21-year-old Nikki Perez's face was horribly swollen, her eye closed shut, her ear turned black. She could have gone blind. She could have died. All because she was bitten by a tiny spider known as the Brown Recluse spider. It's one of the deadliest spiders in America.
"I was a little bit terrified at that time," said Perez.
Her nightmare started when Perez went to the the airport in Amarillo, Texas, to meet up with her boyfriend, Eric.
Suddenly, she felt a stinging. She asked Eric to check it out.
"I asked, 'Is there something crawling on me?' " said Perez.
He spotted the spider crawling by her ear.
"I was freaking out, but I tried to sit still, because I knew whatever was on me could bite me," said Perez.
The spider dug its fangs into Perez's ear.
"It was burning. Painful throbbing," said Perez.
Eric says he swatted the spider away. Perez had the presence of mind to take photos to document what had happened.
First her face began to swell. Then blisters appeared on her ear. Her boyfriend took her to the emergency room.
"It can be fatal," said Louis Sorkin, an endomologist at the Museum of Natural History in New York.
He says the Brown Reculse spider is turning up more and more across the country.
"They only bite when they're bothered," said Sorkin.
Once in the hospital, Perez was put on steroids and antibiotics. Necrosis turned her ear black. Her skin was rotting. The doctor gave her grim news.
"I could lose a lot of my ear," said Perez.
She needed a skin graft to repair the damaged ear. Thankfully, today Perez is fully recovered, but she'll never forget her brush with death—all because of an itsy bitsy spider.