EVERETT — Richard Flores first noticed the bedbugs when bite marks began appearing on his shins and calves in February. The bugs have since spread through the Broadway Plaza apartment Flores shares with his partner, Lynn All.
The Everett Housing Authority, which manages the building, has treated his unit several times, but the tiny, wingless insects remain.
To Flores, the bedbugs are more than pests. His doctor refuses to perform an operation to fix a herniated disk in his back, which Flores says is causing him severe pain, until they are eradicated.
“Most of the time I don’t sleep,” said Flores, a retired property manager. “It’s so bad, I scratch until I bleed.”
The scratching has left 2-inch scars on the backs of his legs, he said.
Bedbugs affect every community, including the Everett Housing Authority, said Ashley Lommers-Johnson, executive director.
“We try to make sure we deal with them promptly and it takes a lot of work,” he said in a recent interview. “In the last year, there was a significant bedbug infestation in some units in Broadway Plaza.”
He said a total of 16 apartments were treated, but only one unit had reinfestation issues.
Flores has lived in the one-bedroom apartment that overlooks the city for three years. All joined him about a year ago.
The couple said the housing authority last treated their place in mid-September, but they continue to find live bugs.
Many of their belongings remain in 30-gallon black plastic bags that fill the living room. The housing authority gives them the large sacks for treating their clothing with chemicals.
To escape the constant biting overnight, Flores has at times retreated to his car to sleep, despite his back pain.
Flores needs two operations, one to fix a hernia in his abdomen and another to relieve the discomfort in his lower back. But he must wait.
“We can’t operate on him until his bedbug infection goes away,” said Dr. Sanford Wright, a doctor at Providence Medical Group’s Cranial, Spine and Joint Clinic. “The guy is in a miserable situation.”
With the bedbugs persisting, Flores and All have asked the housing authority to move them to a clean apartment.
“I can’t take it anymore,” All said. “They’re eating me alive.”
For treatment, the housing authority first uses heat to try and kill the bugs and eggs, according to Lommers-Johnson. If the problem continues, an outside contractor is brought in.
Lommers-Johnson said participation from tenants is key to preventing recurrence. This includes bagging up clothing before treatment starts and not visiting other apartments, to prevent cross-contamination.
“Reinfestation typically is due to the tenant not cooperating,” Lommers-Johnson said.
Flores said with his back pain he and All weren’t able to pack all of their belongings on the timeline provided.
Bedbugs feed only on the blood of sleeping people and animals, and can live several months between meals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The small, flat reddish-brown parasitic insects can range in size from 1 mm to 7 mm.
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @lizzgior.