Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ants in My Pants

Non-southerners, meet the fire ant:

If you live in a white state, you just. don't. know.
(Photo credit: http://www.fireant.tv/)
The ants featured in Pixar's A Bug's Life? NOT fire ants. Had they been, those grasshoppers would have been running for their lives....assuming they survived the initial encounter.

Non-southerners, these are the ants you call "pests."
 (Photo credit: Edge Pest Control)
Compared to a fire ant, these guys are pets. Here in north central Louisiana, we call them "piss aints." You could cuddle them. And if you didn't want to, they are very easy to kill. All of those cute little natural poisons on Pinterest would work on a piss aint. Not so with the fire ant. Go ahead, hose him with vinegar. The fire ant will swim through it, and keep on trucking. Soap? Nope. And if you aren't unlucky enough to be allergic to essential oils, chalk, and other home remedies, you will do little more than make the fire ant unhappy anyway.

This is an unhappy fire ant.....
right before he latches onto your flesh with his creepy mandibles and begins stinging you repeatedly.

For the largest portion of the population, a fire ant sting hurts and forms a pustule.
(Photo credit: MSU Cares)
Others, like my sister, experience localized swelling. For example, she was stung on the hand, and her entire hand swelled. And then there is the estimated 0.5% to 5% (of which my son is a former member and I am a current member) who experience anaphylaxsis. (Source: ACAAI)

On Friday, June 28, we woke to a fire ant invasion in our little trailer on Jubilee Farm.
Brandon killed several before he left for work, but they just kept coming. I attempted battle. I tried vinegar. Then I tried dish soap and vinegar together. Then I called Brandon (because he knows everything), and he told me to use my homemade shampoo/conditioner/body wash/shaving cream concoction. It worked, but only on contact. And there were just too many.

I should have given up, and fled the house. But I am a stubborn woman, and I did not want to be supplanted by measly little ants.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.....

I'm not sure where I picked it up, but when I sat down in the rocking chair to read to Sara, I felt a familiar pain on my right side right above my hip. I killed it before it stung me again. Good thing, too. Within two minutes, I had broken out in hives.

The poor photo resolution makes it difficult to see, but the area around the bite turned red and raised into welts. Every welt hurt like the dickens, so I lost track of where I had been bitten. No pustule was left behind.

I managed to call my dad for help before my thinking went fuzzy. I began to wheeze and cough before he arrived, so I took my Acute Rescue knowing that the preservative alcohol would be a small problem in comparison to the one I faced. As soon Dad stepped through the door, I had him perform BioSet on me twice, which relaxed my swollen airways for a few minutes. I am unsure of how much time passed before I began hacking again, feeling dizzy and confused. When I felt my face begin to swell like a balloon, I kind of freaked out. I made the (arguably hasty) decision to use my Epi Pen because my normal reaction regimen wasn't working. I was getting worse. For the third time in my life, I stabbed myself in the leg with a needle.

I say the decision to use Epi was arguably hasty because A) I am allergic to sulfites which preserve the epinephrine and B) I had little intention of actually going to the ER. The protocol for anaphylaxsis is not very flexible in my area. If I were to go to the ER, they would only offer a steroid shot, which would be life threatening for me. If I were to refuse the steroid, they would ask why I bothered to come at all. So it was decided by five people (three of which are medical professionals) that I should skip the garbage, the skeptical looks and the ginormous co-pay, remain under Brandon's vigilant eye, and let my natural doctor tend to me.
This is me post-reaction. You may be able to tell that the right side of my face is significantly swollen.

After my reaction, the war against the ants continued to wage. On Saturday morning, it was decided that I needed to be removed from the house. A dear friend, Eddie Davis, helped Brandon move our necessities to my parents' home in West Monroe and spray for the ants. We attempted to move back home the night of July 4, but our stay was short lived. We were there maybe 12 hours before Sara was stung while sitting in my lap. Upon further inspection, I found the ants spread around the house. Their numbers were greatly reduced, but as it only takes one, I could not safely stay. Brandon's grandmother helped me and the kids pack up a second time. We have been at my parents' house since.

The fire ant problem at Jubilee Farm is severe. We theorize that they have tunnels underneath the ground rather than mounds, which is why there are so many crawling around everywhere out there. After much debate, we have decided to have a professional come spray. The decision was difficult because we have no way of knowing how long it will be before I can safely return home. The poison is potentially as big of a problem as the ants. We are unsure if we are looking at days, weeks or months before I can be in my place again. We hope to spray early this week.

We have a method of determining when it is safe for me to go back home. I refer to it as "setting out the fleece." Basically, we will set out open baby food jars containing pure water in each room every few days. The water will "catch" whatever impurities are in the air. Brandon will bring  the jars to me, and I will muscle test each one for safety. When each water jar is "safe," I can return home.

This newest trial hasn't been easy. My home had become my safe haven. I love it out there. I hate not knowing when I can get back. My kids are homesick. Brandon has to drive that much further to work, and tend to our home before coming home to us. We see less of him. And while they aren't as bad, there are fire ants here, too. They even found their way into the house on Sunday. I think they must smell me or something.


There is so much for which to be thankful.

1) I have a place of refuge. My parents have been trying to sell their house for almost a year now, and they haven't had a single bite. If they were living on the farm already, I would have had no safe place to go. It's a super nice, spacious home to boot.

2) I have live-in help, which is very nice.

3) I am rooming with my favorite people and best friends. No one gets me like my mom. I have so enjoyed spending time with her. My dad is funny, caring and easy going. If you have to take refuge somewhere, these are the people to take refuge with.

4) The reaction to the ant sting did not set me back in my food tolerance at all. Praise the Lord!

5) God is teaching me important spiritual lessons in this as well. His methods are not always gentle, but His purposes are always good.

I do not like being uprooted by ants, but I can't stay where they are so active and prevalent. These guys are serious....
 (Photo credit: 6LEGS2MANY)
What other insect knows how to make a flotation device out of  its own body to ensure survival during flooding? These crazy things are a plague upon the earth.

How you can pray for us:

1) Patience and contentment for all of us. We are itching to return home, but we may have to wait awhile yet. There is no sense in being upset about it.

2) A swift return. Mom and dad need their space. They need to sell their house. And we need to be home. My prayer is that the poison will dissipate quickly. We do not plan to spray indoors, so rain will help.

3) Brandon's strength and sanity. The man lives a hard life. Pray for him.

4) My safety. I do not need to get stung by an ant or a wasp or a bee or anything like that anytime soon. My hope is that I will be protected supernaturally until my body can better handle insect venom.

5) My continued improvement. My eating is still going very well. I have been able to add magnesium powder to my diet which has allowed me to discontinue my enemas. I am glad to have that hour back every day, and after having a rough experience a couple of weeks ago where I was unable to expel the enema water for several days, I am thankful to not have to risk repeating the experience.

Once again, thank you for your concern, well-wishes and prayers for us, especially those of you who have not given up on us after all this time. We feel incredibly blessed to know you and be loved by you. God bless you all!


Dr.B said...

Melissa, when "floating" down a stream, fire ants rotate the group so that none drown.

MelissaKeaster said...

Hey Dr. B! I corrected my post thanks to your info and a bit more reading. I find the ability fascinating....even though my fascination is tinged a bit by horror. :)