Burning Worm, but Caterpillar sounds nicer, right?

Wait, what? 

Technically the sting was from a Gusano Quemador (Spanish to English translation: burning worm) while on what was supposed to be a relaxing and life-renewing yoga retreat in Sayulita, Mexico.

I was lying in bed on top of the covers, reading around 9 pm when something bit/stung me.  I grabbed my tiny flashlight (woo-woo yoga retreat does not believe in electricity or wi-fi) and started looking at my ankle for a welt.  Nothing.  I laid back down, I sat back up, I looked again.  Nothing.  When I flipped up the wool blanket that was laid across the end of the bed by my feet, I did see a small piece of tan fuzz which I assumed was part of the tan wool blanket. I flicked it away and resumed looking for a presumed scorpion.  Nothing. 

Ok, but now I’m sure something stung me because there is a burning sensation near my ankle that seems to be getting worse minute by minute.  I run over to my friend, Linzey’s casita, and ask her to look at my ankle.  She uses her tiny flashlight along with my tiny flashlight and she thinks she sees a tiny welt.  We decide we should try to find one of the call boxes along the dirt trails of the 12-acre resort to get help.  We start hoofing it uphill in the dark with only our tiny flashlights to light the path and seriously cannot find a call box, probably because we are starting to panic and did I mention, IT WAS DARK!  We make it uphill to the first yoga platform where we see another guest practicing and ask her to help us find the call boxes.  She went into momma bear mode and started running up and down the trails to no avail.  Linzey and I head in another direction and finally find a call box only to find that it is empty!  EMPTY!   Eventually, we find a second call box and now in the middle of being out of breath from speed walking uphill, a painful sting, and adrenaline, we have to figure out how to use a walkie-talkie.  I mean when was the last time you used a walkie-talkie?

The owner tells us to go back to our casita and she will meet us there.  Um no, because I am 100% sure I need to be in a place with electricity and the casita is downhill and I have no intention of walking back uphill twice.  By the time we hike up the rest of the hill to meet her and the paramedic at the restaurant, I am hopping up and down clasping my leg.  Our yoga friend yanks off her t-shirt, ties it around my knee and tells me I need a tourniquet (promptly removed).  The paramedic asks me no less than 5 times if my throat is closing.  The owner asks me what my pain scale is - it’s a 10.  “A ten?” she asks.  “I had a baby with no epidural, I know what a 10 is”, I respond, in my odd way of laughing through a trauma. 

Welts are now appearing, turning pink and crawling up my leg. My leg feels like it is on fire and the pain is traveling up toward my knee.  We talk a bit about what could have stung me and if I saw anything in my room. No to a scorpion.  I made a circle with my thumb and pointer finger about the size of a nickel and told them the only thing I saw on the bed was this little piece of lint under the wool blanket that I flicked away. Every single person dismissed it with a wave of the hand.  The paramedic, resort owner, and myself all presume it must have been a scorpion and that I need to go to the emergency room.  Linzey books it back to the casita and then back up again to the restaurant to bring me my passport in record time and we head out. 

In the midst of the chaos of an ER where you don’t speak the language, the paramedic takes a call from the resort and starts repeating “Gusano Quemador” to the doctor and nurses.  I am continuing to hop up and down in pain while they all seem to immediately dismiss me and I have no idea why!  My paramedic friend finally translate “Gusano Quemador “to “Burning Worm” in English (I might vomit this sounds so gross) and shows me a picture. Immediately, I’m like, “That’s the fuzz!  That’s a poisonous worm?”  Even though the urgency of my situation seemed to disappait immediately with this news, I still have no idea what this thing is, what it has done to me, what the treatment is, how long the pain will last, if there is anything I need to be worried about and all they keep repeating is, “You are going to be fine”.  They spray something on the welts (no idea what), give me a jab in the bum of analgesics, and send me home with prescription strength Advil and Benadryl cream. 

When we arrive back at the resort, they drive me right up to the casita on a hidden road, drop me off with a hotel escort and say, “Just yell, Jorge if you get a fever or need anything during the night “ I need a little more explanation than this, so I ask while cupping my hands around my mouth, “Like, yell out “Jorge, Jorge”?”  Yep, that’s exactly what they wanted me to do.  Okay.  Jorge walked me up to the room and showed me the culprit of all this drama.  He had been sent to my room to search for the “scorpion”.  After not finding anything the first time he was sent back to search again, where he discovered this little Gusano Quemador in the corner.  I still don’t know if he was looking for the scorpion the second time or if the owner had put two and two together with my sign language and English to Spanish translation of fuzz and instructed him likewise.

Basically that’s the end of the story; well, as much as the Gusano Quemador is concerned.  I know you all want to know how long the pain lasted, etc. etc.  I didn’t sleep much that night and the pain lasted 2 days.  Then it was gone.  Yep, gone, gone.  The welts however, continued to become redder as the days went by and are still there even now, post 3 weeks.  My Idaho friends keep insisting I go to the doctor here, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what they would know or even tell me about a poison worm from Mexico, so as long as it’s not getting worse… Oh, and the bill; it was $60 U.S. dollars.

Everyone had heard about my misadventures by breakfast the next morning and I could see some of the resort staff laughing whenever I said the bug was a caterpillar.  I had a feeling I didn’t really want to know the answer, but I eventually asked them if my fuzz was a caterpillar or worm.  They were sorry to tell me that it indeed is a worm!  Yuck.  

Moral of the story: take your Pipermoon blanket with you to all tropical destinations with nefarious bugs.  Easy to pack; easy to shake out, perfect for rooms without air conditioning and most importantly, ultra comforting if you find yourself visiting an emergency room in a third world country after being attacked by a scary bug you previously didn’t know existed!