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Of red ants and a wedding band

Of red ants and a wedding band


By Mike Wilcox


I was looking forward to a great weekend, but first had to perform my Saturday morning ritual of pulling weeds. Two hours into this process I felt a sting on my left gloved hand. A group of red ants had bitten through the glove to cause it.

I thought little of it until, hours later, sitting at a restaurant, I noticed my wedding band was extremely tight on my finger. The ants had bitten me on the knuckle and my finger had swollen to where the ring was inhibiting the blood flow.

Instead of enjoying my lunch I sat with my hand in ice water. I continued doing so when we got home, coupled with Google suggestions to somehow get the ring off my finger. Of course nothing worked so I went to bed in frustration.

I awoke around 5 a.m. and noticed a massive blister had formed just above the knuckle. My wife, who was unable to convince me to go to urgent care the night before, now demanded I climb into the passenger seat and she would personally drive me there.

There I was whisked in to an examination room where the physician’s assistant applied surgical ointment to the swollen finger. As I knew, the wedding band wouldn’t budge. He tried another solution; same result.

Jokingly — at least I thought he was joking — he wondered why his first patient on a Sunday morning had to have such a difficult problem. “Why couldn’t I just have a cold?” he asked.

The PA next tried to insert a piece of thread underneath the wedding band, wrap it around the finger, then quickly unwind it in hopes that the band would slide off the finger. It still didn’t budge.

I said just cut off the band. My Google searches had noted that most urgent care centers had tools that could easily do so.

But he hadn’t given up yet. The erstwhile PA left the room for five minutes and came back with a bundle of gift wrap ribbon. I thought he must have gone to the grocery next door to purchase the ribbon. “This will get the job done,” he exclaimed.

He again used the needle to slip the wider and thicker ribbon under the ring, wrapped it tightly around my entire finger and then pulled. Shazam, this was magic. Guess again; the ring didn’t budge.

With a defeated look he agreed our only choice was to cut the band and went to grab an appropriate tool. Five minutes later he returned with nothing. There was no such tool at the urgent care center, nor apparently at the grocery.

At this point he was more frustrated than I was. He asked if I would accept a shot in the butt that would lower the swelling, then maybe later the band would come off. I hesitatingly agreed and a few minutes later was on my way home. Urgent care had failed, but I couldn’t fault the PA. He gave it his best shot.

Five days later the swelling has dissipated somewhat but the ring remains firmly on my finger. I can tell there is no way soon it will be removed. Wasps and bee stings have never bothered me, but red ants and poison ivy, which I find with frequency, always create havoc.

My mother was a stickler about making sure our shrub and flowerbeds were free of weeds. I inherited that trait from her, but maybe it’s now time to hang up those garden tools. This episode is the last straw or maybe not. The red ants won the battle, but maybe I can win the war.