Last Christmas, Mike and I travelled the long distance to New Zealand to see his best mate and wife who had relocated out there. We were to arrive on Christmas morning as school didn’t break up until right before Christmas. We were hoping for a fun, sun-filled 5 days with our friends and had then got a flight back to Austria via Dubai where we thought we would spend New Years Eve. Admittedly, it was rather a long way to go for 10 days in total, but we like to try and maximise all the time and we hadn’t taken a long-haul flight in while and had therefore forgotten how draining they are!
We were picked up by Rich, Em and Laura; Mike’s crew from school days and it was fantastic seeing them. We spent Christmas day in the sun, baking our pasty arms that hadn’t received much vitamin D over the Austrian winter, drinking rum out of coconuts and exchanging ridiculous presents. We had a BBQ for Christmas dinner- something I’ve always wanted to do; not that I haven’t had a BBQ before, but a CHRISTMAS BBQ is obviously so much different…!
After relaying the past year or so to each other and catching up on our differing lives- Rich and Em both work at a hospital in Auckland, Laura is based in London and works in television, and Mike are I are teaching in Vienna- I thought it an excellent idea to have a game of rounders in their fairly sizeable garden using wine bottles as bats and coconuts as stumps. Since moving abroad, I’ve come to realise that rounders is very much a British game. Kept mainly for school days and has more than often been banned since children are apparently quite susceptible to throwing the wooden bat up in to the air before running to the first post, forgetting, in their excitement, that a line of peers, waiting hungrily for their turn, are directly behind them. Queue bruised heads and shattered teeth.
Our game started triumphantly, with no wine bottles splintering the grass. Because it was warm and the grass was soft, we played with no shoes on. After our feet being cooped up in snow boots for the last month, it was a delight to have the grass tickle our toes. In hindsight, this was probably not the best idea. Although nor was playing rounders either. Halfway through our competitive game and Em had just struck a winning bat. I was in the process of the final stretch home when I felt a small prick on the side of my second toe on my left foot. I didn’t think too much of it though and we carried on.
Later that evening, after probably too much wine had been consumed, I began to feel a strong throbbing sensation in my toe and noticed that my toe-ring had become too small for the rapidly swelling skin around it. I simply raised it up high, put some frozen peas on it and we all went to bed feeling happily boozy.
The next morning, it hadn’t gone down but it also hadn’t got worse so off we went to a beach where we donned wetsuits and snorkelled around the reef spotting manta rays, which was wonderful. However, that afternoon, the swelling got a little worse and the foot started to blow up. Em, thankfully being a nurse, assured me it was probably nothing- maybe a reaction to a mosquito or a stinging nettle. We rang a help-line to get advice from someone else who said to just keep it raised and it should go down by tomorrow.
Tomorrow morning and my whole foot had turned an ugly shade of yellow and was now extremely painful! Without wanting to wake the others, Mike and I walked (goodness knows why we didn’t call a taxi) firstly to a local doctors whereby we were told that it was way too serious and we should go to hospital immediately. At this point, Rich and Em drove to pick us us and take us to their hospital where they knew the staff and their way around, which was so helpful.
After a surgeon had announced that I would be ‘lucky to keep the toe’, we realised that it probably wasn’t just a case of being stung by a stinging nettle! And, indeed, the surgeon found two tiny bite marks on the side of my toe. Unfortunately, because I have some metal work going on in my left ankle (from a previous break), infections tend to spread very quickly toward metal, which could have made things very serious. And in this case, the swelling and redness was definitely creeping up my foot. So I was put on quite a lot of antibiotics intravenously and told I would be staying in hospital for the next three days. Images of enjoying the New Zealand sun whilst wine tasting, eating oysters on the bay, and exploring the beautiful coast-line quickly vanished before me, and was replaced with jelly. Endless amounts of jelly. Because no matter where I go, hospitals always seem to give me jelly to eat.
Still, Mike was able to enjoy parts of New Zealand (when he wasn’t having to listen to me getting upset and moaning about missing out, or on the phone to Emirates trying to delay our flight to Dubai) and we still made it to Dubai for New Years Eve, where we were able to relax and recuperate after the last dramatic week. To this day, I still have no idea what might have bitten me in New Zealand- a country not particularly known for its dangerous creatures!!