Well folks, it’s that magical time of year and spring is busting out all over! The daffodils and crocuses are blooming. The hardy early birds are back. Red-wing black birds, goldfinches, and mourning doves are all making visits to the bird feeder. Spring is a wonderful time of year. With all this goodness, you just know that nature, in her way, balances the good with the unpleasant. One of the most colossally unpleasant of all things is the awakening of that loathsome creature: the tick.
In my opinion, of all the creepy, crawly critters, ticks are the worst. They are shaped like a spider, crawl at a surprisingly fast, yet stealthy pace, and, like a heat-seeking missile, they home in on warm-blooded mammals. Not only do they bite you, they suck your blood and then blow up like a balloon! The tick then falls off and proceeds to use you, via your blood, to make copies of itself in order to go after you next year and for many years into the future. And, if all that weren’t bad enough, the tick harbors a host of microorganisms, one of which is a nasty bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. This little creature causes Lyme disease.
Make no mistake about it, Lyme is a serious, often debilitating disease that is terrible for those afflicted. Ticks, therefore, are nothing to fool around with. So bear that in mind as I tell you about my own personal experience with the tick.
Years ago, when I was still relatively ignorant of the dangers and possibilities of encountering a tick, I was preparing to jump in the shower one morning, when I noticed a dark spot that was, let’s call it, just north of my groin. I made a half-hearted attempt to brush it away. The little dark spot didn’t brush off, but it did move. Examining it a little closer, I decided that this was a tick, and that it was embedded in my groin. It took me a moment, then I gulped and thought, “Oh my goodness, this is not good!” As panic was about to set in, I remembered that I had a doctor’s appointment in a day or so (my memory is fuzzy on how many days but let’s hope it was one or two). So I thought, “I’ll just leave it there and have the doctor remove it.”
When I arrived at my appointment, I was escorted into an examination room. After a short while, the doctor opened the door and said, “What’s new?” And I replied, “You are not going to believe this. Doc, but I think I have a tick in my groin.” His eyes got a little wider and he said, “Undress down to your underwear, and I’ll be right back.”
So, as we all do, I dutifully undressed and waited. It was only a couple of minutes until he returned. But he was now wearing a strange pair of goggles that made his eyes look funny. He was also carrying what looked like a long-handled pair of tweezers. Actually, he looked pretty funny but he was totally serious. “Ok,” he said, “now you’ll need to show me where it is.” Well I don’t want to get too, you know, graphic so I’ll skip ahead to next phase of the “operation.”
With the skill of a surgeon, he grabbed the tick near its head and yanked it out. Ouch! Not terrible, but ouch. Then he got a lot closer to the site of the operation and, still staring with those goggles, he said, “It’s important to get the head and mouth parts removed.” Ok, at least now I understand why he’s wearing those goofy-looking goggles … magnifying glasses! Once the tick was out and there were no body parts left behind, he daubed the area with alcohol to disinfect it. A bit more stinging, but what a relief!
Now that we’re past this little “operation,” he completes the examination. Then he looks me in the eye and says, “You need to pay attention to any flu-like symptoms or an expanding red area around the sight of the bite. If you experience any of these, get back to me immediately. You have a roughly 50/50 chance that the tick carries Lyme disease.”
Well as luck would have it, I was very fortunate, and I did not contract Lyme disease from this embedded tick. But many others have contracted Lyme disease, and it is no picnic. For me, a few weeks went by with no symptoms, and I was certain I would be fine. But I was still reluctant to start broadcasting around that I had had a tick in my groin. I imagined telling my friends this story and having to suffer the consequences. These guys could be very creative and, in their own minds, funny. So I could just hear them roaring with laughter as they dreamed up a new nickname for me. “Old Tick-in-the-Groin” was just the sort of moniker that I was looking to avoid! So I never told them the story until much, much later, and I managed to avoid the raucous, juvenile name-calling. But as you can tell, my memory of that tick experience is still very vivid even though this event happened long ago.
Folks, I want to end this little trip down memory lane with a heads-up warning. If you are going for a walk in the woods or are just out raking leaves in the backyard, be sure to check for ticks. And if you do find one, hopefully, you’ll be able to remove it before the little monster has the chance to attach itself. You don’t want to contract Lyme disease under any circumstances. So spread the word! Ticks are creepy and can be dangerous, which most people already know. Lyme disease is no joke.