"Apparently what the ER removed was not the entire roach"
What is your worst nightmare?
Both personal experiences, dubious viral stories from the web, weird world news reports, and the public imagination from various works of fiction from Hollywood and beyond have likely contributed to your deepest and darkest fears. For many of us, the scary images and iconography we saw as children have likely stuck with us to some extent, from movies like The Exorcist and Jaws to urban legends like “The Babysitter” (the call is coming from inside the house!), eerie tales and visuals have the uncanny ability to stay with us for much of our lives, even well beyond the age when it’s socially acceptable to be frightened by such trivial things. Even the psychological thriller and horror sensation that is Stephen King’s It (both the novel and the TV and film adaptations, respectively) is entirely based off the concept of our worst fears manifesting in some supernatural, alien form to haunt us. After all, they say that there’s nothing to fear except fear itself.
But for most humans, even the most natural or quotidian of people, places, and things can ingrain themselves in our minds and metamorphose into the stuff of nightmares. Who didn’t have a bad experience with a certain animal or even a room of the house (basement or attic, anyone?) as a child, only to still feel an aversion to that particular creature or place years later? It’s in our human nature—perhaps from our most animalistic of survival instincts—to be afraid. And sometimes, it’s for a very good reason.
There are some things in life that nobody ever wants to experience. The death of a loved one, for example, or getting fired from a job you love (or need), or becoming gravely injured, or having an animal burrow itself deep into the orifices of your body. Say what? Yes, you read that right. And if you shuddered just a bit, this very real story of what happened to one young woman in Florida may not be something you feel like reading today. But what do you say, are you ready for a new nightmare?
The word “pest” derives from the Latin pestis meaning “a deadly contagious disease; a curse, bane”—and if you’ve ever experienced a pest of any kind, shape, or size in or around your home, you’ll understand why.
Even humanity’s largest cities and greatest accomplishments are imperfect, for wherever humans go to settle, pests are sure to follow. Along with our towering skyscrapers and shining cities exist the darker and dingier places—most notably, the underground—where innumerable animals and creatures gather and thrive while living off of the discarded scraps that the booming population above readily provides.
That being said, it’s not wonder major American cities and metropolitan regions are so plagued by countless, creepy-crawly pests. Among these, the most notable are rodents and roaches, of various kinds, sizes, and appetites, of course. According to the US Census Bureau’s biennial study of housing quality, these pests are most heavily concentrated along the East Coast, namely in the Northeast and the South.
When it comes to roaches, specifically, it’s no surprise for those who have lived in or traveled to the South to learn that the warm, humid southern states are the preferred choices of residency for these ancient insects. In New Orleans alone, some 41% of households reported that they had encountered roaches in their home at some point. Out of the top ten American cities with cockroach problems, nine are in the southern half of the country, and seven are in the Southeast.
But regardless of where you live, you’ve still probably encountered a roach or several (there’s never just one…) at some point in your life. While you may associate them with dingy, moist places or kitchens where crumbs have been left about, that’s not always the case. In fact, roaches have been known to be even more invasive, and not just into homes, but into human bodies as well.
A Rude Awakening
Katie Holley is from Melbourne, Florida—a city of about 76,000 people located southeast of Orlando on Florida’s Atlantic coast. With average temperatures ranging between 50 and 70 degrees in the winter months, it’s no wonder why Melbourne remains such a popular destination for Floridians and tourists alike. But these people aren’t the only ones who enjoy the warm Florida climate.
Katie, who is 29 years old, bought her first house with her husband in Melbourne just last year. She recalls how lucky they were to have found a house that only required minimal work, and even then it consisted of fixer-upper tasks that they were excited to do for cosmetic reasons; none of the changes they wanted to make were “absolute necessities.”
How nice is it to move into a home that’s ready for you to live there as well? While most people can only afford something that’s too tiny for their needs or that requires a substantial amount of work even after all the effort of finding it, purchasing it, and moving in, Katie and her husband had found a new home that sounded perfectly dreamy. Perfectly dreamy, that is, except for one, teeny-tiny problem.
Katie explains: “One annoying, consistent downside of our new home was the presence of cockroaches—otherwise known as palmetto bugs down here—thanks to the Florida climate.
“Anyone who has lived in a humid location is probably well-acquainted with these flying, horrifying monsters. I learned that they tend to take shelter in homes in hot or wet weather, although they can show up out of nowhere.”
Fed up with the unpleasant infestation plaguing their new home, Katie finally reached out and contacted an exterminator to take care of the problem. “A few weeks ago, [the exterminator] walked around and sprayed the outside of the house as well as the baseboards in every room in the interior. My husband and I felt good about this. We decided to spend $85 every three months for what we felt was important for our peace of mind. Unfortunately, our sense of relief that we wouldn’t find any more roaches was a little premature.”
Just when they thought they had taken care of their little problem, everything went wrong. Like, the most wrong this sort of situation could possibly go. Katie’s story isn’t for the faint of heart.
“Last month, in the middle of the night, I woke up startled. It felt like someone had placed a chip of ice in my left earhole—but it was something way worse.
“I shot up out of bed, disoriented, and stumbled to the bathroom. I could feel that my ear was not right. I grabbed a cotton swab and gently inserted it into my ear to see what was up and I felt something move.”
What would you even do at this point? While many of us might immediately pass out or completely give up on life, Katie persevered to find out what exactly was inside her hear. (Hint: It wasn’t just wax.)
You heard that correctly
Katie continues her story:
“When I pulled the cotton swab out, there were two dark brown, skinny pieces stuck to the tip. Moments later, I came to the realization that they were legs. LEGS. Legs that could only belong to an adventurous palmetto bug exploring my ear canal.
“I started to hyperventilate, and my husband searched furiously for his glasses and joined me in the bathroom. He looked into my ear and confirmed that there was a roach trying to burrow its way to my brain. (OK, I know the ear canal isn’t a hop, skip, and a jump away from the brain, but that’s immediately where my mind went.)
“In that moment, my husband was my only hope. He grabbed a pair of tweezers, located the thickest part of the roach that was visible (I KNOW) and tried to very delicately extract it. (For what it’s worth, my husband is a professional percussionist, and all of his hand movements are very precise.)
“Unfortunately, he only managed to pull two of its spiky legs off. At that point, it was clear I needed to go to the ER.”
Yes, it’s just as bad as you probably thought. Actually, it might be worse, because the only thing more sickening and terrifying than pulling a bug out of your ear is pulling only half a bug out of your ear. Katie’s nightmare was far from over, and in fact, it was only beginning. Talk about a rude awakening in the middle of the night. Her journey continued at the hospital.