Horrific story from Ottawa: bed bug sufferer overdoses

by nobugsonme on December 4, 2008 · 5 comments

in anxiety, bed bug bites, bed bugs, bed bugs and the elderly, bed bugs in public housing, canada, ontario, stress

This story first made me want to cry.

And then it made me want to smash my hand into the wall.

The Ottawa Citizen reported today on the story of a local woman named Jadwiga Dziedziczak, aged 60. For ten years, she’s lived in an Ottawa public housing unit on Wurtemburg Street.

She had bed bugs. After many treatments and many months, she still had them. But those who could help her did not believe it.

“There was so much stress from so little sleep that she often used sleeping pills to help her cope at night.” And two weeks ago, she overdosed on the sleeping pills.

Friends and neighbors tried to help her navigate the public housing and public health offices, to get help despite her limited English.

The story is a testament to how stressful bed bugs can be, especially when the people responsible for keeping your home bed bug-free (the housing agency) think you are imagining a continued infestation.

Oh Lord yes, we have heard this one before.

Ms. Dziedziczak couldn’t fathom the idea of using her bed any more for fear of more bites and welts. She slept in the tub, on the floor and even on a chair with her head on the table, wrapped in sheets and blankets in an attempt to shield herself from the bugs. She even threw her old mattress out and bought a new one a month or so ago, but she stopped using it almost immediately after finding more bugs. Now that mattress and a couch have been thrown out, too.

Ms. Dziedziczak figures city-hired exterminators have been to her unit about five or six times in the last 10 months and says she was ridiculed occasionally by those who came to spray her bed. They told her she was imagining things. Her friends say the exterminators probably never did a thorough job because of their attitude and were usually gone within minutes of arriving. One even suggested that Mickey had a flea problem, but a veterinarian told her the dog was fine.

People in her building embarrassed her by suggesting her apartment was dirty. Those who know say she is impeccably clean. Her sister, who lives in the Alta Vista area, stopped visiting because she was afraid of getting bugs in her clothing and bringing them to her home.

It’s no wonder she felt so much stress, on top of the lack of sleep. My heart goes out to this woman and to all others who are suffering from bed bugs and simply not getting the help they need — even why they know they need help, when they ask for it, and even when there’s someone whose duty it is to provide it.

Thank goodness the overdose was not fatal. Ms. Dziedziczak is hospitalized. Her home is apparently still infested with bed bugs, and she’s still in the hospital, waiting for a bed bug-free home to go to.

The article also reports that 1,300 public housing units have been treated for bed bugs this year in Ottawa. And that

Ottawa Community Housing is asking the city to increase pest-control spending to $420,000 from $240,000. A “healthy” portion of pest control goes toward bedbug extermination, says Jo-Anne Poirier, chief executive of the housing agency.

Ottawa needs help. They need to follow in Toronto’s footsteps, declaring bed bugs a public enemy and a problem. And they need to rally their best resources to fight them.

Above all else, public health agencies need to recognize that bed bugs are a public health problem. If nothing else, they cause anxiety and sleeplessness, allergic reactions, and itching from bites. They cause stress.

And a lack of sleep can cause other health problems. Let’s not forget Theresa Kelly.

Even more troubling, Itchy-scratchy tells us, in the forums, there’s been at least one suicide in Ottawa we can probably attribute to bed bugs. And check out the discussion of this article on the forums too.

If you’re in Ottawa and have bed bugs, the paper wants to hear from you. The article ends with this invitation:

Is anything broken or bugging you where you live? Please let us know.

Contact: thepubliccitizen@thecitizen.canwest.com

And read the entire story in the Ottawa Citizen, now.

1 Doug Summers MS December 4, 2008 at 7:15 am

Really sad story. Brought tears to my eyes too.

Bed bugs are a public health problem that hasn’t been fully acknowledged by public health authorities.

The World Health Organization recently published a report that details the scientific evidence demonstrating the adverse health effects that are associated with bed bug infestations.

Unfortunately, the mental health effects are seriously understated. This publicly transmitted parasite is a mental health nightmare.

Moderate to severe anxiety disorders commonly accompany bed bug infestations. Bed bugs function as a severe stressor that contributes to insomnia, anxiety & depression in affected populations.

This sad story is a compelling example of why we need to recognize the adverse economic, psychological & physical health effects as a growing public health threat that will affect millions of people worldwide.

We need to track infestations with a central database and classify bed bugs as vermin that pose a public health risk, particularly for populations of patients with fragile health conditions & dire economic circumstances.

Funding programs like Bug & Scrub & implementing the recommendations of the public task force will help slow down the exponential public transmission of these human parasites and significantly reduce the human suffering that follows their path.

2 Desiree December 4, 2008 at 3:47 pm

I fear someone may intentionally commit suicide over these things. I came close. My family was worried, yet still not understanding of what could be so bad about a bug that would drive someone to such depths of despair. My mother thought I was delusional and imagining bugs under my skin. She said she wanted to drive out here and pick me up and take me home!?!

I feel like a prisoner–can’t stay and can’t move. I try to keep busy and focus on the the positives in my life–the people.

Thanks for your comments Doug. It put the bedbug epidemic in perspective.

3 nobugsonme December 4, 2008 at 4:22 pm


As I said in the post above, a reader thinks her neighbor killed themselves after having had bed bugs for several months.

As for your experience, I think that not being believed is the worst thing that can happen. Bed bugs can be hard to detect.

I hope you are getting professional help for the bed bugs (which can be gotten rid of!) and also — if you ever feel down again, please seek professional help. Bed bugs are very stressful, but life is precious and there is professional help out there if you are depressed or stressed out.

4 nobugsonme January 12, 2009 at 3:22 am

The Ottawa Citizen now reports Ms. Dziedziczak is home again, sleeping on a cot, and waiting for Ottawa housing officials to find her another unit.

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