Editor's Note: The name of the bar where a fund raiser for Curran will be held has been corrected.
SOUTH GLENS FALLS — It was just a bug bite. That's what Mike Curran remembers thinking the day it happened.
The next day, though, that bug bite was red and swollen. His elbow hurt. And throughout the day, the swelling and pain got worse.
A trip to Glens Falls Hospital's emergency room yielded a CT scan and some prescription painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
He awoke the next day to fever, body ache and chills, which he dismissed as a summer cold or flu.
The following day, though, the arm that was bitten was swollen twice its normal size. He was admitted minutes after he arrived at the hospital.
He doesn't remember much that happened over the next week.
That may not be a bad thing, because over the course of that week Curran fought for his life and nearly lost his arm.
The swelling and inflammation turned into a horrific infection that left a wound the length of his arm that was a 6 inches wide and three-quarters of an inch deep. Surgeries and skin grafts ensued as doctors fought a virulent streptococcus infection that tore the South Glens Falls resident's arm apart.
He spent 17 days in the hospital, was released on July 22, but was admitted four days later for another four days when the infection flared up again.
"They told me this is one of the most extreme cases they had seen. They had infectious disease specialists from all over coming in to look at me," he said.
Curran is home now, but his arm and life are far from normal. He has a nurse visit his home every day to monitor the healing of his arm wound and of a section of his leg from which skin grafts were taken. More surgery is on the horizon.
The severe arm injury was the latest misfortune for Curran, 42, and his family.
He lost his job last year when his employer, Wildwood Industries, closed its operation in Kingsbury.
His 9-year-old son became ill shortly thereafter, requiring admission to Albany Medical Center.
But the family found out that Wildwood had not been paying health insurance premiums for months, so they got stuck with all of the bills for their son's treatment.
Things had just started to improve when he got a job at Jerry Brown's Auto Parts in Queensbury, until the bug bite infection occurred.
(His new co-workers at JBAP have stepped up to organize a fundraiser for him that will be held Oct. 2 at the Blue Moose Tavern in Queensbury.)
Curran said he didn't see what bit him, but the initial belief was that he suffered a bite from a brown recluse spider. The bites cause nasty reactions if the spider's venom gets into the victim's bloodstream.
But his doctor, Dr. Jeffrey Ridha, said it will likely never be known what bit Curran, though he doubted a brown recluse spider was the culprit, based on the type of wound.
He said the biggest problem was that the bite, or subsequent scratching of it, introduced strep bacteria that raged out of control.
Widespread use of antibiotics has resulted in strains of bacteria that can be very difficult to control, particularly strep and staph strains, Ridha said.
"This type of infection can often necrotize and lead to the loss of a limb," he said.
Ridha recommended that people pay particularly close attention to wounds that swell and become red. Catching infections early can wipe them out before they spread too far.
Whether a brown recluse spider was to blame remains to be seen. Brown recluse spiders are indigenous to southern parts of the country, and Phil Kahn, a spokesman for Glens Falls Hospital, said hospital officials recalled only one confirmed brown recluse spider bite being treated there.
Curran was bitten as he handled firewood, and brown recluses favor firewood for habitat.
Meanwhile, Curran recuperates at home and is going to have to have at least one more surgery for the wound. His left arm will never be the same, thanks to nerve damage and scar tissue.
He thanked Ridha, his family and his co-workers for their help. He has yet to receive all his medical bills and said he has good health insurance through JBAP, but he knows he will be facing big bills for what insurance won't cover.
He would just like a normal life again.
"My arm won't ever be the same. There's nerve damage and it will always be deformed," he said. "I just want to get back to work."
To purchase tickets or help with the fundraiser for Curran, call Rob Rainwater at 798-8141, Ext. 143 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The event will include food, music, children's events and raffles.