Monday, January 24, 2011

GROSS ME OUT; Or, Why My Brother Might Have to Sleep Outside in the Snow Tonight

What's a great way to top off a week in which you got a pap smear, got your baby's autopsy results, and nearly passed out from having blood drawn?

How about an infestation of blood-sucking parasites in your home?

Let me start at the beginning.

So my brother is visiting us.

Brandon has lived in Seoul, Korea since September of 2009.  He is an engineer for a big Korean electronics company.  So they have been working on some big project with an interactive TV system and they are interested in getting some American companies to write the software for their hardware.  Seeing as Brandon is fluent in English, he's on the team that they sent to the U.S. to have meetings with various companies.  (We were all relieved to learn that he did not wear the shiny silver suit that he bought at an outdoor Korean market to the business meetings.)

It has been good to have him here.  We hadn't seen him since we visited Seoul in July.  He didn't come home for the holidays this year, which ended up being for the best since pretty much the entire month of December is a dark, horrifying blur and we basically skipped Christmas all together so it would have made for a pretty miserable trip back to the states.  I try not to think too much about the fact that he's supposed to be meeting his niece.  In some ways, everything is just the way it's always been with all of us hanging out (including the fact that each person has his or her own laptop and sometimes we all sit in the same room and use them at the same time because we are uber nerdy).  Except there's someone missing.  And there will always be someone missing. And I'm still figuring out how to live with that empty place and to be perfectly honest, I hate that I will have to get good at living without her.

So anyway.  Brandon flew to LA for a meeting, then went to Boston for another meeting, then flew to New York for another meeting before coming to St. Louis to hang out with us and our dogs and my parents.  (I should add that the fact that he flew all over the country attending business meetings makes him sound far more professional and sophisticated than he actually is.  He's still the same dweeby little brother whose socks are all gray because he doesn't bother to separate lights and darks when he does laundry.)

He arrived Saturday afternoon and after pizza and a movie, Brandon crashed on the futon in our back room since my parents are in the guest room.

The next morning, we went out to breakfast at Uncle Bill's (a restaurant, not an actual person).  We got home and my brother casually mentioned that his arm itched.  He held up his elbow for my mom to examine.

And then all HELL broke loose.


Because my brother has (OMG, be still my gag reflex)... BED BUG BITES on his arm.

Evidently the hotel room he stayed in while in New York must have had F*CKING BED BUGS which he then undoubtedly carried to my HOUSE which has now inevitably become INFESTED with bed bugs.

I heard a whole story about them on NPR.  I'm not sure that link is the exact story I heard, which was about people who had to get rid of all their furniture and use a hair dryer on every page of any book they wanted to keep and throw out all their rugs and towels and EVERYTHING that might possibly hide a bed bug and coat themselves in vaseline before going to sleep.  It was a HORRIFYING story.

At first I thought my mom was joking about bed bugs because it almost looked like his arm had hives or something.  But evidently the school nurse at her school had looked up a picture of the bites online and my mom was pretty sure that's what they looked like.  A google image search confirmed that she was right.

OMFG my brother brought BED BUGS into my HOUSE.

My mom started googling it to confirm that Brandon's arm does indeed look just like the pictures of bed bugs on the internet.  Then she gave him a lecture on how to look for bed bugs in the mattress of a hotel bed.  And also put your suitcases in the bathtub, not on the carpet, until you have checked to make sure that the hotel room is bed bug free.

In the meantime, I shrieked about how disgusting he was and then got to work.  I stripped the bed and thrown all the bedding in the wash with hot water.  Then I made Brandon empty his suitcase into a trashbag until I could wash everything in it.  He emptied his back pack into another trash bag and threw the suitcase and back pack into the dumpster in the alley.  Once all of his belongings were safely encased in plastic, I thoroughly vacuumed the entire backroom, including the chairs and the futon mattress.  Then I pulled out our little Shark steamer and steam-cleaned the mattress and the chair and the rugs and the hardwood floor.  And we did laundry ALL day long.  One load after another, we ignored laundry instructions and washed everything in hot water and full heat in the dryer.  Sheets, blankets, pillows, the futon cover, Brandon's clothes, throw rugs, and anything else that could have possibly come within spitting distance of Brandon's suitcase and would fit in the washing machine.   

The whole time my head was itching like I had head lice. 

It was SO disgusting.  I am STILL completely grossed out.

Brandon has showered and is wearing clean clothes and my mom read online that bed bugs aren't really carried on the human body--they tend to get transported in the crevices of suitcases and in clothes.  Hopefully we have dealt with the potential problem sufficiently.  So I suppose we will let him sleep inside tonight instead of making him go out in the snow.

However, if he RUBS his arm on me one time in an effort to SPREAD the bed bug bites as though they are a contagious rash (because even though they are not, it FEELS like they are), I just might throw him out.

And So Help Me God if I wake up with bed bug bites tomorrow...


  1. OMG!!!

    My little brother lives in NYC and his law firm totally had bed bugs, so it's a foregone conclusion (in my mind) that he does too. Suitcase in the tub, indeed.

  2. oh, no. bed bugs are naaaaasty. one of my friends is a landlord (just has one little flat she rents out) and that got infested. it was awful.

    i hope you caught them all before they grabbed a toe hold :(

  3. Ugh! Stupid bed bugs! I hope you get rid of them all.

  4. Yuck, and yuck, and yuck. Even with the spoiler-email that prepared me for this, I am still really grossed out.

    Hope it's all taken care of.


  5. I itch. My skin is crawling. Sick, Brandon!

  6. When this issue started getting so much press, and photos of bedbugs started appearing in the papers, I realized (to my horror) that I had actually found a dead one on my carpet several years ago (!!). And when I thought about it, I remember my husband having these itchy red spots on his leg. I never realized what it might be. Thankfully (knocking wood here), I have not seen or felt any evidence of them since then. But every time we go away somewhere, everything gets dumped into the wash as soon as we get home, & the suitcases get thoroughly vaccuumed out!

  7. Oh, and PS, I totally heard an episode of This American Life about bedbugs and now it keeps coming back to haunt me.

    How long is the incubation period? When can we all sleep easy(er) knowing that you didn't get infested?

  8. *shudder* I hope everything ended well, aka no contamination.