I used to have a valid reason to not go camping. After what happened, now I have an even better one.
I have sleep apnea, so in order to breathe at night and not sound like a tree branch getting sucked into a jet turbine (which is how my wife describes my snoring), I require a CPAP machine. Because of this, I need to have access to electricity to power up my breathing box at night. So even though my wife and I both loved being outdoors, whenever we traveled we stayed in hotels or AirBnBs as a result of my breathing disorder.
After six months of working from home and rarely leaving the house due to COVID-19 restrictions, my wife and I were both in desperate need of some away time. Of the available travel options, camping seemed like the best choice considering the pandemic. After a virtual consult with my sleep doctor to confirm that one night away from the CPAP wasn’t going to kill me, we booked an overnight camping trip to Hocking Hills for a much needed break from the four walls of our house.
I can’t even explain the sense of calm I felt when I pulled up to our campsite. My wife and I shared a grin as we powered off our phones and put them in the glove box. For the next twenty-four hours, we were going to be completely unreachable to the outside world.
We set up the tent under a sprawling oak tree not far from a small stream and the entrance marker to one of the many hiking trails. We brought poles for fishing, but once we felt the peaceful calm around us, we placed two lounge chairs by the fire pit and just relaxed. No phones or laptops. No texts, email updates, zoom meetings, or news flashes pulling us back to the shitshow of the world.
It was quiet, I had forgotten what quiet sounds like. Without the busy updates and constant reminders, the tangled thoughts in my brain finally had space to unfurl. Tension of the past six months shed like a snake removing its old skin. It was the perfect escape that we both desperately needed.
After dinner, we watched the fire die down to the last ember before settling into our tent for the night. No need for Alexa to play our usual sleepcast, we had the sounds of the nearby stream and the rustling breeze through the leaves overhead to put us to sleep. I was so ready for bed I hadn’t even thought about how it would be my first night without my CPAP in at least ten years.
I put a Breathe Right strip on my nose and brought extra pillows to elevate my head. It wasn’t much, but it was all I could do to keep myself from snoring. I closed my eyes, took a few deep breaths, and settled back as I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up a few minutes later, jolted awake by my snoring. Even elevated, my head lolled back and my mouth fell open. My uvula would fall back and block off my nasal passages, making it impossible for me to breath through my nose. I rolled onto my side, the angle wasn’t comfortable but I could breathe without obstructing my air passages. I tossed and turned much of the night, but after a while I finally managed to fall asleep.
I awoke some time before dawn to a tickling feeling inside my mouth. I was on my back again, head lolled backwards and my mouth open to the sky. It was feeling I used to get all the time back before my CPAP days when my mouth would get dry from snoring.
I closed my mouth to swallow, then shot up in horror as I felt something crunch between my teeth.
The taste was instant. Bitter, sour, bile tasting.
I bolted from my sleeping bag, nearly tearing through the side of the tent as I scraped my fingers over my tongue, trying to get rid of the awful taste. I pulled what felt like an eyelash off my tongue, then raked my finger between my cheek and gums like I was fishing out a wad of chewing tobacco.
My wife woke up and grabbed the flashlight, shining it at me. Smeared in saliva on my face and hands were the legs and other chitinous body parts of a bug that crawled into my open mouth while I slept.
At the time we didn’t know what kind of bug it was, whether it had six legs or eight. Whatever it was, it tasted terrible, and was most definitely dead.
I rinsed my mouth with water to clear out the awful taste. My wife had a good laugh over it, claiming the poor bug must’ve mistaken my snoring for a mating call. She went back to sleep but I stayed up the rest of the night, not willing to risk another open mouth incursion by a curious insect.
Dawn arrived without incident. We did a little fishing and hiking and then packed up our campsite and headed home. Even though I was tired from lack of sleep, I still felt recharged from our brief vacation excursion.
I wish to God that my story ended there. I really do.
Three days after we returned from camping I woke up with a throbbing headache. It started up at my temple and spread down the left side of my face down to my lower jaw. Every muscle in that side of my face felt tense, like it had seized up. The slightest sound or bright light sent stabbing pain behind my eyes. I was anxious and irritable from the constant intense pressure that felt like a vice squeezing my skull.
I did one of those virtual doctor visits, which was thankfully free but utterly useless since they couldn’t prescribe any pain meds out of fear of contributing to the opioid epidemic. They recommended alternating ibuprofen and Tylenol and cut back on the caffeine in hopes that the headaches would subside.
In the remote doctor’s expert opinion, my symptoms ticked the boxes of a migraine. It did make sense; I was under a lot of stress at work trying to manage all of my projects remotely. I started alternating meds as prescribed and hoped that in time it would finally ease.
Sadly, it did not.
The pain and pressure in my head was so bad that I couldn’t sleep. Not only that, the left side of my face started swelling and was tender to the touch.
A new symptom finally helped pinpoint the actual cause of my pain. As I tossed back four ibuprofen and chased it with a cold glass of water, the molar on the upper left side of my mouth lit up with an intense stabbing pain when the cold water touched it, sending aching throbs of torment up through my temple. I fell to my knees, almost in tears until the sensation subsided.
My wife had seen enough and decided to take me to the emergency room. It was a toothache, the mother of all toothaches. With a definitive cause, the doctors could do something to help me.
When we got to the hospital, however, we were turned away before we even got inside the doors. Our county was in the midst of a spike in Coronavirus cases, so the hospital wasn’t letting anyone in unless they were either in immediate critical danger or were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. The nurse outside the emergency room doors tossed a Z-pak into the car window and sent me home without a second look.
Over the next week I only slept in short spurts, twenty minutes tops, while sitting upright in a chair in the living room. If I tried to lay down, my head throbbed with immense pain that brought me to sobbing tears. Besides alternating Tylenol and Ibuprofen, I was also alternating between hot and cold compresses on my face. The swelling went down some thanks to the Z-pak, but there was no relief from the pain.
My regular dentist was overbooked with a backlog of cancelled appointments due to COVID-19, but after pleading with the receptionist I was able to schedule their soonest available appointment, which was still over a month away. She promised to put me on the call list if they had a cancellation, but that list was already ten people deep when my name was added to the bottom.
The tooth throbbed and sent shooting pains up through the nerve every time I drank anything too cold, too hot, or too sweet. The nerve felt raw and exposed, even yawning was enough to send shockwaves of pain radiating through my mouth and head. My regiment of alternating pain meds was beginning to lose its efficacy, and I was near delirious from lack of sleep.
Flossing provided a small relief from the pain, as did holding the tooth between my thumb and forefinger and wiggling it from side to side. These moments of relief were short, maybe a few seconds, and then the throbbing returned with the intense aching from my jaw to my temple that kept me awake at night and tormented me during the day.
Two days after taking the final pill in the Z-pak the swelling on the side of my face returned, bringing with it the tightness and pressure. My face swelled to the point that I could hardly talk without sounding like Mike Tyson. My wife made another desperate plea to the hospital to admit me but was again turned away with promise of another Z-pak. I was beginning to lose hope that I’d ever find relief from the pain.
It was at that point I decided my only recourse was to pull the fucking tooth myself.
I realize this wasn’t a rational decision, but two weeks without sleep and constant pain, I was beyond rational. I had to do something. The tooth had to go.
I sent my wife to the grocery store for a tube of Orajel and some noodle soup packets, all things we needed but mostly a way to get her out of the house so I could enact my plan. She gingerly kissed my forehead before she left. I watched her car turn off our street before I headed to the garage for my tooth pulling supplies.
I carefully considered my dental implements. Vice grips or channel locks? Both had their merits, but the vice grips had locking jaws, allowing me to cinch down on the tooth without exerting any extra energy. Plus the offset jaws of the channel locks seemed like it would be more difficult to pull straight down when I yanked the tooth.
I doused the pliers in alcohol to sterilize them, then swished some around my mouth. The alcohol sent seething pain through the damaged tooth, further proof that this was the right course of action. After sterlizing, I wrapped the jaws of the pliers in electrical tape to cushion the grippers.
I draped a towel over the sink as leaned over the counter so I could watch my reflection in the bathroom mirror. I opened my mouth as wide as I could and move the pliers into place around my damaged tooth, squeezing the handle grips together. The handle clicked as the vice grips cinched into place. I let go of the pliers and they hung from the tooth in my mouth. The grip was true.
I ran some floss on either side of the tooth to make certain I only had the one tooth in the jaws. I gave the pliers a little wiggle to make sure they were tight enough to hold. My tooth wiggled with them, sending shooting pains up into my sinus cavity.
I took a deep breath, exhaling through my nostrils. Here we go.
I gripped the pliers and slowly rocked them side to side. My jaw answered with a “pop!” as I wiggled the tooth in each direction. There was no pain, or at least nothing greater than the baseline of pain I had been living with. The pressure was still there, even as a trickle of blood dripped down the pliers onto my hand.
I moved the handle of the pliers from side to side, pulling them out and pushing them in, each time a little further. I would push until I felt a pop, then pull until I felt a pop in the other direction. Then push until I felt two pops, and so forth.
After a few series of pushing and pulling, I felt a crunch up near my jaw. After that, the tooth moved more freely. I twisted it from side to side, rotating it. It felt loose, but was still held in place by my gums and whatever ligaments were still connected to the molar.
I took another deep breath, then as I exhaled. I placed my foot on the wall and pulled the pliers down as hard as I could. The muscles in my forearms tensed and flexed as I yanked with all of my might. In my mouth I heard a sound like a weed being ripped out by the roots from densely packed soil.
The pliers nearly flew from my hands as my tooth pulled free. Ligaments and part of my gums tore away as well, still attached to the tooth and caught in the jaws of the pliers as I wrestled it free. I looked down at it, a bloodied stump of white and red nestled snug in the pliers.
The pressure in my head was still there, as was the throbbing.
I began to panic. Pulling the tooth did nothing. Was that the right tooth? Did I need to pull another? What was it going to take to make the pain go away?
I pushed my finger into the hole left by my missing tooth, feeling something pulsing there. As I pushed down on it, I felt a small gush of fluid draining from the hole.
The pressure released immediately, taking the pain with it. My mouth filled with this sensation of static as the pain washed away. I felt like crying, the pain and pressure was finally releasing!
Then I looked at my reflection in the mirror and screamed.
The static I felt in my mouth wasn’t from the release of pressure. It was spiders.
Dozens, no hundreds of tiny spiders filled my mouth and swarmed over my face. What I mistook for static was the rush of tiny legs scurrying out of the cavity left by the tooth I had just removed. The spiders poured out of my mouth, my nostrils, over my face. They filled my nose and mouth, blocking my airways.
I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t see.
I stumbled into the shower, still dressed as I swatted at my face, brushing off the swarm of legs as best I could. I held my breath in fear of inhaling them down into my lungs. I felt a throng of them pushing against the back of my throat, triggering my gag reflex. I dropped to my knees, vomiting all over myself in the shower, which thankfully helped flush the little fuckers out of my mouth and down the drain. I heaved until there was nothing left, then sucked in a deep ragged breath. A new headache pounded in my temples as my lunges expanded, finally taking in a much needed breath.
I reached out of the shower for the alcohol, throwing my head back and filling my mouth with it, swishing it around. I muffled a scream as the alcohol hit the raw meat of my gaping tooth hole, which poured alcohol into my sinuses and out my nostrils.
I swatted one last spider as it crawled down my neck. Blood poured from my mouth as the water washed over me. The pain from pulling my tooth was bad, but compared to the pain I had been feeling, it felt like relief.
I closed my eyes as the water poured down over my face. I was exhausted, but finally free of the awful pain that had kept me awake for the past two weeks. I don’t know how long I sat like that before I fell asleep.
I awoke to my wife’s screaming as she found me in my vomit and blood stained tshirt on the shower floor.
On our third trip to the hospital the nurse took one look at me and ushered me inside. They cleaned up my wound, washing out the remaining infection and baby spiders that still took refuge in my sinuses.
On my tooth they found parts of an egg sac from a wolf spider, which apparently was what I had bit down on that night while camping. The egg sac wedged itself between my tooth and gums, creating an abscess that caused my severe toothache as the eggs grew into hatchlings.
I’m currently back home, still waiting for my dentist visit to install my new tooth implant. The stitches itch a little, and I received yet another Z-pak, but I’m sleeping at night.
The doctors were puzzled as to how I managed to get an egg sac of a wolf spider lodged in my mouth like that, but after doing a little research I think I found the answer.
Male wolf spiders make a purring vibration noise to attract females. I found a recording of this purring noise, and after listening to it a few times I played it for my wife. When she heard it, she nearly passed out from laughter.
I’d be goddamned if that sound wasn’t identical to the one I make during an episode of sleep apnea.
So yeah, my snoring attracts horny spiders. No fucking way I’m going camping again.
That does it, I’m never going camping again – Reddit’s NoSleep
YouTube narration by Mr. Creeps – 65k views, 3k Likes