How Lyme Disease Saved Me from Death by Black Widow Spider
After I started taking Ceftin, The Perfect Summer went on without me. While I was physically in the pool or playing a board game beside it, I was sidelined from the fun that kicked in after a few beers. I was never able to get to that place where things seemed so funny, or so incredibly profound that they only lasted a moment, never to be remembered in the blur of the next morning.
I was unable to get away from my sadness. I missed talking to Granny, so I started to talking to her all the time, as if she were with me. She didn’t answer back, but I heard what I thought she might say in my head. And after a while, I chose to believe that how I imagined her responding was actually her.
That gave me comfort, but after a month of missing her and missing beer and feeling left out, I was depressed.
Then one night, as I slept in The Hut, I felt a burning on my arm. I remember swiping at it, rolling over, and going back to sleep.
The next morning, the inside of my right elbow hurt. From there, a red line trailed up to my neck. It wasn’t unbearably painful the way the bullseye had been and it wasn’t searingly itchy like the reaction to Doxycycline, so I figured whatever it was couldn’t be that bad.
That night, my writing group came over. We’d met at an UCLA Extension writing workshop. Patty, a TV writer who was working on a series of stories from points of view of people who loved The Beatles, had written a story about a girl who was at the iconic Ed Sullivan Show performance. The story was so sensory that after reading it, I had Beatles Fever.
I hadn’t written anything that month, but I was eager to see them and talk about Patty’s story. Meeting with the writing group felt like something I could actually be in the center of versus all the parties where I’d been sidelined.
“Let me see your arm,” Manjita, a gynecologist who loved to write short stories, said as she reached for my arm.
“You need to go to the emergency room.” She looked down at my arm and up at my face.
“Now?” How could something else be wrong with me?
“I would go now,” she said.
“Can I go in the morning? I’ve really been looking forward to seeing you guys,” I said.
“First thing,” she said.
So, first thing the next morning, I drove to the emergency clinic down the street from Mansfield. I could have walked, but it was LA. We drove everywhere.
The tall, white doctor with gray hair and wire rimmed glasses gasped as he inspected my arm.
“You’ve been bitten by a Black Widow spider!” he said.
“Yes! Those tracks up to your neck are poison.” That morning, the tracks were much darker red than they’d been the night before and now they were swollen and painful, like the bullseye had been.
The doctor yanked a stool away from where it had been tucked against a wall and rolled it in front of the examination table I sat on. Then he sat on the stool and stared at me very seriously.
“I’m going to put you on a very powerful drug. It’s really expensive but you have to get it anyway because this is very serious, okay?”
“It’s called Ceftin,” he said.
“I’m on Ceftin,” I said.
The doctor’s eyes bulged.
“You’re on Ceftin?! Why are you on Ceftin?” he asked.
“Because I got Lyme Disease.”
“Lyme Disease? Where did you get Lyme Disease?” he shouted, jumped to his feet, and paced the tiny room.
The doctor stopped pacing, picked up my arm, and traced a rubber gloved finger over the bulging red vein that led from the bite all the way up to my neck.
“My God.” He looked back at my face. “If you were not on Ceftin right now, you’d be dead.”
The story above is an excerpt from my memoir in progress, Pre-existing Conditions. At the time, I lived at Mansfield, two houses full of weirdos in the heart of Hollywood. We were excited to have "The Perfect Summer" when Granny died and I got bitten by tick, and then, a black widow spider. Crazily, Lyme Disease saved me from death by a black widow spider.