It was going to be a routine day for Diane Shaline on June 14 as she slipped on a pair of clogs in her garage, got into her SUV and headed for the office.
As she backed out of the garage, she felt a sharp pain on the joint of her left big toe.
“It reminded me of the cactus I used to step on when I was growing up in Grandview,” Shaline said. “I shook out my clog on the driver's floor mat and drove away.”
The stinging continued. By the time she arrived at Mountain Bike Specialists, where she works in sales and accounting, Shaline was in pain and felt a tightening in her abdomen.
“I added 2 and 2 and realized I'd been bitten by something,” Shaline said. “I returned to my car, and on the driver's floor mat I found a dead black widow spider.”
The adult female black widow, with the identifying red hourglass shape on its underside, is the most poisonous spider in North America.
But despite its fearsome reputation, the mortality rate from a bite is less than 1 percent, said Dr. John McManus, medical director of the emergency department at Mercy Regional Medical Center.
“Victims may feel like they're going to die, but a black widow bite is very rarely fatal,” McManus said.
The difficulty in diagnosing a black widow bite, he said, is that the symptoms mimic crises such as appendicitis or a gall bladder attack.
McManus recalled a case 10 years ago. He had eliminated other possible emergencies and was preparing to check for a possible blood clot in the lung, McManus said, when the woman's boyfriend brought in a black widow in a jar.
“He asked, ‘Does this help at all?'” McManus said. “I didn't have to work up any other tests.”
Shaline, knowing she needed medical attention, visited a doctor who pooh-poohed the gravity of her case even though she had the offending spider in a baggie. She was advised to buck up and return to work, Shaline said.
She got a second opinion later from a different doctor and was soon was on her way home with strong pain medication. It was only two hours since she'd left, but she had severe pain in her muscles, joints and bones.
“I couldn't sit still, watch TV or do anything,” Shaline said. “In the next eight hours I took hot baths, went through, about six Lortabs and eight Ibuprofens, and prayed.”
Later in the evening, Shaline went to Animas Surgical Hospital, where she was put on intravenous pain medication.
Although the pain gradually decreased over four days and finally ceased, Shaline continued to have a sense of vertigo. She described the sensation as a person without sea legs trying to walk aboard a ship.
Just before the July 4 weekend, during a pedicure, the scab covering the bite broke, exuding a yellowish liquid.
“It weeped for three days,” Shaline said. “I think it was the venom being released.”
If there was anything positive from the experience, Shaline said, it was the loss of six pounds in a week, which has stayed off.
“I call it my black-widow diet,” Shaline said. “But I don't recommend it.”
Shonda Chumley, a pre-school aide at Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary School, knows the agony Shaline went through.
“It was two years ago, about this time of year,” said Chumley, who lives in Marvel. “I woke up about 3 a.m. when something bit me on my left breast.
“It was dark, and I was half asleep so I threw whatever it was into the room,” she said. “I couldn't find it when I got up, but a few hours later, I began to feel weird.
“I decided to go to the emergency room at Animas Surgical Hospital,” she said. “But by the time I was on Wildcat (Canyon Road), I was in unbearable pain.
“I had 24 hours of labor with one of my children, but it was nothing compared to this,” Chumley said. “It felt like I was getting electrical shocks in all my joints and in every muscle.”
The emergency room physician diagnosed the problem and put her on intravenous pain killers.
Chumley spent two or three more days in discomfort before her condition returned to normal.
“This is funny,” Chumley said. “I still wasn't feeling fully well, but I had to deliver a horse to Arizona. The weather was hot, and I guess the sun beating directly into the cab turned my water bra into a heat pad that drew out the venom.
“When I reached my destination, my bra was stained yellow.”