As you know, I’ve been in transit for a few months now looking for a place to settle and, with any luck, relocate Howling Duck Ranch in good time. Recently, I was sleeping/camping out on the living room floor of a friend’s place in the country near Okotoks, AB, when I was rudely awoken during the night with the thought, “Something just bit me.”
I laid there wondering for a moment if I’d dreamed it or not. “Surely not!” I thought as I lay there pondering the options. I closed my eyes to go back to sleep. A second later I felt a trickle of wetness on my finger with my thumb. I got up and went to view my finger by the paradise-of-the-bathroom-light. Sure enough, there were two little teeth marks, broken skin, and blood trickling from my left hand third finger. I washed it off as best I could (it actually bled like small faucet). I then applied polysporin and went back to bed and thought nothing more of the event–for a week.
Fast forward and I’m now in Grande Prairie visiting a friend (who happens to be a vet) that I’m going to house sit for. As we talk about all the things that need doing on the farm, I relay the ‘bite-in-the-night’ incident to him. His stride and thought train come to an immediate halt: “Do you know what bit you?”
“Are you sure it wasn’t a bat?”
“Have you been to public health to see what they say?”
“Well my god, you’d better get there right now if you can!”
“Because you don’t know what bit you.”
“Well, it is not usual for mice to bite people in their sleep. That is the modus operandi of bats.”
“Well, the issue is that bats carry rabies. In fact, all the cases of rabies in humans in North America were caused by bats biting people in their sleep. That’s how people die. They don’t know what bit them. Most don’t even know they were bit and until they show up with symptoms. But then it’s too late.”
Being a vet, he was up on his ‘things-that-go-bit-in-the-night’ knowledge. In fact he is THE vet for the region that people turn to in cases of rabid animals–you know, the one who picks up the de-headed dogs and bats and performs the tell-tale autopsies on the brains. The furrow in his brow, coupled with the intensity with which he found the public health contact information for me, convinced me I should perhaps go get looked at in the morning.
The following morning I called the nurse line. After about 20 minutes of intense questioning and the nurse telling me more than I wanted to know about the possible dire outcomes, she concluded, that yes, I should definitely see someone.
Enter public health. I relayed the story to the nurse who relayed the story to the Medical Health Officer who, without letting her finish, issued the rabies immunoglobulin and vaccine. They were not going to take any chances. He echoed my vet friend in saying that it is unusual for mice to bite people in their sleep but not unusual for bats to perform such antics.
He dispatched the order. Immediately not one, but several nurses leaped into action. “Seventeen years on the job and you’re my first rabies case,” the nurse said to me before admonishing me to the waiting room. One of them came to discuss the pros and cons of the immunoglobulin, while several others went behind closed doors to assist the first nurse with the detailed calculations. “We want to get the dose right,” one of them said when she surfaced long enough to weigh me. “It’s extremely important because we have to give you such a high dosage.”
Calculations complete and triple or quadruple checked, I was escorted back into the office.
“Here is the pamphlet with all the contraindications. I’ll just read you the potential side effects…”
“Oh how about we get ‘er done.” I interrupted her, “I really don’t have a choice and believe me, you really don’t need me any more paranoid than I already am!”
“OK. Are you going to faint? Like, can you handle needles OK?”
She turned to prepare the ingredients. When she turned back towards me she was wielding the largest needle I’d ever seen–it was Darth Vadars light saber, replete with sound effects–brummmmmmm.
“I’m sorry, but they have to be big to get deep into the muscle,” she explained, responding no doubt, to the look of horror on my face.
I was sitting in my underwear and tank top and about to become a human pin cushion. “This is going to hurt because it is really thick liquid and it takes time to get it into you,” she said as she plunged the first needle into my leg and held it tight, slowly releasing the immunoglobulin and repeating “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Six needles later–two in each thigh and one in each shoulder, plus a tetanus shot to the left shoulder for good measure–and I was good to go.
Before pulling on my jeans I turned to her and said, “You sure you don’t have anything for my calves? They feel left out.”
She gave me the shot schedule and told me who to see the next time I was in. I was going to be a regular visitor to the Public Health over the next six weeks so I might as well get on a first name basis with everyone. The shots left me exhausted each time. By the end of each day I felt tired and head-achy. Overall, in light of the possible horrific side effects, I’m doing well. I have more or less come through the ordeal unscathed.
The good news is, now, I really can run with the wolves with abandon!