At 5am am on Sunday morning we docked at the commercial pier in Punta Arenas in Chile, along side one of the huge ocean going commercial tugs that service the shipping that goes through the Straits of Magellan and the southern waters, nothing too fancy but quiet and stopped.
But 6am I was at the newly build reception rooms of the public hospital of Punta Arenas, there was only an old man sleeping in a line of chairs that could seat 100 people, a nice warm place as even in November Punta Arenas can be bitterly cold when it chooses.
By 6.15am and some interrogation by a young intern, I hear him talk to the medical staff that he had a gringo who had a bit of a problem, laughter and chatter in Spanish as to whom was going to see the victim made it very apparent that it had been a long, slow and boring night.
By 6.20am it was quite clear to the doctor at hand, an experienced naval surgeon that this was not a laughing matter.
He told me that the local anaesthetic was going to hurt, but the first sting of the needle made me cringed but as he slid the needle deeper and deeper into my skin and flesh I screamed, bloody hell ! what's the rest of this going to be like I wondered.
After a short while to let the drugs kick in he then started then started to cut, it felt like someone tearing at the top of a can of vegetables with a pull ring that needs a final grand tug to get it open, shit I screamed again
even though I was already feeling wimpish from my first yelp.
Ah Stephen, this is not what you think, this is one of the most impressive cases of this that I have seen the doctor tells me. At this stage, all of his team of nurses and students are lined up around me sharing thoughts of medical knowledge and others having a quiet chuckle about how they would hate to have this problem themselves, how embarrassing !
The surgeon then continued to cut, he went in with a circular motion to take a large tubular core out of me, this I definitely didn't expect, as my own diagnosis on board had visions quite different.
He proudly showed me the core of flesh which he cut, black, dead and lifeless, hmm what can you say, but thanks.
By 7.15 am I was loaded up with enough drugs, anti-imflamatories and antibiotics to kill a horse.
The problem had started after a day and a half after leaving Valdivia to head south to Tierra del Fuego, I noticed that on my left buttocks that there was the start to an annoyingly large pimple. After a day or so more and regular tea tree oil, the problem was getting much worse.
I have never had a boil or abscess on my buttocks, salt water boils in arms and the neck but this was really talking it to extremes. The days wore on and the pain and size of the abyss was unbelievable. The crew saw me cringe with pain as we sailed the boat or sat down, the boat movement wouldn't allow me to sleep, every wave woke the partial sleep that I was meant to be enjoying.
After four days of pain I had to share the problem, Meghann offered to have a look as she had had a bad infection before on her leg. Well the look on her face was not of joy when she saw what was on my ass, but she managed it well and agreed that it was bad, Nic in hearing the talk ducked around the corner to peak and in a good old Kiwi way, said "Struth mate that must hurt".
I searched through all our medical books and check the stocks of all the different antibiotics on board and came up with a choice of a strong penicillin based antibiotic to heal and rid my poor ass of this infernal
The days went on and the size grew and grew, with your hand fully stretched out it would only just reach the sides of this massive raised infection that was so hot and painful and hard. I of course tried to push and squeeze a bit, even knowing that this was not the approved way to deal with a boil or abscess , but the agony and pain was relentless, never stopping, never easing and each movement on board made it worse.
A strange sick side of me wanted to know more about it so we took a photo, it was scary, it looked more like a badly swollen breast of a nursing mother who's 2 year old teething son had been gnawing at her nipple (not that I have seen one of these)
We arrived in port and you know the rest, but what the surgeon told me was that it wasn't an abscess at all, other wise there would have been a lot of rubbish and waste exit when he opened me up. But it was a perfect case of a Chilean Spider, called an Arana del Rincon, Corner spider or scientifically Loxosceles Laeta, in Chile they only have two animals that are venomous and both are spiders, and this was one.
Even though they are at their worst or most venomous during spring (yes now in November) they can be lethal if they bit close to a vital organ, glad that they liked my ass ! so who was a lucky boy.
After 2 weeks of 4mg of antibiotics each day and the other drugs it seems to be on the mend, so I chuckle a bit when I remember the nursery rhyme of little Miss Muffet who sat on her tuffet.