TATTOO TO CELLULITIS IN EUROPE | 2015
Updated: Jan 13, 2018
WARNING! Gruesome pictures!
Summer 2015, I was living in Madrid, Spain interning at the U.S. Embassy. Great summer. I spent most of my weekends writing my thesis for my Masters, drinking $3 bottles of wine, and eating pasta and frozen pizzas from the grocery store below my apartment, saving money for trips. I had three wonderful Spanish roommates, who invited me to do sightseeing, eat tapas, go swimming, and bing watch Pretty Little Liars. But my wonderful summer in Madrid might have to wait for another blog. This one, is about my trip to Slovenia, and how I got cellulitis.
Deciding on getting a tattoo:
There were many things I never thought I would do that I ended up changing my mind about because of my best friend, Teresa. One of them was joining the military. Another one was getting a tattoo. We were talking about HER getting a tattoo, so I was doing research for HER, and here I am.
Hours turned into days researching and emailing tattoo artists in Europe to get an appointment for the end of the summer. Most artists were booked for up to a year. The waiting lists were closed. Including my artist. Luckily, my artist moved some appointments around to fit me in. I will not mention the artist's name, because I don't want you guys getting the wrong idea about them. I highly recommend my artist, they are AMAZING! And my leg is completely MY fault. My artist is a well-known artist around the world, who has won many well-deserving awards. I would have them tattoo me ten times over, if I could afford that.
I found an artist that I trusted completely with any piece of art on my skin. I gave the artist something to work with, but didn't see the final product till I walked through the door that cloudy August morning in Slovenia by the lake. It was love at first sight! I was so nervous for my first tattoo, but this was something I wanted to do before I died.
My muscles were clenched up so tight that sweat poured from every crest of my body. My muscles were spazzing and shaking as the tattoo gun grazed over my thigh, making me laugh out loud. Near the end, a patch of my skin would not take in the color. It had been tattooed over so many times, that a layer of the skin was missing and it was just red flesh now.
Five and a half hours later...well, I got pizza, but after that...
1st mistake: Do NOT keep the plastic on the tattoo for more than a day! A few hours is appropriate. I kept it on for about three days, because the artist said it would keep the color better. Did they mean hours, and not days? I'm not sure if it was a language barrier or not, but when it started hurting and oozing plasma, I should have known better.
2nd mistake: The first night I had my tattoo, I drank a lot... it was a really fun night. Have you ever heard of kalimotxo? After a few too many drinks, I found an exit sign, and darted away from the party, walking back alone to the hostel. Eventually, with help, my new friends put my drunk ass to bed after finding me laying on the floor of our hostel. Talk about flesh eating bacteria. I fought the British guy for trying to feed me a large white pill, thinking it was drugs. But when five blurry people are standing over you in the hallway of the hostel with worried faces, telling you to take it, that you'll feel better in the morning, you trust them. I'm almost certain it was Tylenol. The next morning, my Spanish friend, Paco woke me up to tell me that my toast was ready. I thanked him and rolled back over with heavy eyes. What a nice guy, I'm think. A second later, as he continues to shake my shoulder, I realized he said my taxi was downstairs... they sound the same, okay? Thank god, I planned ahead, and that he woke me up, to catch my flight to Prague. I got out of bed, grabbed my backpack and ran out of the hostel as if it were on fire.
3rd mistake: Don't go hiking up to castles in the summer with a large fresh tattoo wrapped in plastic. Flesh wounds and sweat are not the best combo.
A long cab ride, a flight, and a bus ride later, I made it to Brno, Czech Republic to visit a friend from college. Super hungover, he took me for beer and goulash, probably the best tasting meal I've ever had. The best hangover cure I've ever had too. Czech Republic has the cheapest beer and best tasting food in the world! My situation may have made me bias, but I will never forget that meal.
Lots of traveling, and lots of walking continues...
4th mistake: Walking around a concentration camp ALL day while your bandage oozed plasma down to your ankle underneath your maxi skirt. It hurt so bad to even walk.
My last night in Prague, I couldn't even walk to the bathroom in my hostel without wincing in pain. I had a huge fever, and couldn't find antibiotic cream for the life of me. People on the street and in the hostel saw how much pain I was in, and no one helped me. I called up my Spanish roommate who was doing her residency in Madrid. The next morning I was on a flight back to Spain. You should have seen me in the airport! I had little PJ shorts on, so that nothing would touch my skin, I was feverish, I felt like a walking infection. Something that should be quarantined. How did they let me onto the airplane? No one asked if I was alright, if I needed help, no one cared.
The infection was so deep that I could feel it seeping through every layer of the skin, through the muscle, onto the bone.
The healing process:
I sat in Madrid for five days, with oral and topical antibiotics that my roommate got me. I sat on the couch for days watching movies with this random Egyptian guy who was staying in our house through Airbnb. I look back now, why did he have time to watch movies with me all day? I'll never know. Anyways, I spent hours a day washing my hands with hypoallergenic soap, air drying them so as to not pick up the bacteria from a towel, applying topical ointment to my leg, washing my hands again, and letting my leg air dry, multiple times a day. My entire week was dedicated to resting and cleaning my leg.
Back to the United States:
Again, I don't know how they let me on a flight to the USA without questioning the giant infection on my leg. On the flight, there was a teenage boy sitting next to me, that accidentally hit my leg because he wasn't being careful. ARE YOU SERIOUS DUDE!? HE TOUCHED IT!
My mom and little sister were waiting for me at the airport when I arrived. I had sent my mom a picture of half of my leg, without the tattoo in it, saying that I needed to go to the ER first thing. I also put a maxi skirt on before I saw her.
At Urgent Care, not knowing what had caused the reaction, she asks what had happened. I look at my sister and back at my mom with an evil grin. "I got a tattoo..."
"YESSSSS!!!!! I'M THE FAVORITE CHILD NOW!" Tessa shouted, with the biggest grin across her face.
My mom switched from being mad, to laughing at me as I got a giant needle in my ass. My mom spent the afternoon sending pictures of my tattoo to her friends. At least my mom knows now, and I don't have to hide it from her for the rest of my life. Hi mom!
It took a few months, but the purple bruising of the skin faded over time, and you would never be able to tell I almost lost my leg.
Thank the lord for my Spanish roommate, who probably saved my leg. My tattoo healed completely.
Moral of the story; get the tattoo at the end of the trip, and take care of it.