I was putting a new nappy on him I felt a bite on my right upper arm and realised I had flicked one of the bull ants on to myself. I deftly killed it but then had to make sure I had no others on me.
After being bitten I then felt as if I was being continually bitten all over again. Luckily it was the one bite.
I was also surprised that it did not hurt for long and looked pretty innocuous.
The next day the bite mark had started to become red and swollen. I noticed a small vine like trail of red down my arm from the bite mark. It reminded me of a Dr Who episode where the humans are infected by an alien and we see the poison flow through their skin until they change into a red swollen alien creature who then bites the next human.
As I observed the swelling over the next two days it slowly spread down my arm becoming redder and more swollen and itchy. I felt like my arm was being taken over and I had no control. I took a photo of it and sent it to my son asking whether Isaac’s bites were reacting in a similar way. Apparently not-I alone had been bitten by the alien bull ant.
I googled my symptoms and was told if it was still itchy after 48 hours to go to the doctor. I resolved that I would go on Monday if the symptoms persisted, which is what I did.
The Doctor said my reaction was rare and that my arm was indeed infected and I required antibiotics and antihistamines and painkillers and he couldn’t give me steroids because the antibiotic wouldn’t work so well. He then drew a dotted line around the swelling with a black Texta and said if it hadn’t shrunk by Wednesday I needed to come back. Could I keep the Texta mark intact please.
This reminded me of when I had breast cancer and the nodes removed from the same arm. Radiotherapy required that they tattoo marks on your upper body so they could line up the machinery but they also drew on my breast with red Texta, so I was used to this sort of body marking!
I needed a mithridate!
While I was waiting for the chemist I visited Eltham book shop and got into conversation with the owner. She told me she had been bitten by five bull ants three months ago and gone into anaphylactic shock and ended up in hospital. She complained that now she had to carry around an EPIPEN all the time. My self-absorption and arm pain diminished as she spoke.
I returned home armed with all my medicines and my arm beginning to ache.
Needless to say I have recovered although my arm still becomes itchy even though it was six weeks ago that I was bitten. Isaac had no reaction or swelling although he is more cautious around ants these days.