The Penny

Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.

[Tuesday, May 5, 2009]

I Wanna Be in Goshen

This is what started it all...

Actually, a "rash" started it all.

Two weeks ago, Laynie got this red, puffy rash that looked pretty nasty but wasn't terribly itchy. It was on her arms, legs, neck, and back. After a few days, she decided to go to the doctor to have it checked out. Her family doctor referred her to a dermatologist, who took one look and said, "Anyone could tell those are bug bites. Probably fleas." He gave her a prescription for a cream but warned that we would have to figure out what was biting her and get rid of it. Easier said than done! I knew it wasn't fleas, because my family's dog got fleas once and I remembered that you could see them jumping around on the rug. Plus, I didn't have any bites... oh, wait, upon further inspection, I had two. One on my leg, and a very itchy one on my elbow. They looked totally different from Laynie's (small bumps), but the dermatologist thought they were likely from the same culprit.

That dermatologist visit was on Friday, April 24. That night, we started tearing apart the apartment, looking for bugs. We did not have much luck until Laynie pulled up a couch cushion and we found a red bug with blood smears around it (she probably smashed it when she pulled up the couch cushion). After some Googling, we identified it as a cimex lectularius. Bed bugs. Bad. Very, very bad.

I am becoming a veritable expert on the subject of bed bugs. And they suck. Literally.

We ended up finding 5 or 6 bed bugs that night, in the living room and the green bedroom. We did not find any in our bedroom, although obviously the bites were evidence that they had been there. I think neither of us slept much that night.

Saturday morning, we were waiting at the apartment office, with our little baggie of bugs, when they opened. The girl working that day, Jenn, took it pretty seriously and called the emergency line for the exterminators. Laynie and I went home and started cleaning and looking for more bugs. We didn't last long before we packed a few things and checked into a nearby hotel. Bed bugs do something to you psychologically.

We had developed dozens of bite marks by this time. Mine were INSANELY itchy, and some of Laynie's were getting itchy, as well. Funny that our reactions were so different. Hers show up right away and are big and red. Mine seem to show up a few days after the bite, only a few have gotten big, and almost all of them have been tear-your-skin-off itchy. However, bed bug bites are known to cause scars, so I have been careful about not scratching them.

So we stayed in the hotel all weekend (not this past weekend but the one before). When I called the apartment manager on Sunday, she tried to give me crap about paying for the hotel. "We'll have to find our where exactly the bugs are and where they came from before we make any decisions." The bed bugs I found didn't have their passports on them. But it did get me thinking... Where DID the bed bugs come from? I was thinking that they came from the Indian people who lived here before us. India is lousy with bed bugs (many of their babies are anemic because of it), and these people went back and forth from India. But who would live with bed bugs without telling the apartment complex? It's miserable. Unless they did tell the apartment complex, and that's why the carpets in this apartment were replaced. But Jenn looked surprised to hear that we had found bed bugs, and she didn't recognize them... she took our word for it. The office staff was tentative until pest control confirmed that they were bed bugs. Laynie might have seen one in the apartment before we moved in, but she isn't totally sure. I remember seeing a couple of bugs in the apartment before we moved in, but they were different... they had wings. 

Another explanation could be the moving van. They had blankets in there, which they wrapped around our stuff. That might explain why we didn't have any bites for the first week and a half we lived here. I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me if that truck were infested... read my post on the move and you'll see what I mean.

Pest control did not call back the apartment managers until Monday, and they came out and treated the place that day. They used a powder and a liquid apparently (we were at work), and they put "glue boards" under the wheels of the beds. Glue boards are pieces of cardboard and have toxic, gluey stuff on the top side. They are placed under bed legs and allegedly stop the little buggers in their tracks. When we returned Tuesday morning (we missed check out time on Monday and were glad to have one more night feeling safe), there were bed bugs on the blue boards of both of our beds. There was also one crawling on my bed. Sigh.

We were both busy with work last week; plus it was Laynie's last week of school, and she had papers and projects due. So we didn't get a lot of cleaning done, although we did try to keep laundry going. Every piece of fabric in the apartment had to be washed, and I decided to wash clothing after each wearing. Usually I use pajamas a few times before washing them, but I didn't want to take any chances.

We continued to find live and dead bed bugs all week. On Saturday and Sunday, I was finally able to focus on really cleaning this place. Laynie had a lot of grading to catch up on, so she did that. Keep in mind that we just most a few weeks ago, so we still had plenty of unpacking to do. I worked a lot in the green bedroom, which had the most to do. My goal was to get that room completely unpacked and move the boxes from the blue bedroom (ours), which were mostly books. We were planning to get shelves for them to put in our bedroom, but I wanted that room as bare as possible. Pest control had told me that bed bugs can live in paper products. My other goal for the weekend was to get through the large bags of clothing, bedding, blankets, towels, etc., which were in the living room and dining room. On Saturday, I got the green bedroom mostly finished. Also, we went out and bought some battle gear: carpet tape to put on the bed legs, "Space Bags" to store cleaned fabric items in, etc. 

On Sunday, I finished the green bedroom, got the book boxes from the blue bedroom into the green bedroom, and finally got into the laundry. We did not go to church, because we did not have any "safe" clothes. Our only safe clothes were a couple of t-shirts, jeans, and pajamas. We finally found the church clothes yesterday, so we should be able to go this week. I know that they think we're apostates, because we didn't go for two Sundays, and we had missed a few before Conference for other reasons... oh, well.

Pest control had told me they would come back in a week, so I called the office yesterday to see when they would be coming. Naturally, they had not spoken with pest control, but they got in touch with them and set an appointment for today. For some reason, it has now been put off until tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to getting new glue boards under the bed legs and more poison powder put down. Any little devils that have hatched in the past week need to be killed. And my goodness, they are tiny little devils!

I had packed my stereo (CD player with separate speakers) in an insulated Giant bag to move it. The bag has a fabricky exterior and a shiny silver sort-of-like-foil interior. I took the stereo out on Saturday and set it up on a bookshelf in the green bedroom. I noticed some junk in the bottom of the bag... dead bugs? They turned out to be dead adult bed bugs, which are about the size and shape of apple seeds. What I thought were little poopies or shed exoskeletons turned out to be bed bug nymphs (babies). They were so small! And translucent. I found 4 live bugs in that bag, all nymphs, and 24 dead bugs. I had been feeling pretty decent (slept more than 45 minutes in a stretch on Friday night for the first time since this all began), but that just destroyed me. How would we ever find bugs so tiny and translucent? We might not even notice them if they were on us. I decided to check the stereo itself and found two under it. I put it back in the bag, sealed it, and threw it away.

Who knows how many other hiding spots (clutches?) the bed bugs have established here. They can live in cracks in walls, under baseboards and carpets, in electrical outlets, and in light fixtures. When I cleaned the apartment over the weekend, I found none in the blue bedroom or the living room. However, I found one crawling on my bed last night, and we still get a couple every night on the glue boards. Since returning from the hotel a week ago, we have found 36 live and 31 dead bed bugs. 

We have had less new bites in the past few days than before, but we are both totally paranoid. We are jumpy, always thinking we see or feel a bug on us, and we have nightmares about it. Actually, we pushed our beds together Sunday night... I guess it somehow feels like we're "united" against the marauders. Honestly, the psychological impact is the worst. These creatures suck your blood while you are at your most vulnerable: while you're sleeping. You can't feel them crawl on you, and their saliva has a numbing effect, so you don't feel the bites while they are happening. Clean houses are as likely to get them as dirty houses, because they don't eat junk that is lying around. They eat people.

I don't need horror stories. I know that they are extremely difficult to get rid of, etc., etc., etc. Please do include us in your prayers, however. Bed bugs have to obey God, right? We are learning a lot from this experience and are seeing the hidden blessings. We now have an extremely clean apartment and got unpacked much faster than we otherwise would have. I will forever be grateful for the simple blessing of having as much blood when I wake up as I had when I fell asleep. I'll certainly never complain about ants again! It's probably time for this trial to be over.

Laundry calls. 

The first group of offenders. 
Good thing we saved them in these baggies, because 
pest control found nothing when they checked our apartment. 
This evidence got our apartment treated.


Laynie | May 5, 2009 at 8:13 PM

Seriously---Bed bugs STILL give me plenty of nightmares even daydream! Before you buy or move into a house or an apartment, make sure there are ZERO bed bugs. If the place had before, it's not worth moving in. I promise you. RUN AWAY from it. It will drag you just like caveman dragging the cavewoman. Sounds pain? Save your butt, arms, legs, and head even your time. It's VERY DIFFICULT to ride ALL of 'em. Ew. EW!! EWWW! I better stop blah blah blah or I'll get more nightmare tonight.

Annie | May 5, 2009 at 8:16 PM

Great advice, Laynie. Great advice.

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