This week's Chicagoan: Angie Donenberg, co-owner, Lice Detectives | Chicagoans | Chicago Reader

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This week's Chicagoan: Angie Donenberg, co-owner, Lice Detectives

"When I arrived, his hair was shining and moving. There were bugs falling off his hair onto the floor."


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A first-person account from off the beaten track, as told to Anne Ford.

"I am from South Africa, and so is my partner, Tami Levy. This business was born out of the fact that Tami's daughter gave my daughter lice, and then proceeded to blame it on us. Then my older daughter got lice in a separate incident.

"I did what my pediatrician told me to do, which was to use an over-the-counter shampoo. Two weeks later, we still had lice. The thing about lice is, it's a different animal now than it was 30 years ago. Back then, the over-the-counter shampoos worked, and now they don't, because the lice have become superlice. They're resistant.

"Then I tried every old wives' tale from mayonnaise to Listerine, and none of them worked either. What finally worked was, we went to a salon that used the manual comb-out method. It's the only way to get rid of lice, and it has to be done multiple times. But they charged per minute. If you can't get all the people in your family there at the same time, it's expensive.

"We decided, 'Listen, there's a business to be made here.' We're a mobile unit that comes to your house. We manually comb out all the bugs and nits. We do a wet-head check on every member of the household. You never know what you're going to find.

"One boy had shoulder-length hair. The kid kept saying his head was itchy, and his mom thought he had dry scalp. Children are always saying, 'I've got this, I've got that,' and it's like, 'You're fine, you're fine, here's some Head & Shoulders.'

"When I arrived, his hair was shining and moving. As he sat down, there were bugs falling off his hair onto the floor. That was the only time I've ever come home and literally got right in the shower.

"One thing that often comes up is, 'How do you touch those bugs?' I say, 'How does a dentist clean plaque off people's teeth?' It's not as gross as one would imagine. Once you comb the nits out of the hair, you're wiping what you comb out onto a white paper towel. You put them in a Ziploc bag. It's nothing.

"We don't take for granted the fact that we are coming to see people who are at a low point in their lives. I arrived at one lady's door, and she had tears in her eyes, like she had done something wrong. When I left, she said, 'I don't know what I would have done without you.'"

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