Beloved California school custodian loses foot to spider bite

ENCINITAS, Calif. (KSWB) — Friends and community members are rallying around a beloved custodian at a North County school whose foot had to be amputated after a bite from a venomous spider.

Guil Aguilar was taking out the trash at Park Dale Lane Elementary School in Encinitas when he first felt the bite, family friend and co-worker Santos Vasquez told KSWB.

Aguilar was moving some cans by a dumpster and noticed a few spiders but didn’t think much of it, Vasquez said. But as he walked away, the custodian, who has worked in the school district for five years, felt a twinge on his foot.

Not sure if it was a spider bite or maybe even just something stuck in his shoe, Vasquez says his friend didn’t think much of it. Later, as the bite swelled and started to itch more, Aguilar started icing the welt on his foot.

By the time he and his family went to visit relatives in Arizona for Thanksgiving, Aguilar was beginning to feel ill. He was admitted to the hospital, first in Arizona, then as a transfer to Scripps Memorial Hospital in Encinitas, where doctors determined Aguilar was suffering from the infected bite of a venomous spider. The specific species wasn’t immediately clear.

He underwent multiple surgeries, but none could stop the spread of the infection, Vasquez explained. Doctors finally decided the custodian’s foot and part of his lower leg would need to be amputated.

As Aguilar recovered at the hospital this week, word spread to the Park Dale Lane community. A GoFundMe for his medical expenses had surpassed its $10,000 goal by Friday morning.

“Guil is the primary provider for his family and they depend on him,” the fundraiser page, organized by fourth-grade teacher Melissa Scharbarth, reads. “I am reaching out and pleading for financial support. Please consider making a sizable donation to Guil.”

Scharbarth told KSWB that Aguilar is beloved in the Park Dale Lane community, a sentiment echoed by others. Brynn Gibbs, the mother of a kindergartner at the school who only recently met Aguilar, said she was struck by how “kind, super hard-working and dedicated” he is.

“He’s all smiles,” Gibbs said of the custodian, who works the evening shift.

Vasquez said he visits his friend near-daily as he recovers in the hospital, adding Aguilar is looking forward to getting back home with his wife and children.