Unwanted Visitors–Mr. and Mrs. Nuche


People often have unwelcome visitors lurking in their body that do not belong.  They are are usually uninvited, but they enter the door without knocking. I am anxious and even paranoid when I stop to think about it.  Maybe it is a cancer cell ready to go ballistic.  A bee can fly into your mouth and sting you on the tongue.  The gall bladder or kidney forms a stone that will eventually require removal.  It is alarming when one of these invasions occurs in the body of a child.  We had two such visitors in 1982 while living in Colombia.

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It started when David mentioned a growing bump on his forehead. There was some infection under the skin.  It was sort of red and warm to the touch. But I was not concerned. I thought it might be a boil or possibly his first pimple. His age of nine made these options unlikely, but what else could it be?  We monitored the condition for a few of days.  A strange thing happened one night unbeknown to us as we slept.  The mound erupted in its center and a tiny opening appeared.  There was no discharge, but, the bump under the opening continued to grow slightly each day.

The next morning as we inspected David’s forehead, something protruded from the wee opening and it moved.  What the heck!  This was alarming. Our maid heard our comments and came close to have a look.  She immediately exclaimed, David has a “nuche.”  That Spanish word was not in our vocabulary.

“What do you mean, he has a nuche?”

She replied, “A worm is growing in his head.  This isn’t unusual in Colombia.”

I drew back in disbelief and said, “No me diga!”  This woman with very little education and a considerable amount of superstition was freaking us out.  I was suspicious of this diagnosis but there was something living in there and it was sticking out the tip of its proboscis every few seconds.

We immediately asked, “How do people treat these things?”  I had not thought of a doctor at that point.  “Well, there are three options that often work.  You can lay a piece of raw meat over the opening and sometimes the worm will come out to sample the offering.”

So, Virginia ran to the fridge for some bacon.  David was handling this problem as a simple bump in the road—he was going to miss his bus and might get to skip school.  But, he had no noticeable pain.  We got him to lie down on the couch for 30 minutes and then removed the bacon, but the nuche, if that was what was in there (and I was dubious), was still content with the food David offered.

Margarita suggested that we get a cigarette and try to smoke it out.  I hurried to the grocery for a couple of cigarettes.  In Colombia, the small tiendas sold cigarettes one at a time or in the pack since so many people could not afford the full pack.  I rushed home and Margarita puffed and blew, but the nuche wouldn’t come out.

She said, “Well, some people say that you can chew the tobacco and make spittle to rub into the opening and that will drive them out.”  Now, I was getting alarmed.  What if this sets up an infection?  But, we had to do something.  That option was no more successful than the previous two.   The worms would not vacate their warm home.

My wife, Virginia, said, “Okay, enough of this.  Call Dr. Pablo.”  This family friend was semi-retired and answered the phone from his house.  I explained the situation and he invited us to come to his house.  By now it was nearly noon.  We arrived at the Rodriquez’ home.  Pablo took a quick look and said, “No doubt about this…David has a nuche and it has to come out.”

He explained that a “nuche” is called a bot-fly in English.  There are 150 species and their larvae grow in the flesh or alimentary tracts of mammals.  The word bot actually means “maggot.”  Only one species, Dematobia Hominis, occasionally affects the human.  It is likely the fly deposited eggs in a superficial wound on David’s forehead and then migrated under the skin with the healing of the wound.  There it matured and created an opening to breath and seek escape upon maturity.

Dr. Pablo anesthetized the area of the opening and removed two yellowish hairy worms (maggots) with forceps.  David took the whole procedure with little concern except for the needles.  There were no complications from the simple procedure other than a deposit of ugly photos in our minds.  The nuches are now dead but the memories live.

I have attached an excellent “u-tube” vidio of the extraction of a botfly maggot from the head of a women. This is very similar procedure to David incident except the doctor removed one larger worm that had long black hair and one smaller nearly maggot.

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