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One victim's bed bug journal

While traveling with the cast of a popular musical, this young woman encountered bed bugs at her hotel. She asked not to be identified, but agreed to share her story anonymously on Dateline’s Web site .

Thursday March 2, 2006
It’s 3 a.m. when my roommate who was in a coma-like sleep wakes up to tell me there is a bug in her bed.   I put down my book and run to her side of the hotel room just in time to see a tick-like bug crawl under her pillow.  I throw the pillow across the room and pull back the comforter to see two more of the same bugs crawling around.   It only takes a moment for us to make the connection.  All week, my roommate has had terrible itchy welts on her arms and shoulders.   I grab a glass and trap the three bugs all while doing the “we found a bug in our bed!” dance.  My roommate and I leave our room and sprint down the hall in our pajamas.   I carry the bugs in the glass to the front desk at arms length and just looking at them is making me itch.  I set the glass down on the front desk and tell the nice man behind the desk, “Look what we found in our bed upstairs!”   He takes one look at the bugs and backs up a few steps saying, “Oh my God!” 

Exactly.  These suckers were huge!   We ask for a change of room and the man gives us our new keys so quickly you’d think we were bed bugs ourselves.  We demand to speak to the manager of the hotel as soon as he arrives and head back upstairs.   As soon as we get back to the room, my roommate and I decide to do a body check.  Everything is fine, no sign of the bugs until I start to check her hair.   Up to this point, I was pretty calm, after all, the bugs weren’t in my bed.

I was going to be the self-proclaimed “brave one.”   That was until I saw a bed bug in her hair.  Then we both started screaming, jumping up and down crying.  We run out of not only the bed bug infested room but the hotel itself out into the street.  My roommate has completely lost it at this point and all I can think about is how many bugs are in my hair.   We both call our parents who live in the east.  I can only imagine my parents awakened by the phone at 6 a.m. to answer and hear me screaming, “I don’t know what to do! Mom!”  

I know my parents immediately think the worst, after all my roommate and I are only 21 and 22, alone in downtown San Francisco.  As soon as I told them what was wrong, my mom started laughing.  

I really didn’t find the situation amusing at all.  My mother is a nurse practitioner in Ohio and has always had an answer for every one of my questions, however in this one case, she had no clue.   She tells me she’ll start looking up answers on the Internet and will call me back.  Meanwhile, my roommate’s mother is doing the same.   For the meantime, my roommate and I are clueless as to what to do next.  We head back up to our new room and stare at each other, too afraid to sit down on the beds.   We finally decide to take my roommate to the emergency room for her bites. 

Dressed in our pajamas, we hail a taxi to the nearest hospital.  During the ride, another passenger asked us what was wrong.  We told her, “That hotel has bed bugs, tell everyone you know not to stay there!”  She replied, “Oh aren’t those like crabs?” 

You’ve got to be kidding.  We get to the E.R. and my roommate gets checked out by a very sympathetic medical staff.   She gets some cream for her bites and we head back to the hotel or as I say “the hell hole.”  By now it’s 6 a.m. and we’ve yet to go to sleep.  

We grab a Starbucks coffee and wait to hear from the manager of the hotel.  Around noon, with still no word from the hotel staff we march down to the desk, still in our pajamas and demand some help.   By now both of our mothers have researched bed bugs online and we are ready to battle the bugs.  The staff deals with us like we’ve got an infection but tell us they will launder our clothing for free and give us a small vacuum to clean our luggage.   After sorting out the laundry and luggage situation, my roommate and I walk to the mall, still in our pajamas, to buy something to wear for the next day since our clothes will not be returned by tonight.   At 1 p.m., the manager finally calls.  By now, my roommate and I have started thinking about moving out of the hotel completely, even though the hotel staff swears our new room does not have bed bugs.   We’re not taking any chances. 

Part of the afternoon is hazy.  There is confusion trying to find a new hotel for the last three nights we are in town, there is confusion about when our clothes will be finished.   My roommate and I are so tired, we’ve walked around all afternoon, my poor roommate is about to scratch the first layer of skin off, and we still have to go to work that evening.

I try to think of something else other than the bed bugs but it’s difficult.  It is the endless day.          

Wednesday March 8, 2006
We’ve left San Francisco… a place I never want to visit again thanks to the bugs and head to Colorado.  By now I have bites on my arms and shoulders, as do three of my other friends.   Bed bug bites can take up to nine days to appear, just so you know.  Here I’d thought I’d escaped.  It ends up; the second floor of the hotel was infested with bed bugs.   The hotel staff informed us they inspected our room, taking off the mattress and headboard, and found “a large infestation.”  I could have told them that.   By this point I never want to hear about bed bugs again. 

Since the incident, my roommate and I have had people call us dirty, accuse us of bringing them and so on and so on.   We’ve decided never to speak about that time in our lives again.  That may sound dramatic, but you’ll never understand how devastating and time consuming the bed bug problem is, from first bite to putting your clothes in bags and sealing them up even though they have been washed three times just to “make sure.”  

When Dateline called, not even the thrill of being on national TV could sway us... it took a lot of work on the part of the Dateline staff to even make me write this blog.   I sit here today, almost half a month later, happily bed bug-free and I think how much closer my roommate and I are because of this experience.  From rubbing cream on each other’s backs to helping check each others mattresses at new hotels, if anything good could come from the situation, we will always remember how we survived the bed bugs together!