Archive for January, 2010


Who has had a Sac Spider bite?

Abby was bitten by what we suspect was a sac spider mid December in Ponta do Oura. She had about 20 bites which at first were not sore and looked like flea bites. The day after she was bitten the bites became sore and small little white heads appeared. Within 2 days the bites went to black with red rings around them, almost like a nasty tick bite. The bites became hot, red,  swollen and very painful to touch and the  flesh just rotted. On day 4 she went to a Dr  with her leg swollen to double its normal size and fever. She was prescribed 1000mg augmentin and fucidin cream. On day 7 she was admitted to have bites surgically cleaned out under general anaesthetic.  She was not given any more antibiotics. She was told to use betadine, keep them dry and change the dressings regularly.

From what I have now read, the antibiotic is to treat secondary infection and nothing can be done about the cytotoxic poison.

The picture below was taken today, about 3 weeks after the bites occurred.  By now the wound looks a lot better and her leg is not swollen any more. The surgeon said she should go back in 3 months time to see if she requires plastic surgery or not.

I have often wondered what these sac spiders look like.   This is what came up on my search:

Note the pale colour and the way the legs are arranged.


Sac Spiders  can be recognised by their pale yellow green, yellow or fawn colour.   Apparently the way their legs are arranged give an important clue to the identity of this spider. Two pairs of legs are directed forward and two pairs backwards, and the first pair is much longer than the other legs.  Apparently the tips of the legs and mouthparts are usually dark in colour. ( )

Cheiracanthium furculatum is a species of sac spider that likes to stay in curtains, clothes and bedding.  These spiders make silk like sacs.  Is that why they are named sac spiders?  ( )
The following is a detailed descritption I found of the bite:
“More specifically, the bite of Cheiracanthium presents as two spots, 4-8mm apart, where the fangs penetrated the skin and are yellow-green, the colour of the venom. After 4-8 hours, mild inflammation, swelling and pain develop. A blister may form over the necrotic lesion after a few days. After this sloughs, an irregular round, ulcerated wound of about 10mm remains. The wound is inflamed, swollen and painful. The wound could start to heal after 10 days but occasionally takes months. In some extreme cases, skin grafts have been necessary. The use of antibiotics is usually required should secondary infections set in but this could be prevented by the use of an antibacterial cream such as Betadine. There is no antivenom and an anti-tetanus injection is usually necessary. Some patients develop a mild fever and headaches after about 3 days and the condition is sometimes misdiagnosed as tick bite fever. However, tick bite fever symptoms develop after about a 10 day incubation period after being bitten, by which stage the bite will have turned black and the surrounding area swollen and red.”                                                                         (  )

Ezinqeni Community Center/ My Community Clinic

I fell in love with the community centre as soon as I saw it. The simple functional building with a view over the Northern end of the St Lucia World Heritage Site.  Sitting on the verandah you can see lake Sibaya to the North and the worlds second highest vegetated dunes lining the coast.  Huts built of rock and lats scatter the scenery. This is a far corner tucked away in deep rural Zululand.

Ezinqeni center as viewed from where my land is.

Set in rural Zululand.

The building itself has a charm that gives me a taste of the tatty Mozambique Portuguese influence.  Simple, white, dilapidating.

This is a hub for the Ezinqeni. Groups gather here for adult basic education, stokvels (money saving clubs), pension day payouts and various other activities.

In June this year I was called here to a community meeting by Induna Themba Zikhali. This meeting would determine whether I was accepted as part of the community, and be allocated land in the area.  I arrived dressed in a skirt (women should definitely not wear trousers to important meetings). I was allocated a seat, the only chair on the left hand section of the room.  All the other ladies were on mats on the floor on the left of the room. The men were on the right on benches. In the front of the room was the Induna with the elders of the community flanking him in order of seniority. After much discussion in Zulu (which i d0nt yet understand), I was asked a couple of questions. When they heard that I am single and live by myself, the room resounded with clucks of sympathy. When the Induna explained to them that I am an Inyanga (herbalist) the sounds were of utter surprise.  I was made part of the community and I am so thankful for their grace.  I even had a marriage proposal.  A young muscly zulu man (of about 25) came over and said his mother said he should ask me to marry him.  I now know that it was very inappropriate for me to ask him ” how many cows?”.  It would be up to my father to negotiate that.

Since August 2009 I go to the community centre on Monday mornings to do a clinic.The matriarchs of  the community decided that I should be here on the same day as they meet to make mats on the verandah. Probably to keep an eye on this strange woman.  We are slowly building a repal.

I have a few brave patients coming in to be poked full of needles. I explain that it is Chinese traditional medicine, and they trustingly let me work with them.  Together with the acupuncture I usually give a homeopathic remedy and some calcium or vitamin C or other supplements, depending on what I can afford.

In time I would like to use the network of the gogos (old ladies/matriarchs)  to distribute old clothes or donated goods and start some community development projects.  I feel my contribution to this community could be to bring attention to this special community centre and help by fixing the water supply, leaking roof, breaking floor and possibly even wind or solar power. (Imagine screening documentaries in the hall while I am consulting. Imagine  linking with acupuncture training centres abroad via Skype to give them a feel of rural conditions and us the benefit of their knowledge.  Imagine vegetable gardens and avocado and mango trees that feed the needy.)

One step at a time. At the moment that step is my Monday mornings clinic.

Twitter Updates

  • Having lots of fun with structure going up over the caravan.(thanks Mikael and Andgie the two architecture volunteers) 6 years ago
  • Andgie and Mikael made rice milk. I had home made rice milk chocolate. Yum. 6 years ago
  • Experimenting with blanket cooking and bottling beans. 7 years ago
  • Erin is making ripples into the community with her circle garden concept. 7 years ago
  • John has changed the soil scape of the garden with loads of 'the shit' 7 years ago


January 2010
« Sep   Apr »