|Steve working on removing the tick's head.|
I am good for nothing when a tick is involved. It has always been this way, even as a child they filled me with an instinctual panic unlike anything else. Having been through both of my dogs developing Lyme disease, and being diagnosed with it myself two years ago have only caused me to become more of a freaked out wreck when a tick is spotted. So you can imaging my unpleasant situation when the horrid thing was discovered on my little one's head.
I knew Penelope would freak out if she knew the truth, so I did my best to remain calm, but the gasp I made as I abruptly stopped combing her hair out clued her in. "What is it Mama?" she asked me with worry in her voice. "It's nothing, I'm just gonna see if I can reach Daddy on the phone real quick" - as usual, I was alone with the kids when something horrible was happening. "Please tell me what it is Mama!" she said, now with more than a bit of panic in her voice. Steve didn't answer his phone, so I sent a text. "Mama, you can tell me! Please, tell me!" she said sounding about how I felt. I tried to reach him on Facebook and sent him an e-mail. No response. "How can I have four ways to contact him and still not be able to reach him!" I tried to say in an un-hysterical voice, but of course failed. "Mama, please just tell me what it is" she said, starting to cry. "It's o.k. Pen, I'll tell you in a minute, I'm just not sure what I'm supposed to do, let me see if I can reach Daddy first." I said, beginning to feel a little faint. "It's o.k. Mama, I know what it is." she said, suddenly sounding calm. "It's a rat, isn't it." Well, I wasn't prepared for that. And it is true that I tell her that if she doesn't let me comb her hair out she'll get a rat's nest, but I only say it because that's what my mom said to me and it only means you'll get a huge tangle. I never thought that she'd think a rat would actually move into her hair and build a nest there. I suppressed the urge to burst into laughter, and then felt a little stab of sadness at the sweetness and innocence of her little self, and remembered how totally confusing this world must be to little people trying to figure it out. And then I thought that a tick couldn't be as bad as a rat living in your hair unnoticed for who knows how long. So I told her the truth. "No Pen, it's not that bad. There's a tick in your hair, that's all." Well, apparently my daughter inherited my ungodly fear of ticks because she immediately began screaming. Not crying screaming, but horror movie there's a guy with a giant knife in my shower trying to stab me kind of screaming. And shaking. Full body shaking. "Get it out, get it out!" she begged me. "I'm going to, but I don't remember how I'm supposed to do it and I can't reach Daddy to ask him how!" I tried not to shout, because really I felt like screaming horror movie style too. "Google it!" she screamed at me. Oh, duh. So, with a sobbing, shaking, occasionally moaning five year old on my lap I googled it and found out how to remove the tick properly.
To remove a tick properly you do not set it on fire, you do not cover it in petroleum jelly, you grasp it as close to the head as you can get with tweezers and very slowly pull, using only a slight pressure. This will cause the tick to release it's grasp and you can safely get the whole tick removed. Bull Shit. First of all, this has NEVER worked for me or anyone else I know. Second, even if it did sometimes work there is no way on earth anyone could do this to a freaked out, hysterical little kid. Of course you know what happened. The tick popped off but the head stayed in. I felt faint again, dizzy, sick to my stomach. I had to sit down. "Did you get it Mama?" she said with a combination of fear and hope. "Most of it" I said. And she began to cry hysterically again. "Is it's head still inside my head?" I nodded. "It's o.k., we'll call the doctor in the morning and see if we need to get it out or if it's o.k." I said, trying to sound like it was no big deal, but the truth was I still couldn't stand up.
After a while I put the tick in the freezer just in case. "Is it still eating me?" she wanted to know. I told her it was dead, couldn't hurt her anymore. I asked her to calm down and she asked me how I'd feel if there was a dead tick head in my head. She had a point. "I can feel it transmitting germs into my body" she said. Me: "No you can't, it's dead now." Pen: "I can FEEL it." Me: "No, Pen. It's like a splinter now, it's just a tiny thing that we need to get out, it can't eat you or transmit germs anymore" Pen: "I'm getting a headache, I think it's giving me diseases." Me: "Your head probably hurts because I just pulled a tick out of you, it's not giving you diseases." (I didn't fully believe any of what I was telling her, by the way.) We went back and forth like this for a while and then my phone rang.
"What's up?" Steve said. I updated him and he advised me to try to dig the rest of the tick out. I invited him to come home and do it himself. He thought it was possible for me to dig out the tick, apparently completely forgetting who Penelope and I both are. "Just tell her that if she sits very still you'll be able to dig the rest of it out." he said. I informed him that if I tried I would throw up and pass out. He said "o.k." in a sing song sort of way that I resented.
So, after a nightmare filled night for Pen - she went to bed saying "this was the worst day of my whole entire life", and a pretty much sleepless one for me (because of her nightmares) we headed to the doctor where we were informed that children are not given preventive treatment for Lyme disease because they can't take the antibiotic that is used. We also learned that the tick wouldn't be tested because it was a dog tick, not a deer tick, and they don't carry Lyme often. And finally we learned that there was no need to dig the head out, that her body would probably work it out on it's own like a splinter, but that if we saw more of it poking out we could try to pull it out.
And so finally our tale comes to an end with Steve at last being able to pull out the rest of the tick yesterday. There you have it. A real life horror story with a happy ending.