One couple’s bedbug saga: “exactly what a nightmare would be”



Bedbugs didn’t cause the breakup of Straten Schemel and his ex-girlfriend Paige Govey, but they contributed to it, both sides agree.

The former couple said they moved from San Jose, where they were bug-free, into San Francisco’s Potrero Launch apartment complex in December 2015. Part of their 63-page lease agreement included a two-page addendum about bedbugs, Schemel said. The addendum noted that there may have been a prior infestation in the dwelling or building, but it was treated by a professional and the unit was believed to be free of further infestation.

He figured that was a routine disclosure and forgot about it, even after he and Govey started getting what they thought were spider or flea bites. “One day we were laying there and saw a bedbug crawling across the bed,” he said.

Govey would wake up with bedbugs crawling across her skin. “It was literally, exactly what a nightmare would be,” she said.

Schemel contacted management. He said exterminators came out every week for at least five weeks. The couple washed and dried their clothes and other fabrics on extreme heat. “We ended up burning some nice articles,” including a teddy bear that Govey’s grandparents gave her when she was born, he said.

They packed up most of their belongings and kept them in a storage unit and in Schemel’s car. During this time, “someone broke into my car and stole all my clothing,” he said.

After the treatments, they moved everything back in, thinking the bugs were gone, but they returned. Exterminators were sent out again, “but we said we are not packing up, you can exterminate around us,” Schemel said.

During the treatments, Govey said, “It became us living out of boxes, living in the same three outfits, spending every night vacuuming the bedding and box springs. It was a pretty large factor in a lot of fights.”

After the second round of treatments, “We stopped getting bit but kept finding remnants, dead carcasses, (bug) poop. By this time I had started making friends at the apartment complex and heard others were having the same issue,” Schemel said.

Govey moved out of the small apartment in early August last year. Schemel moved out after his lease expired in December, but he still gets “phantom feelings” of bedbugs crawling across his skin.

“The apartment was treated for bedbugs in December 2015,” Potrero Launch management said in an email. “The pest control contractor followed their standard protocol, treating the unit three times, and inspecting adjacent units for infestation. No bedbugs were found and the issue was isolated to the one apartment. There was an apparent reinfestation of the same resident’s apartment in March 2016, which was treated following the same protocol. The resident moved out in December 2016 and there have been no further reports of bedbugs for any unit on the property.”

Govey still has her fried teddy bear. “It’s a sad reminder of the torture of these bugs,” she said.

For related coverage, see this article on a new California law that aims to stop the spread of bedbugs.

Kathleen Pender is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: Twitter: @kathpender


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