ZB ZB
Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Listen to NAME OF STATION
Up next
Listen live on
ZB

'Lucky to be here': White-tailed spider bite leaves man in hospital for a month

Author
Melissa Nightingale,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 Mar 2024, 11:42am
Palmerston North real estate agent Andy Stewart is still in hospital more than a month after suffering a white-tail spider bite.
Palmerston North real estate agent Andy Stewart is still in hospital more than a month after suffering a white-tail spider bite.

'Lucky to be here': White-tailed spider bite leaves man in hospital for a month

Author
Melissa Nightingale,
Publish Date
Tue, 19 Mar 2024, 11:42am

Warning: This article contains an injury image that some people may find distressing. 

A real estate agent is warning people not to be a “hero” after he put off seeking medical attention for a spider bite and ended up in hospital unable to walk. 

Andy Stewart recognises he’s lucky to be alive and faces months of antibiotics and rehabilitation following the debilitating injury. 

Stewart was riding his motorbike in the South Island for the Burt Munro rally last month when he felt an “excruciating” pain in his chest from what he believes was a white-tail spider which had worked its way inside his jacket and T-shirt. 

White-tail spider bites should be treated as soon as possible.White-tail spider bites should be treated as soon as possible. 

Palmerston North real estate agent Andy Stewart is still in hospital more than a month after suffering a white-tail spider bitePalmerston North real estate agent Andy Stewart is still in hospital more than a month after suffering a white-tail spider bite 

The Palmerston North man instinctively crushed the offending bug, then pulled over to treat the bite, focusing more on his injury than on what had inflicted it. 

“I’ve had spider bites and wasp bites before, but nothing like this,” he said. 

He regrets what he did next - simply carrying on with his motorbike trek instead of seeing a doctor for the bite, which he said was a concerning one. 

A few days later he noticed his shoulder was feeling stiff, but thought he had tweaked an old injury and didn’t think much more of it. As the pain worsened and his shoulder swelled, he stopped at Greymouth Hospital to ask for the shoulder to be strapped. 

Stewart continued on through the pain, even working a couple of shifts when he returned home from the rally. 

By about a week after the bite, he said he “wasn’t feeling that crash hot”, and found his leg had also swelled up and he was unable to walk. The following morning he called an ambulance and was taken to hospital. 

It was only about that point Stewart connected the bite to the shoulder and leg injury, and asked the doctor if it was possible the bite had caused it. This was later confirmed. 

“He said to me ‘you are lucky to be here’.” 

Palmerston North real estate agent Andy Stewart is still in hospital more than a month after suffering a white-tail spider bitePalmerston North real estate agent Andy Stewart is still in hospital more than a month after suffering a white-tail spider bite 

He said fluids rush to the site of an injury, and in his case had allowed the poison in his body to travel to his shoulder and then down his leg. Stewart had to have procedures and tests to check the state of his vital organs as well. 

The bite was most likely from a white-tail, and while its venom would not have caused the effect he was experiencing, the bite had allowed staphylococcus bacteria on his skin to enter his system and wreak havoc. 

“Apparently the staph is on everyone’s body . . . once it gets inside it causes a mucus and it sticks to everything.” 

The doctor had told him the bacteria would settle in and “have a bit of a munch on your bones”. 

A month on from being admitted, he is still in hospital and suspects he could still be there for another four weeks yet. 

The infection travelled down Andy Stewart's leg and he had to have an operation on his foot.The infection travelled down Andy Stewart's leg and he had to have an operation on his foot. 

Stewart has had two operations under general anaesthetic to flush the shoulder and foot, and said he will need to spend at least six months on antibiotics. 

Today he will try for the first time in a month to take a few steps with a moon boot on, and has been told her may need another operation on his foot several months down the track. 

Stewart said the whole experience was “bloody scary” and wished he had simply gone to a doctor straight away. 

“If I did that in Queenstown this whole thing could have been a different scenario,” he said. 

“I didn’t know that people have died of this. People have lost fingers on their hands . . . I just don’t think the awareness is there. 

“It’s really important that I get this out there to people: don’t be a hero. Go to the hospital if you get a bite like that.” 

Melissa Nightingale is a Wellington-based reporter who covers crime, justice and news in the capital. She joined the Herald in 2016 and has worked as a journalist for 10 years. 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you