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A cockroach crawled into a Florida woman’s ear. It took nine days to get it out.

Katie Holley, 29, of Melbourne, Fla., said a palmetto bug crawled into her ear, and much of the insect’s remains stayed there for nine days. (Courtesy of Katie Holley)
Katie Holley, 29, of Melbourne, Fla., said a palmetto bug crawled into her ear, and much of the insect’s remains stayed there for nine days. (Courtesy of Katie Holley)
By Kristine Phillips Washington Post

Melbourne, Florida – Katie Holley was jolted awake by a cold thing – what she had initially thought was a small piece of ice that somehow slid down her left ear. Still disoriented, she rushed to the bathroom, grabbed a cotton swab and slowly stuck it inside her ear. And then Holley felt something move. It was like a “rhythmic” movement, she recalled, as if whatever that thing was was trying to burrow deeper into her ear canal.

She pulled out the cotton swab and saw small, dark brown pieces that looked like legs.

That morning, around 1:45 a.m. on April 14, Jordan Holley rushed to the bathroom to help his panicking wife, grabbed a flashlight and looked inside her ear. And there it was, a small part still visible from the outside as it stayed there, lodged in the middle of the ear canal. Jordan Holley managed to pull out a couple of legs using a pair of tweezers, but the intrepid bug had crawled too deep.

The young couple drove to the emergency room just a few miles away.

It took the doctor about 20 seconds to pull out chunks of the dead roach, and Holley saw what she thought was the remains of a small insect. She left the hospital nearly two hours later with a prescription for antibiotics and ear drops, relieved that it was all over.

Nine days passed, but Holley’s ear still didn’t feel normal. It was still numb, she said, and she felt some discomfort every time she yawned. Her medicine drops also had stopped passing through her ear, leading her to think that perhaps earwax had built up inside.

Her doctor and a physician assistant flushed her ear four times. Using an otoscope, they peeked inside, and there it was: another leg.

Holley’s doctor pulled out six pieces of the roach’s remains – but feared there was still more left. Holley said her physician arranged for her to see a doctor who specializes in treating the ears, nose and throat later that day.

The ENT doctor placed what looked like a microscope next to Holley’s face. A few minutes later, she felt something bigger was getting extracted out of her ear canal. And then she saw it. Not a “teensy leg or two.” Not the remains of a baby roach. But a head, a torso, limbs and long antennae of what looked like a fully grown palmetto bug.

Luckily for her, palmetto bugs generally don’t bite, and if they do, their bites aren’t harmful. Holley said she didn’t have any permanent damage or infection.

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