Monday, 3 December 2012

Bleeding Beasties

Nasty little sucker

I think most doctors and nurses would agree that the trouble with a lot of men is that they just don’t report sick soon enough.

What for me started as an itchy toe gradually turned into a bloody irritation.  Every step I took reminded me of it and it felt as though I had a pebble jammed up the front of my boot.  Did I go sick?  Did I hell.  I have things to do so a sore flaming toe wasn’t going to stop me.

Coincidentally, Alex took on a bit of a limp too.  As a very little boy, when we went for walks, he rode on my shoulders.  Not through laziness but because every little boy has the right to see the world from his father’s shoulders.  Once he hit four, however, he was far more interested in running around like a well flippered pinball so I noticed when he would only walk a few yards before asking for a ride.  I checked his feet carefully.  There was definitely something there.  Every time I touched his toe he squirmed.

The maid came into the room, took one look and said, ‘Bicho de Porco’. 

Pig beastie?  What the Hell is a Pig Beastie?

‘You have to cut it out,’ she went on, ‘and you must be careful not to burst the sack or the eggs will come out’.

‘EGGS! My son has EGGS in his toe!!’

‘And a pig beastie,’ she said.

‘How do you get it out then,’ I asked.

‘Have you got a razor blade?’

At this point Alex suddenly found his feet again and made an unsuccessful dash for the door.  I fetched a new packet of razor blades from the shop, a bottle of surgical spirits, some cotton wool and a darning kit for the needle while the maid hung onto him.

At this point Marcia arrived back from town.  Mothers can hear their child screaming from miles away so she was already in full homicidal mode when she burst into the room and demanded to know what the fuck was going on.

‘Bicho de Porco,’ said the maid.

‘Oh Alex, you poor thing,’ she crooned, ‘we have to cut it out.’

‘Daddy!’ he wailed, suddenly back on my side and making another dash for the door.

I pulled my boot off and stuck my toe under the maid’s nose.

‘Eek!  This one is bad!’ she said to Marcia.

So I went first, just to prove to Alex it didn’t hurt.  I was in agony.  The maid hacked away at my toe with the same vigour she scrubs my Y-Fronts up and down a cast concrete washboard every day.  There was no finesse, no pity, not even a hint of mercy. If I even flinched now, Alex would be over the TV and through the window into the garden.

‘Alex,’ I said in my most manly squeak, ‘do me a favour and pass me my cigarettes and lighter.’  He brought them to me, white as a sheet and with eyes as big as saucers.  Marcia handed me a Scotch without me even having to ask.  Jesus, how long was this going to take?  If the maid carried on slashing away like this she’d be excising my knee cap.

‘Done,’ the maid announced holding up something about the size of a pea but the colour of putrescent flesh.  Then she poured surgical spirit all over the bloody hole that was left.

‘Gosh,’ I quietly exclaimed.

Then it was Alex’s turn.

Gone was the mad razor blade wielding slasher of a maid.  Marcia’s cold, heartless gaze had softened to amber pools of honey oozing love and compassion.

‘Ow!,’ Alex exclaimed.

‘Go and get the boy a juice!’ Marcia ordered.  I trailed blood all the way to the shop and back, gave the lad his juice and then sulked on the sofa.

Tenderly the two of them, mother and maid, cooed like mating Turtle Doves and eased the beastie out of his foot; another translucent sack, a gob of gelatine. 

I wanted my revenge. These bastards thingymajigs had been munching on our toes.  Their eyes were too small to poke with red hot needles, never mind pokers.  I couldn’t even see any legs to slowly twist off one by one and besides, if I couldn’t hear them scream, where’s the fun in that?  So I plonked them in my ash tray and stubbed my cigarette out on them.

The sand flea is normally found in the sandy terrain of warm, dry climates. It prefers deserts, beaches, stables, stock farms, and the soil and dust close to farms.

Tunga penetrans is known as the chigger, jigger, chigoe, bicho do pé or sand flea. The head is angular, it has no comb of spines, and the thoracic segments are narrow at the top. The female feeds by burrowing into the skin of its host. The abdomen becomes enormously enlarged between the second and third segments so that the flea forms a round sac with the shape and size of a pea.
And it bloody hurts.
Ah, Diddums.  Thankfully Alex's beastie was fished out with just a needle.  Mine, and this is just a stock photo from Wikipedia, required the removal of most of my toenail but this at least gives you an idea.
So, in addition to Malaria, Typhoid, Bilharzia, Amoebic Dysentery, Black Water Fever (a complication of acute Plasmodium falciparum Malaria), Tick Bite Fever, goodness knows how many types of worms and Cutaneous leishmaniasis, I can add a bloody sand flea to the list of tropical ailments I have suffered.
Still, 'Flu is worse.  That knocks you out for at least three weeks.




  1. TOM
    if I was a youngster
    I would Love you as my dad
    (AND I mean that)

  2. Bicho de Porco? Previously I thought that was a resort on Spain's Costa Blanca. Pleased we don't have them in Blighty where we rarely have to think about nasty parasitical creatures - apart from Starbucks, Google and Piers Morgan.

  3. Remind me to never visit you, or at least pack my Wellies.

    As father/son bonding goes this is a story you'll be able to dine out on when Dominic and Alex have made you a grandfather with gangrene.

    Tragedy. I wrote this to you earlier though not sent yet: You do know, don't you, that you should never ask anyone with the faintest hint of German blood in their veins: How are you? "Fine, thank you" will not do. Instead you'll get the unvarnished truth. At length. Germans are like that. Most take everything at face value.

    Anyway, truth is that the only living thing I was happy to carry inside me was my son. Many years beforehand, being of the squeamish kind, I nearly disembowelled myself when there was suspicion I might have a tapeworm. Moi? Tapeworm? Eating me up? No wonder I was hungry all the time. I'd have gladly passed it to my sister Claudia since she had just started on that misguided route of anorexia/bulimia - same coin, different sides.

    Anyway, that creature I harboured in my innards came out head first and it was disgusting. Although I was already in my early twenties I shouted for my mother. She having grown up during rationing had little sympathy: "Count yourself lucky. Head out first". Thank heavens for small mercies.

    Mind you, and Megan will point this out to you: Why do you let a maid loose with a razor blade?

    Tom, long established: My bedside manners are atrocious. Sorry about that. Will give you a hero's welcome. What would you like? Grapes?


  4. Move the whole family to Basingstoke. Message ends.

  5. I would ask what happens if it goes untreated and the eggs hatch, but I think that I really don't want to know. Good job getting through hack-n-slash surgery with but a cigarette and Scotch.

  6. John,

    I could always adopt you I suppose. I think Dominic and Alex would love to have an older (much older) brother like you!

    Sir Pud,

    I had heard of Chiggers but until now had never encountered them so I looked them up on the webleysite. I can see why they dig them out fast; they can make a real mess of a set of toes if left unattended.


    “My bedside manners are atrocious. Sorry about that. Will give you a hero's welcome. What would you like? Grapes?”

    I am not interested in your bedSIDE manner, I am intrigued by your IN-The-Bed manner. Stuff your grapes, I need a good shag to take my mind off my poorly toe. You can wear your wellies in bed if you are that worried.

    This bulimic anorexic sister of yours. Is she the one who likes to dress light and can cook? When are you going to send me her CV and photo? I am sorry. I just had to catch myself there. A bulimic anorexic COOK? Still, if she is scantily clad, I am interested.

    Sir Owl of the Wood,

    Nice place, Basingstoke. I am sure my family and I could wander through Sainsbury’s barefoot with gay abandon. I could follow your example and run naked with the dogs over the fields at night, rolling myself in cow pats without fear of any parasite except Inland Revenue who would leech, one way or another, 70% of my income.

    Ninja San,

    Sadly, I am not a stranger to ‘Field Surgery’ and neither is my older son, Dominic, who had to carve an embedded tree stump (OK, twig) out of me that had gone septic, again only with the aid of fags and whisky. I once had my head stitched closed on HMS Active with only a bottle of champagne as anesthetic as I was keen to get back to the wardroom and couldn’t be doing with all this faffing around for a mere gash requiring only fourteen stitches. I had two fingers sliced off in the jungles of Central America, popped them in my shirt pocket and, arriving a day later at a medical post run by US Peace Corps volunteers and having been asked by the very attractive nurse if there was anything she could do for me while we waited for the doctor I said, ‘Could you be a dear, ring my secretary and cancel my piano recital?’ The most painful, apart from being burnt in Northern Ireland, was when I had such a good kicking the eyebrow of my right eye was hanging down. ‘It’s like a tongue, Man,’ said my foreman. ‘Yeah, he played football with your head’ said my engineer. The Angolan who stitched me up in his front room that time had no compassion whatsoever.

  7. My cousin and i often took our dogs to the beach for a good run and swim. After one such jaunt with her dog, she ended up with a houseful of sand fleas, and we cleaned the house from top to bottom as well as shampooing the dog with flea and tick shampoo.

    After my dad's transfer, we moved to a new location far away from my cousin's, and i took my dog for runs on the beach there and on a few occasions, in runs through the woods. After one of these latter excursions, she decided to sleep with me as a thank you, and i awoke the next morning to find 14 ticks in the bed and on me.

    That started me on my habit, which is now second nature that after a beach trip i shower immediately upon returning home (and when i had a dog, washing the dog immediately upon our return before my shower). After a walk in the woods, i perform a search all over me for ticks.

    The kitties are apt to get a few ticks, and i run my hands over their fur as they come in from outside to try and get them off of them before they have chance to burrow. I use a small curry comb that makes it easy to remove the ticks whilst they're still ambling and looking for a good spot. In early autumn, i pinched one off one of the cats, burned the tick, and found later in the evening that another made his way under my clothing and was settling in for a good meal. Little bugger was hard to remove but i'm not interested in any fever or Lyme disease, so after some digging, i successfully excised him. I've still got a slight scar from that one.

    Good on you for setting such a great example for Alex.

  8. That maid of yours deserves a bonus for her quick diagnosis and competent surgery. I bet she's good at lancing boils too.

  9. Megan,

    I suggest you ask Mr G Bananas to arrange a Lady's Lady for you. His staff are superbly trained in matters of personal hygeine and nit picking. Might be a few hairs to hoik out of the plug hole after bath time though.


    The maid is outstanding when it comes to lancing boils. She knows all about the advantages of taking the patient unawares so uses a blow pipe at twenty paces.

  10. Good God, I thought Ticks were bad enough; you've almost put me off my kedgeree.


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