Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Here’s another bedbug story; even if it is a year old, I just heard it so it’s news to me.
I begin by saying that I like Etobicoke; it is the part of Toronto that seems most neighbourly to me. Some of the neighbours are Old Toronto; some are Newfoundlanders; there is the usual mix of others from all over; and, thanks to the cruelties of history, there are also many Chechens.

Zulikhan is one of these.

She is a single mother of four boys, ages 3 to 12; they live in a 10-storey apartment building on the private market, and not in public housing.

We met at the community health centre on Lakeshore at Islington the other day. I spoke to her with the help of a Russian-speaking social worker.

Here’s the story.

In Etobicoke, you don’t say no to your neighbours, and so it was that Zulikhan agreed to store some furniture for a friend. You guessed it.

Bedbugs in the dresser.

Not long after, Zulikhan noticed bites on her youngest child. She had no idea it was bedbugs. “I thought it was mosquitoes. They were eating him alive. He was swollen. He had a terrible reaction.”

She had been bringing the boy to daycare, where the daycare workers saw the bites; how could they not? The daycare workers were concerned; how could they not be?

Zulikhan said, “They told me to go to the doctor. They said if I didn’t do anything they would call Children’s Aid.”

I find it hard to fathom that any daycare worker, anywhere in this town, would not have suspected bedbugs right off the bat. I find it harder to fathom that they would threaten Zulikhan with what might well have led to the removal of her child.

Bad to be a stranger in a strange land; worse to be visited by a plague; worst, to be threatened with the removal of your youngest son.

Zulikhan said, “We went to doctor. He gave cream for the itch. He said to apply, and the itch would go away.”

See, that’s also a problem:

Any nurse or doctor in this town, on seeing a child with bites resembling a rash, has simply got to figure bedbugs into the equation and call Public Health.

So what finally happened?

Zulikhan said, “I talked to someone here at the health centre — another Chechen — and that person told me about bedbugs.”

An aside: the Chechen for bedbug is “klop”; the plural, bedbugs, is “klopy.”

Zulikhan told her landlord about the klopy, and the landlord arranged for two sprayings; that’s a good landlord.

But the spraying didn’t work.

Zulikhan said, “I was desperate. I didn’t want to keep spraying . . . I found some information on the Internet, a Russian website. It said they are killed by the cold. I took the mattresses outside on the balcony for a week; all our clothes, the drapes.”

I am uncertain about that method.

She said, “The dresser, I threw it out; all the children’s furniture, I threw it out. My bedroom furniture, I steamed. We slept on the floor.”

Steaming works, along with rigorous cleaning and washing and vacuuming and caulking and checking everything all the time.

Ultimately, Zulikhan got rid of the bugs, and she eventually was able to replace the furniture that she had to throw out. Happy ending?

Yes and no.

I remain convinced that daycare workers and doctors in this town still don’t know how to recognize bedbug bites for what they are. And I know for certain that most people in this town still don’t know where to turn for help.

Sourced By: Joe Fiorito