Expat Adventure: What Lurks in Dark Corners

by Miss Footloose

After my nightly shower in my lovely bathroom here in Moldova, I make an unpleasant discovery: A tiny dark alien thing has taken up residence at the top of my left leg, in the groin area. There’s not supposed to be anything dark and alien sitting there, and certainly not after a shower. I try to brush it away, but it doesn’t budge and to my utter disgust I see it’s a bug, and it’s stuck, and yes, it’s a black tick.

In that place? How in the world did it get there? I did not dally in any forests lately, naked or otherwise.

Dallying in the forest, or The Dream by Henri Rousseau

I did not leave the centru of Chisinau. I did not even sit on the patio today because it was too hot. And no, I do not dry my clothes by spreading them out on the ground or on bushes.

At my wails of dismay, my prince, already in bed, leaps to may aid. He checks out the creature with the magnifier, and yes, it’s a tick, wiggly legs and all. Time for the computer.  We Google Moldova and ticks and it’s not pretty what comes up. You should try it. Ever heard of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever?  Symptoms include fever, vomiting, bleeding on the roof of the mouth, stuff like that.

Now, I am a writer and have a fertile imagination and I am sure you can imagine the scenarios going through my head, so I won’t elaborate on them. I won’t even look for photos on the subject. I may never sleep again.

NOTE:  Yes, I know, ticks are everywhere, and being impaled by one is not necessarily a typical expat experience, but bear with me.

We find instructions on how to remove a tick, also on the computer. (Have a look, it’s charming.) We hunt down some tweezers, but I have no alcohol or other disinfectant stuff, because I didn’t ship them when we moved to Moldova, thinking I’d buy them when I got there. Then I didn’t buy them. But we do have a bottle of vodka left by the landlord, so we splash that on my private area (a new experience for me), and wipe the tweezers with it.

Then my man goes in for the kill, or rather the extraction of the varmint. Unfortunately, despite following graphic instructions on the computer screen, the tick won’t let go and ends up being ripped in half. After plucking more bits and pieces of the rest of the corpse from my skin, we have to give up. The head is still in there. It is 11 in the evening and we decide to wait till morning to see if we’ll need an ambulance and then go from there.

Somehow I manage to sleep and in the morning the scene of the crisis still looks the same and I decide to avail myself of the services of Medpark, a brand new international hospital. I taxi over there and present myself at the desk. I show the cheery young woman behind it the decapitated tick corpse resting on a piece of cotton that I had sequestered in a plastic baggy. She speaks lovely English, and takes charge of me.

Not the skirt I was wearing, but this one made a better picture.

Within ten minutes I am in an examining room with two non-English speaking doctors in green surgery garb. They are good-looking types, like you see on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, or ER, which is always reassuring, don’t you think? I hike up my skirt and show them my groin, feeling so elegant and delicate doing this.

I’m asked where I got this thing. Had I been in the woods or out in the countryside?  They are amazed when I tell them nu!, I’ve only been here in the centru of town.

I am told it is good that I came because the head should be removed. I am instructed to lie down on the examining table. One of the docs disappears and is replaced by a nurse. Miss English is still with me, assuring me all will be fine and the operation won’t take long, and am I feeling all right? I tell her I am fine, I am very tough.

The team gets ready with the usual operating stuff, all proper and sterile and so forth, which is to be expected in a super nice clean brand new hospital. Miss English keeps reassuring me as if I am a frightened child. I will be fine. It will be over soon. The handsome doc is joking with her and she tells me he is a cardiovascular surgeon and this is his operation of the century. Apparently he was running loose doing nothing and was roped in to tend to me.

He has plucked the head of the tick corpse out in no time and I get a bandage, but no further instructions. Nothing to worry about. I ask if it is not dangerous, thinking of vomiting and bleeding on the roof of the mouth.

“Oh, no,” says Miss English, “not in Moldova. In Russia, yes!  You can die!” (From Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever perchance?)

I thank the doc for his operating expertise and he grins and takes off. Miss English takes me to the office and another lovely person gets my bill ready. It comes rolling out of the printer with two items on it:  One for what I can figure out means “dressing,” the other for the actual procedure. The total is the equivalent of $ 8.50 or € 6. Actually this is the charge for the “dressing” only because the procedure is listed as costing 0 as in zero. Apparently the cardiovascular surgeon considered it below his dignity to charge for extracting a tick head from my, well, you know where.

You just gotta love this.

* * *

Surely you have tales of greater horrors than this, about alien invaders like guinea worm or hook worm. Or perhaps you have an interesting doctor story to share. Make my day!

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Scary! It’s good that your price was there to help. It always helps to have support through difficult times.

Oh, how I wish you all hadn’t posted links to your pictures–EWWW!! I had a tick in my hair in Georgia because I lived in the woods, but my son got it off by putting nail polish on him so he’d have to come out to breath–or something like that.

OMG! Poor you!

Yikes. Yikes. Yikes.

S’all I kept thinking.

I was hoping to see a photo of the handsome doc. to make me feel better! 🙂

A flea from some friends’ dog came home with me. It bit me while I was fast asleep in bed. I searched all night for it. I didn’t find it until some days later, on the floor. Or were there TWO?!? Oh the horror.

What? You mean you’ve NEVER poured vodka on your private areas?! Come on!
No, just kidding. That would certainly have been a new experience for me as well. You were very brave. I would not have been able to sleep knowing there was the head of a tick hanging out close to my nether regions.

Great story (you hooked me with the picture of George Clooney!). My only tick story here in South Africa is that I got tick bite fever after just 3 weeks here, but unlike you I HAD been in the bush and high grass, so it was no surprise to the doctors. Just to me, who had never heard of tick bit fever. It’s actually a nice kind of fever to get, as far as ticks go, because it is easily treated with antibiotics.

A few weeks ago, a tick lodged itself in my leg too and I didn’t discover it until I was sitting with my daughter, chatting. She screamed: “Mom! There’s a tick on you!” I wish she’d done as good a job as your doctor getting the thing out — or that I’d have the sense to douse it with vodka afterwards — she spent a good ten minutes, trying to gouge it out of my leg. I’ve got disinfectant now too — and my daughter now knows that you can’t spit on somebody’s tick bite to disinfect it, even if… Read more »

I was in Italy a few years ago, working, when after having visited the bathroom only have an hour earlier, I needed it again. I stopped as soon as I could and went, but not much came. I realised I probably had some bladder infection or other and would need medication. A day later I finally got a doctor out, I explained everything to him in baby Italian: when I want to go pipi, it goes ouch. He then examined me (sort of), asked me a lot of questions and finally agreed with me: it was a urinary tract infection… Read more »


I didn’t know whether to laugh or get the hibbie gibbies with this post. I’m sure glad you get that nasty little bugger out of there, but I loved the part about the vodka!

Nasty little creatures they are! I can’t believe that the decapitated head remained stuck to your skin. I totally would have panicked if I was in your situation. I’ve heard some pretty nasty camping stories about lyme disease from ticks.

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