Me vs. the hornets: Round 2

August 11, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 11, 2014

I stepped in it — again.

On Friday, my neighbor asked if I’d like him to trim my bushes around the house I rent. I happily agreed and zipped away on my bicycle.

When I returned home for lunch, the property looked much neater. Among other things, the branches that overhung the small space between the side of my house and the woods had been snipped. This made access to the area much simpler — I could just walk into it without having to push leaves and tree limbs out of my face.

Up until late June, I’d kept my bicycle chained to the fence in this spot. That changed after I stepped on a hornets nest — a mildly painful and fairly terrifying experience — which prompted me to lock my bike to the front porch.

But seeing the more-or-less well-kempt grounds, I decided it was time to give my old bike-chaining spot a go.

That proved to be a mistake.

I didn’t see anything untoward when I first approached the fence, so I reached down for the chain that I always carry on my two-wheeler.

Then I started feeling pricks on my right leg. I looked down, and sure enough, there were a couple of hornets hovering around me. I dropped the chain and fled.

After brushing off an insect or two from my sneaker, I seemed to be in the clear. But when I looked back toward the fence, I saw a bunch of insects buzzing angrily on the ground in front of the bicycle. I decided to leave things as they were and go inside to eat.

I thought I’d been stung in two spots — on my upper thigh and on my ankle. It was moderately painful, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal. After all, it seemed I’d been stung half a dozen or more times in June, and I’d been fine. So I just popped an allergy pill and carried on with my day.

Occasionally, I felt points of pain flare up in my right leg. I ignored them; this had happened back in June, but the phenomenon had faded by the second day.

Still, my right ankle felt awfully uncomfortable — itchy, mainly. I kept on adjusting my sock, but nothing I could see indicated any obvious problem with that part of my body.

That changed when I got home in the evening and took off my shoes and socks. My right ankle was definitely swollen; inflammation made it seem as if someone had secretly stuffed a golf ball under my skin. I posted a picture on a social network and was almost instantly advised by a relative to take an antihistamine.

After ignoring the problem for a few hours, I looked at some medical websites for information on treating insect stings. Around midnight, I hauled myself out of the house and drove to a nearby 24-hour supermarket. I spent several minutes browsing the pharmacy aisles until I found both Benadryl pills and an inflammation-reducing cream. (I also picked up some peanut butter and vanilla soy milk.)

I drove back home and popped the pills out of their plastic and foil pouches with no small difficulty. It occurred to me that I should be icing down my swollen ankle, so I repaired to my bed with three ice packs and lay there reading for an hour or so.

My ankle had been a little tender Friday night, but it was positively painful to walk on come Saturday. I started off the day with another session of ice packs and some of the anti-inflammation cream. Neither seemed to help much; my ankle seemed to have swollen to the size of a baseball, and the rest of my right calf was noticeably bigger than my left calf.

Still, I powered through the day without any severe problems.

When I woke up this morning, there was some good news and some bad news.

The good news? My right ankle no longer gave me pain when I walked.

The bad news? My right ankle was still swollen, along with my right calf. And the ankle itched fiercely.

There was an additional bit of bad news: For some reason — presumably, I strained it on Saturday — my left ankle was mildly painful to walk on.

Still, I’m powering through the day. So far, I haven’t had any severe problems. (Knock on wood!)

Ideally, this will more or less be behind me tomorrow. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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