CAMPBELL COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — A Campbell County woman was hospitalized for nearly a week after a 10-hour kayaking trip along the Staunton River led to a serious spider bite.
Sherri Maddox says she floated from the Long Island area near Gladys to Brookneal. One day later, she recognized a suspicious bite on her lip.
At first, doctors struggled to treat it. Now, Maddox says she’s just glad she lived to warn others about what’s out there.
“I cried, it was terrible, I thought I was going to die, you know, it was a lot of pain,” said Maddox.
She realized that something bit her and, two days later, found that it was a brown recluse.
First, Maddox went to the Gretna Emergency Center and was given antibiotics. At this point, she wasn’t too worried about the bite. However, it got worse and so did her fear for how dangerous it could be.
“I’m almost 50 and I’ve been floating in the Staunton River since I could swim, six years old,” Maddox said. “I was just praying I wasn’t going to die because I hear horror stories and you look on the internet and see all this stuff.”
Doctors told Maddox it was a bite from a brown recluse spider. Lynchburg General Hospital was full at the time, so she was sent to a hospital in Bedford. She says she’s thankful for the doctors and nurses there who worked to help her.
“I hallucinated a lot and thought it was because of the pain meds they gave me, but I heard from several different people that that’s what the spider venom does,” said Maddox.
Her hallucinations came and went for the first five days of her hospitalization.
“I just thought I was at my mom’s house or my sister’s house and then I’d get out and go look out the hospital room and realized I was in the hospital,” Maddox explained.
Eventually, the swelling went down and, even though she’s still on antibiotics, she’ll be okay.
Lynchburg entomologist David Moore says this kind of spider is typically found in the eastern part of Tennessee, but he wouldn’t be surprised if they made their way somewhere else.
“You’re typically going to find brown recluse around rocks, piles of innertubes, utility boxes, piles, under bark, and other areas,” said Moore. “Inside a home, they like to be in undisturbed areas, so like in boxes, among some papers.”
According to Moore, the spiders’ legs can be a few inches long and you can come across them around Christmas time when decorations are being unpacked from boxes that have been sitting in a basement or attic for a while.
If you think you’ve been bitten by an unfamiliar insect, Moore says the best thing to do is capture it, dead or alive, and bring it with you to a nearby hospital because it’s easier for doctors to treat a bite when they can identify the insect.