Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Call Me Bat Girl
But beware if I start foaming at the mouth.

It's Day Zero Plus One into my Rabies Vaccination Regimen.

Yep, you read that right: last night I was at the local Emergency Room from 9:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. where I received the first six shots of a five visit program.

Painful? Not nearly as bad as the anticipation. Not even close to the pain of dental novacaine shots. Today I'm tired and sore, but that's to be expected. Three injections in one arm, two in the other, and one in the...uhh, backside. You'd have trouble reaching up and sitting, too.

What led to this wonderful new experience?

A bat flew into my arm. Outside my home. At dusk.

I'm not making this up.

My arm was bent, I turned to--I don't know--say something to my husband or son, perhaps? And just as I turned, I felt this slap like a small leather glove hitting my forearm. I looked and watched as this leathery-looking flapping thing (mostly undefined since the light was so limited) bounced off my not completely undefined bicep, back to the forearm, to the bicep, and to the forearm one last time before winging away groggily.

Have I mentioned that I'm scared to death of bats?

And shots?

I must have done something seriously wrong in a past life to win this sentence.

But the writer in me is taking notes. I plan to pitch a magazine article to a few editors, hoping my 28-day odyssey, along with interviews of physicians and specialists, will resonate with one of them...and eventually the readers. Perhaps I'll even manage to dispel a few myths along the way, while clearing up some confusion about bats and the possibility of rabies transmission.

Any sympathy welcomed, but not expected, of course. Please do feel free to think of me on days three, seven, fourteen and twenty-eight at about 6:30 a.m. when I'll be in the E.R. getting my next shots. And shutting my eyes tight. Maybe you should call me a baby, instead.

Be well. And if you must go out at dusk, take my advice: duck. (That's great advice considering ducks aren't known carriers of rabies.)


(Bat photos available at KidZone,


Ernesto said...

Did the bat bite you? Or do you have to get shots even if the bat just bumps into you? When I was a kid, my folks were both not particular fans of bats, so from the time I was ten or so, if a bat got into the house (which was often) I was the designated bat catcher/expeller. I got pretty darn good at it. My strangest bat experience was catching one on my fly rod while false casting. It was very unpleasant trying to get the hook out of the little guy. Thank heaven for hemostats!

Dana said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dana said...

We're not sure whether or not the bat bit or even scratched me. It seems most bat bites (and scratches) are no larger than the size of a pinprick. Therefore the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a statement that warns that a physical examination of the contact site is unreliable. That coupled with the risk factor weight--that rabies is a 100 percent (or darn close to it) fatal disease--means that most bat encounters require rabies treatment. Even waking in a room with a bat requires treatment, since the person would have no way of knowing whether or not the bat had contact with him or her.

In my case, because the bat bounced five times off my arm it was decided that I was most likely at least scratched and possibly bitten. However, my family physician's office was unaware of the miniscule nature of most bat puncture wounds and of the CDC recommendations. So after four phone calls with the on-call doctor and a nurse, it was recommended that I not seek treatment. 

Feeling a bit uncertain about the decision, and unable to phone my own physician who was out of town, I decided to call a physician friend of ours who practices in my former physician's group. He learned of the CDC recommendations during his residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock where the ER treats bat encounters as possible rabies exposure. He advised me to at least drive into my local ER and get a third, and tie breaking, decision. I first called my insurance agency for pre-approval and spoke with a nurse who hurried me to the ER because of her own knowledge of rabies transmitted to humans by bats.

In the ER I met both doctors and nurses who knew of the CDC recommendations and those who learned about them that night. Ultimately, the resident in charge quoted me what I'd already read and what my friend told me, and recommended that I begin treatment immediately. I agreed.

As it happens, I am just back from the ER now, where I received my Day Three injection. Only one shot per visit at this point. Three more visits/shots to go. This one hurt a bit more, maybe simply because I'm just a baby when it comes right down to it. My arms are a bit swollen, and my right one is bruised. But the aches and pains are manageable with Tylenol. And it's Friday, so maybe I'll have a beer at the end of the day, which always makes the pain that much more tolerable, especially when it's a cold one on tap. 

Ernesto, maybe you can market your bat catching skills. Goodness knows there are loads of old New England houses with the little critters inside them. Only thing I'd recommend then is to get the vaccination as a precautionary measure, as many vets and animal control officers do.

The image of you fly-fishing for the bat: priceless. If it's okay with you, I may use that in a future screenplay. You, of course, will be called upon as a consultant when filming that scene, if we ever get that far in the project....

Dana said...

Hello from a fellow Dana!I know I'm commenting on this 8 years from the fact, but I'm currently being treated after a bat encounter.

There are a lot of similarities in our stories. Yesterday was Day 3. I've had some of the same side effects of treatment. I even had the nurses double team my initial round of injections like yours did! They've adjusted the post exposure treatment slightly and have dropped the last injection. So the schedule I am receiving them on is Day 0, 3, 7, and 14.

I've blogged the about my experience here, which I think you will find funny and somewhat similar to yours:

I wanted to thank you for sharing. When I was doing my research immediately after the encounter with the bat, I came across this and it was very helpful to me. It was one of the stories I read that didn't describe the initial round of injections as "horrible" and helped eased the fear jjust a little bit.

Thank you!

Dana Biscotti Myskowski said...

Good to hear from you, Dana!

Good luck with your own shots! You are now entering the semi-exclusive club of people who have received their rabies shots. Apparently, we're now covered for life; though if we are bitten again, a quick blood test will verify whether that's true.

Wish you all the best!